Sunday, September 26, 2010


Jennifer Botterill-Hockey Player

Jennifer Botterill has had an impressive hockey career. She is pondering the future regarding National Team play leading to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Her entry into the hockey world really came through the ringette arena. Prior to that, she was like any other kid on the playgrounds of Winnipeg, Manitoba, keeping busy with a variety of activities. “I played soccer, and I ran track. I really liked the hundred and two hundred metre races”, she told me during a recent visit to Belleville.

She was in town as a part of a program from the Royal Bank of Canada. She met the public at McDonald’s throughout the day, and spoke with a smaller group in the evening. The RBC Olympians Program hires athletes to share the Olympic messages of excellence, teamwork, and leadership. The Bank also contributes financially to several Olympic Programs. Even as we watched the games from Down Under last winter, we got the messages from the little man in the top hat telling us where to bank.

She told me that two of her favourite athletes were Catriona LeMay Doan and Mark Tewksberry. She added that she was “heartbroken” when the Winnipeg Jets left town. She was a huge Teemu Selanne supporter.

As her hockey career began to unfold, she started to look at the possibilities. As the Olympics of 1998 approached, she sat in the kitchen at lunch time, discussing her options with her father. She told him her ultimate dream would be to play in the Olympics in 2002. “Why not in ’98, he asked?” She was fifteen years old, and could not foresee the possibility of playing for the National team at that age.

She went to the Canada Games as a ringette player. She then moved on to the Hockey Canada tryouts, with 28 spots still available. Twenty cuts were made, and she had survived. From a list of several hundred players, she was still in the running. “I knew I had to focus on what I could control in the practices,” she added.

She made the team, the youngest of the group. She was given the opportunity to play with many of Canada’s finest female hockey players: Jayna Hefford from Kingston, and the incomparable Hayley Wickeneiser, the greatest female hockey player ever, anywhere.

The team won Silver at the 1998 Games in Nagano, finishing second to the only other dynamic women’s team, the Americans. In the succeeding three Olympic tournaments, Botterill and her teammates have bested the Americans on all occasions. She proudly displays three Gold medals.

The 2002 final in Salt Lake City, Utah, was a particularly trying experience. The referee called thirteen penalties to the Canadians, two to the Americans. Botterill believed that the referee had been intimidated by the partial and hostile American crowd; however, when the final whistle blew, they raised the Canadian flag. “At the medal presentation,” she told me, “every person standing there knew they had helped every other person win.”

She added that they realized for the next two Olympic Games, They would be pushed to the limit by the Americans. They went through “Spring Boot Camps” to toughen physically and mentally. She said that it was important to “have the right perspective” entering the Games.

Just before the final game at the Games in Vancouver, Steve Yzerman dropped by the dressing room to speak to the team. “He told us to trust ourselves, to trust our preparation, to trust our teammates. He said that it was important to outwork our opponents on every single shift.” She added that he wasn’t too hard to look at either!

Don’t be too surprised to find her name on the roster of upcoming World Championships, or even the games in Sochi. Hockey is, after all, her game.

September 26, 2010
James Hurst

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