Nurse answers Canada’s call
By the time she’d wrapped her senior year on the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team, she was kind of a big deal around campus. Not only were her numbers in that final season terrific but the Badgers made it to the NCAA championship game. So, it wasn’t uncommon for people at school to stop her and chat about the team and the sport.
It’s just that what they chose to talk about was tough. “They mean well but they always bring up that game,” Sarah Nurse says, ruefully.
Her team lost that championship. After losing just three games all season and winning both the regular season and conference championships en route to 33 total victories, they dropped that last game 3-0 to Clarkson.
Weeks later, it still stings. This was her last shot at a title and now it’s gone.
So the call from Hockey Canada telling her she’d been selected to be part of the Olympic team roster was a rather nice consolation prize.
Twenty-eight women have been chosen to move to Calgary in August — to centralize, in women’s hockey language — to get ready for Pyeongchang.
Among them are Team Canada veteran Laura Fortino of Ancaster, Burlington’s Renata Fast who cracked the roster for the recent world championships, and Nurse.
Of course, that number is a little misleading. There won’t be 28 women going to the Games, just 23.
Which means this is really a months-long tryout. Five players will literally spend half a year preparing for something that never happens for them.
And the list of those competing not to be that unlucky handful is filled with recognizable names.
Fourteen of them won gold at Sochi.
It’s going to be a difficult lineup to make, in other words.
“I think it’s kind of motivation,” the 22-year-old says. “You can’t be complacent and you can’t be happy to be there.”
No, she has to be great. Actually, great isn’t enough. She wants to be exceptional. That’s a little something her dad has told her for as long as she can remember. Even when things are going well, aim higher.
It’s a tall order but there’s reason to believe she has a great chance of being on the plane to South Korea in February.
The Bishop Tonnos grad scored 25 goals and had 28 assists in just 39 games played for Wisconsin this season — that production was good for seventh-best in the country — posting a plus-42 rating. This was all done while having to find time to study, as well.
She graduated on the weekend with her degree in marketing so this will be the first time she’s ever been able to concentrate solely on hockey. Or hah-key as she pronounces it now, having picked up a little Wisconson-ese in four years away from home. “I do?” she laughs. Yes, a little. Plus, she’s been here before. Two years ago, she skated for the national team in the Four Nations Cup where Canada took silver.
But the Olympics? “This is something I’ve wanted to do for years and years and years now,” she says.
She started thinking about this when she was about 14. Playing under the rings is the absolute top of the mountain for female hockey players in this country. There is no bigger stage or brighter spotlight. Skate in the Olympics and you’re unquestionably one of the best ever.
There’s something else here, of course.
You may have noticed her last name. If she makes the squad she’ll add another entry to the growing legend of this city’s dominant sports family.
Nurse is the sister of Hamilton Bulldogs forward, Isaac, and Soo Greyhounds draft pick, Elijah. She’s the cousin of Edmonton Oilers’ defenceman, Darnell, University of Connecticut and Team Canada basketball star, Kia, and former University of Oregon point guard Tamika. She’s the niece of former NCAA basketball star Raquel and of longtime NFL quarterback, Donovan McNabb.
We could go on. There’s more. But you get the idea. They’ve all done amazing things. None, however, has won an Olympic medal. Even for a family that has more hardware than it can display, that would be a conversation-starter at the next family dinner.
“I think there’s kind of a misconception about our family that that’s all we talk about when we get together,” Nurse chuckles.
Fair enough. But pull out a medal a few months from now and they just might.
email@example.com 905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights 7-9 on 900CHML.
Wisconsin forward Sarah Nurse reaches for the puck on a short-handed breakaway opportunity against Clarkson in the NCAA championship March 19.