Canadian heroes boost Atom Oilers
Hockey: Two-time Olympic gold medallist, U18 National player guest coaches for Okotoks girls
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 06:00 am
An Okotoks hockey coach isn’t afraid to take some advice — especially when it’s world-class advice.
“It’s always nice as a coach to have a fresh message come in,” said Jamie McGregor, coach of the Okotoks Female Atom A Oilers. “And if you can get a message from someone who has had two Olympic gold medals around the neck, that is about as good a message as you can get.
“It meant a lot to me so, it’s got to mean a lot to the players.”
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Carla MacLeod and Courtney Kollman, who recently returned from winning a bronze medal at the U18 Women’s World Hockey championships, were the guest coaches at an Oilers practice Jan. 30 at the Murray Arena.
The 17-year-old Kollman has had Olympic women hockey players to look up to her whole life.
“I think it was important to have them to look up to,” she said. “Not looking up to the NHL players, being a girl, I looked up to the Olympians. To have a female presence was always inspiring when I was young.”
She recalls meeting an Olympian as a 10-year-old, who was fresh from winning one of her gold medals.
“It was actually Carla at the Saddledome,” she said. “Wickenheiser was supposed to be there so they brought a replacement.”
“Actually, I had to replace Cassie Campbell,” a smiling MacLeod said. “So she (Courtney) got a secondary Olympian.”
It was a gentle ribbing between friends — Kollman now plays for MacLeod at the Edge in Calgary.
MacLeod won a pair of gold medals in Turino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010.
“My hero growing up was Judy Diduck who played in the ’98 Games,” said MacLeod, who was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. “I was similar to Courtney to have some female role models and people from Alberta to look up to.”
Now those two are role models to young players like the Oilers Jaselyn Hojnocki and Kaydence Vines.
“It was a great experience to have them out — it was really cool,” Hojnocki said. “It inspires me to try my hardest. I want go play hockey to a point that maybe I can make it to their level.”
“They told us to try our hardest and don’t give up,” Vines said. “My goals are just to never stop working and do my best.”
MacLeod is thrilled to help in Okotoks.
“It’s unbelievable to see the growth in Okotoks, it’s great to have a small piece in it,” she said. “At the end of the day, Court and I just want kids to play this game because we love it so much... To come out here and see the smiles on the kids face is worth it.”
Okotoks has practically become a second home for national level players.
Hojnocki said she met Olympians Natalie Spooner, Meaghan Mikkelson and Marie Philip Poulin at a camp in Okotoks last summer.
As well, the Canadian Olympic Women’s hockey team played the Bow Mark Midget AAA Oilers in a near-capacity Pason Centennial Arena in January.