Canada's Olympic women's hockey team a strong mix of veterans, newcomers

Canada will go with an experienced team that should get a jolt from some new faces when it attempts to win a fifth straight gold medal in women's hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

14 players return from gold-winning 2014 squad

Olympic hero Marie-Philip Poulin is one of the key returning players who will try to help Canada win a fifth consecutive gold in South Korea. (Kevin Light Photography/CBC)

Canada will go with a mostly veteran team when it attempts to win a fifth straight gold medal in women's hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.

One day after the United States cut two veterans in Alex Carpenter and Megan Bozek, Canada announced Friday its roster will have 14 players who helped win a gold medal at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Canadian Women's Hockey Team named for 2018 Olympic Winter Games

4 years ago
CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo discusses Canada's roster that sees 14 returning players from the gold-medal winning 2014 Olympic team 3:04

Canada's team includes veterans such as Meghan Agosta, who will participate in her fourth Olympic Games, as well as goalie Shannon Szabados, Meaghan Mikkelson, Haley Irwin, Rebecca Johnston and Marie-Philip Poulin, who will each attend their third Olympics.

Lest one get the idea Canada is sending an over-the-hill gang to Korea, eight players — Ann-Renée Desbiens, Renata Fast, Brigette Lacquette, Bailey Bram, Emily Clark, Jillian Saulnier, Laura Stacey (the great-granddaughter of Hockey Hall of Famer King Clancy) and Blayre Turnbull — will make their Olympic debuts.

The newcomers will add a boost of youth, speed and enthusiasm while the returnees have a solid understanding of what lies ahead.

Team Canada coach Laura Schuler: 'Each of them of them bring us a unique strength'

4 years ago
CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo spoke to Schuler after the Olympic hockey team for Pyeongchang was announced. 1:47

"Wearing the maple leaf, we have a lot of pressure," Agosta said. "A lot of people have high expectations of us, but we believe in ourselves and in our abilities; not only as individuals, but as a team. We're ready. We have a very, very skilled team here and we're excited to be able to be able to continue on this amazing journey that we started."

Team Canada has been centralized in Calgary since early August. The squad has been playing in a boys' midget triple-A league while also facing off in six exhibition games against the American Olympic team. Canada dropped the first game of the series 5-2 on Oct. 22, but bounced back to win five in a row, including a 2-1 overtime victory on Sunday in Edmonton.

Game Wrap: Canada beats United States in Olympic tune-up

4 years ago
Jennifer Wakefield scored in OT as Canada won it's fifth-straight game over the United States. 1:09

Canada's five straight exhibition wins helped ease the sting of a 5-1 defeat to the United States in the gold-medal game at the Four Nations Cup in Tampa on Nov. 12. They also showed the gap may be narrowing between the two teams since the Americans' earlier dominance.

In Pyeongchang, Canada will compete in Group A along with the United States, Finland and the Olympic Athletes from Russia team. Group B features Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. While Sweden, Finland and Russia have made strides in recent years and are more competitive, it truly remains a two-team race for gold between Canada and the United States.

Until Canada's recent success, many were calling the United States the team to beat in Korea. The Americans, who won the very first Olympic gold medal in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, have won the past four world championship tournaments and three Four Nations Cups. They are fast, aggressive in the offensive zone and have dependable goaltending.

They are also very hungry for Olympic success. Team USA captain Meghan Duggan has said that losing in the gold-medal game at the Olympics left a bad taste in her mouth. The Americans held a 2-0 lead with less than two minutes to play in the third period in 2014, but lost 3-2 in overtime.

"It's no secret we came up short from the goal we wanted to achieve," Duggan said. "It's gold or bust for us."

"I think it's going to change," added teammate Breanna Decker. "I know the outcome will be different."

How a goal post changed everything for Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics

4 years ago
Members of the Canadian women's hockey team recount how two inches of steel shifted momentum and helped the team win an Olympic gold medal in Sochi. 2:40

Szabados is expected to be Canada's starting goaltender, having been in net in each of the past two Olympic gold-medal games. If she falters, Canada has faith that Geneviè​ve  Lacasse, making her second trip to the Olympics, and the rookie Desbiens can get the job done.

"We have three great goalies," said Team Canada coach Laura Schuler. "We can rely on any one of them."

Mikkelson anchors a defence that includes returnees Laura Fortino, Lauriane Rougeau and Jocelyne Larocque as well as rookies Fast and Lacquette. Among the defenders, only Larocque has scored a goal in Olympic competition. She is also the team's most physical defender.

Up front, Canada is led by Poulin, who will most likely be named team captain. The 26-year-old scored the gold medal-winning goal in each of the past two Olympic Games. A dependable two-way performer, much of Poulin value comes from the example she sets for her teammates on and off the ice.

Marie-Philip Poulin: 'It's hard work, every day we've been on the ice'

4 years ago
CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo spoke to the captain of Canada's hockey team, Marie-Philip Poulin, after the the Olympic team was announced. 2:28

Agosta is the oldest player on the team at 33 years, one month and six days, and she brings a wealth of experience, having scored 15 goals and 23 points in 15 games at the past three Olympics.

With three goals and 11 points in 10 games in the past two Olympics, the speedy Johnston will be a go-to forward for Canada. The hard-shooting Jennifer Wakefield, who has played pro hockey in Sweden the past two seasons, is a power forward who has a huge offensive upside.

If Canada has a wild card, it could be Natalie Spooner. The team's biggest player at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Spooner is tremendously quick and has a nose for the net, having scored two goals and four points at her first Games in Sochi.


Veteran journalist Mike Brophy has been covering hockey since 1977. A self-professed junior hockey junkie, he has covered the Petes for 14 season before departing to become the senior writer at The Hockey News and held that position for 17 years. Brophy has written five books including his latest, Unbreakable, 50 Goals In 39 Games – the story of Wayne Gretzky’s greatest record.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?