“Sami Jo has an energetic personality that shines through with every story in this book.” Jennifer Botterill, four-time Olympian
Two-time Olympic gold medalist offers insider access, writing with unflinching honesty about the triumphs of her greatest games and the anguish of difficult times with the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team
Men’s hockey in Canada may hog the limelight, but interest in women’s hockey has never been higher. The Role I Played is a memoir of Sami Jo Small’s ten years with Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team. Beginning with her experience as a rookie at the first-ever women’s Olympic hockey tournament in Nagano in 1998 and culminating with Canada’s third straight Olympic gold medal in Vancouver in 2010, the veteran goaltender gives the reader behind-the-scenes insight into one of the most successful teams in sports history.
This book honours the individuals who sacrificed so much of their lives to represent Canada on a world stage and celebrates their individual contributions to the team’s glory. While bringing the personalities of her teammates to life, Small takes the reader into the dressing rooms and onto the ice for an up-close glimpse into the ups and downs of athletes pursuing a sport’s highest achievement.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It’s still February and a call comes into our rented house in Redwood City from Danièle Sauvageau, now Team Canada’s head coach. I think I like her. She’s a former RCMP officer and Montreal cop with a tough exterior, but also seems to engage her players.
“How’s hockey in California?” she asks in her thick French accent.
“We’re in the middle of the pack, probably outside a berth to the Nationals, but for our final weekend we’ll play against the University of California at Berkeley for what’s known as the Big Skate.”
“The big skate? You win a skate?” she asks as if perhaps what I had said was lost in translation.
“Well, kind of. Berkeley is our biggest rival, and in football they play ‘The Big Game,’ so in hockey we play ‘The Big Skate.’” I opt not to explain further. Neither Berkeley nor Stanford are very strong this year; however, my brother, Luke, after being accepted into their optometry school, decided to play for our cross-bay rivals. The Big Skate is for bragging rights, but I don’t explain all this to Danièle it’s a family thing she’s bound not to understand.
“Well, I guess, good luck in . . . ‘The Big Skate,’” she says with a confused tone.
There’s a pause.
“I am calling to congratulate you on making the World Championship team.”
I realize that this call is not just a catch-up session, but in fact the call I’ve been waiting for since I first watched Susie Yuen and the entire Team Canada in pink jerseys play on television at the 1990 World Championships.
“Welcome to Team Canada.”
Goosebumps run up my spine as a smile floods my face.
“Thank you . . . thank you so much.”
I hang up the phone and scream for Diana, who is in the other room. Corey and Susan come running too.
“Guys, I made it! I made Team Canada.” They rush in for a giant hug, making me squirm while they laugh and congratulate me. None of my roommates have any sort of hockey background, but they’ve watched me play and have been my biggest fans. Diana makes us all a celebratory dinner of empanadas and other Mexican treats, and my Stanford friends help me celebrate a Canadian childhood dream come true.
Table of Contents
1 Becoming a Hockey Player 3
2 Improbable Circumstance 15
3 A Lifetime of Anticipation 25
4 Stars All Around Me 34
5 The First Ever Women's Olympic Hocky Gold 42
6 Hockey's My Future 55
7 What a Feeling 65
8 Hard Work Pays Off 76
9 New Environment 81
10 Stay Focused 89
11 Transitions 100
12 A New Role 109
13 The Beginnings of a Team 118
14 Becoming Olympians 127
15 Final Preparations 137
16 In Perfect Position 149
17 Olympic Debut 158
18 So Close 167
19 Olympic Final - Salt Lake City 179
20 Rewards of the Hardest Day 187
21 A Summer to Move On 201
22 Rededication 210
23 Two Seasons of Hockey 221
24 Olympic Preparations 234
25 Support Network 247
26 The Final Push 256
27 Final Team Selection 263
28 Accepting My Role 273
29 Gold Medal Day 284
30 Finding the Love 295
31 My Legacy 304
32 Finally, a Medal 317