Big skates to fill

World-class women’s hockey play­ers a source of in­spi­ra­tion for young­sters

Truro Daily News - - SPORTS - BY HARRY SUL­LI­VAN

Sit­ting in the stands and watch­ing their fe­male he­roes wheel­ing around the ice, Blayre Turn­bull and Jill Saulnier looked on in awe.

And then to see the Cana­dian women’s team ac­tu­ally hoist the world tro­phy? Well, that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Turn­bull of Stellarton was 11 and Saulnier of Hal­i­fax was 12 when the hockey team­mates sat in the stands watch­ing that women’s world cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment in Hal­i­fax in 2004.

“I re­mem­ber watch­ing them win gold and Blayre on my right and we got to meet some of the play­ers and see them. I think it’s so im­por­tant for the young girls that play and, for any ath­lete at that age, to re­al­ize you can ac­tu­ally watch these girls live out the dreams we have,” Saulnier said.

Speak­ing at the Rath-eastlink Com­mu­nity Cen­tre (RECC) dur­ing a re­cent an­nounce­ment that the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Cham­pi­onship will be played in Truro and Hal­i­fax, Saulnier used her own rec­ol­lec­tions to in­spire some young girls sit­ting in front of her.

“We were there, and we were ac­tu­ally there to­gether be­cause we were team­mates at the time,” she said. “It was pretty spe­cial and it was pretty em­pow­er­ing too.

“So it was very in­spir­ing to be there and def­i­nitely a huge turn­ing point in my ca­reer, for what I wanted to do in re­gards to wear­ing the maple leaf.”

Saulnier and Turn­bull went on to achieve their dreams of play­ing at the na­tional level and both re­main mem­bers of Canada’s women’s team.

The pair also said they be­lieve hav­ing the 2020 world women’s cham­pi­onship played in Nova Sco­tia will of­fer the same in­spi­ra­tion to to­day’s young play­ers as it did with them.

“I think it’s go­ing to be re­ally good for the women’s game,” Saul- nier said.

“It’s re­ally spe­cial,” Turn­bull added. “I think it’s go­ing to be great for our prov­ince and great for com­mu­ni­ties like Truro and Hal­i­fax and the sur­round­ing ar­eas to know what it’s like to ex­pe­ri­ence world-class women’s hockey first hand. So, it’s go­ing to be great for the com­mu­ni­ties and great for the young girls who are as­pir­ing to play at the na­tional level.”

Dur­ing those games in 2004, there were just over 1,000 girls play­ing or­ga­nized hockey in Nova Sco­tia.

“We’re now up over 2,200 young girls play­ing hockey in Nova Sco­tia,” Hockey Canada rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dean Mcin­tosh said, dur­ing the an­nounce­ment.

But by 2022, he added, the goal is to have more than 4,000 girls play­ing hockey in the prov­ince.

Both Turn­bull and Saulnier agreed hav­ing the 2020 world tour­na­ment played in Nova Sco­tia will help drive up those num­bers.

“Our dream as young hockey play­ers was to get to wear the maple leaf,” Saulnier said. “And we got to see the girls on TV do that but when you get to see it live and you get to see the girls who have the same dream as you play hockey right in front of your eyes and live that dream out, it’s pretty in­spir­ing.”

HARRY SUL­LI­VAN/TRURO NEWS

Sev­eral young fe­males got to meet a cou­ple of mem­bers of Canada’s na­tional women’s hockey team dur­ing the re­cent an­nounce­ment that Truro and Hal­i­fax will be host­ing the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Cham­pi­onship. From left are Mila Moore, Bail­lie Grif­fon, Blayre Turn­bull, Jill Saulnier, Willa Evans, Ad­di­son Ritcey and Alex Ritcey.

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