Canadian women’s team led by a new group of quiet leaders
Team captain Poulin has big skates to fill, but one teammate already calls her ‘irreplaceable’
Marie-Philip Poulin is the strong, quiet type whose play does the talking. Meghan Agosta is the mother hen. Brianne Jenner is the bigpicture thinker and Jocelyne Larocque injects calm confidence.
For the first time in a long time at a Winter Olympics, the Canadian women’s hockey team isn’t led by war horses Hayley Wickenheiser, Caroline Ouellette and Jayna Hefford.
With that trio now retired after winning four straight gold medals, a new leadership group has been groomed since 2014 with Poulin wearing the captain’s C in Pyeongchang.
“Caro, Wick and Jayna, they’ve taught us so much,” Poulin said. “Obviously, being able to follow in their footsteps is something I take with me every day.”
No one has scored bigger goals for the Canadian women lately than the 26-year-old from Beauceville, Que.
Poulin’s equalizer and overtime winner in the Olympic final four years ago is now part of Canadian hockey lore.
At the age of 22, she scored both of Canada’s goals in a 2-0 win over the United States in the 2010 championship game.
By her own admission, Poulin is quiet and shy. Canadian head coach Laura Schuler says Poulin doesn’t need to be an orator with a game and attitude that demands respect.
“It’s the energy she brings on the ice and off the ice every single day,” Schuler said. “She’s got a heart of gold.”
“She never takes a moment off. For her, sometimes we have to scale her back just in terms of
the importance of rest and recovery and how that can influence your performance.”
Rookie forward Jill Saulnier of Halifax calls Poulin “irreplaceable.”
“She has the right to celebrate the most successes that any athlete has had in the world,” Saulnier said. “She is quiet, but when she plays and gets on the ice, her presence is certainly not quiet.”
Canada concludes the preliminary round on Thursday against the rival Americans, with the game starting late on Wednesday night in Canada.
Both countries have already gained byes to the Feb. 19 semifinal with 2-0 records in Pool A.
Agosta, from Ruthven, Ont., Jenner, from Oakville, Ont., and Larocque, from Ste. Anne, Man.,
are Poulin’s alternates in Pyeongchang.
“The four of us offer different things, but I think what characterizes this group is leading through action,” Jenner said.
“We’re four players that like to be consistent performers, that like to show up to the rink every day.
“Certainly our captain, Marie Philip, her work ethic is unparalleled and I would say the same about Agosta and Larocque.”
Agosta, 31, is the elder stateswoman competing in her fourth Olympics. The forward was Canada’s leading scorer and the tournament’s most valuable player in 2010. “She’s kind of that glue, the mother figure of our team,” Schuler said.
Jenner, a 26-year-old forward,
and Larocque, a 29-year-old defender, were among the final players cut from the 2010 Olympic team before making the squad four years later.
“Jenner is so incredibly intelligent and she always has that big picture in the back of her head,” Schuler said. “She really understands what’s important for our team.”
“Jocelyne is probably one of our most composed players. I think she’s able to really calm things down in terms of her play. That rubs off on everybody and allows us to play the hockey we need to play.”
The retirement of Wickenheiser, Ouellette and Hefford, as well as three-time Olympian Gillian Apps, post-2014 led to significant turnover in the national
team’s leadership group.
“Fortunately for the four of us, we played with them for many years,” Larocque said. “We learned so much from them. We try to carry that forward to this group.”
She picks Hefford has her leadership mentor. Poulin and Jenner gravitate to Ouellette, who was Canada’s captain in 2014.
Agosta goes further back and chooses Cassie Campbell, who captained Canada to back-toback gold in 2002 and 2006.
“It didn’t matter if she was playing or not playing, she was always that person that gave taps on the pads to say ‘Hey, girls you know we’ve got this,’ ” Agosta said.
Team Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin scores a goal against goalkeeper Noora Raty of Finland in an Olympic preliminary-round match at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, South Korea, on Tuesday.