24 of the best women’s hockey players from Canada took part in an annual January camp at the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau in Blainville this week.
The camp, which ended Friday, included two exhibition games against Midget AAA teams from Quebec.
While there were some big and recognizable names in camp – Hayley Wickenheiser, Caroline Ouellette and Rebecca Johnston, among others – this was a camp to get a look at the next wave of Canadian hockey heroes.
Among those was Sarah Potomak from Aldergrove, B.C. Potomak has caught the eye of the Hockey Canada decision makers despite just turning 17 years old in December. At the beginning of the month, she was Team Canada’s leading scorer at the World Under-18 championships and here she was playing with players she has looked up to.
“It’s definitely surreal, I watched them when I was a little girl and now I’m here playing with them so it’s a pretty cool experience,” Potomak said.
Potomak is actually at her second camp with the national team. She says she has realized a lot in a short time.
“I think the first time, I got a feel for the pace, the competitiveness and where I need to be,” Potomak said. “I think in this camp I had a lot more confidence, I knew where I had to be and I knew my place so this camp I felt a lot better.”
Despite the presence of Ouellette and Wickenheiser, it was Rebecca Johnston wearing the C for Team Canada with fellow Sochi veterans Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau wearing the A.
“It’s definitely an honour to wear [the C],” Johnston said. “I’ve been in the program a while so it’s nice to get that and I’m definitely very honoured and humbled.”
Johnston is the leading scorer in the CWHL and was one of the top picks in the CWHL All-Star Draft. She was also all over the ice in the exhibition game Thursday night against the Mille-Iles Seigneurs despite not appearing on the scoresheet.
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She says that she looks to bring her experience from past camps to help develop the younger players. 14 players at the camp were not members of the 2014 Olympic Team but some represent the next wave of Olympians.
“Their work ethic sticks out,” Potomak said. “They never stop working and I’ll take that with me, to never take a day off and never take anything for granted.”
Johnston plays for the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno who are in top spot in the league and whose teammates will join her in Montreal for three games against the Montreal Stars who are in third spot and five points behind.
Along with Johnston, six other members of the Inferno were a part of the camp, and says they will face some challenges at the end of the busy week.
“We play three games all the time but after a camp like this we’re just going to have to work through it and focus on working hard,” Johnston said. “We might not have the legs but just keep that mental toughness.”