Monday, March 14, 2011

Farewell Jennifer Botterill a.k.a "The Harvard Hockey Player"

Botterill celebrates after winning gold in Vancouver. Photo credit:

This is the exact conversation I had with my mom immediately after Team Canada scored their first goal in the women's hockey gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics:

Me: [Jumping up and down celebrating (and throwing in the occasional expletive)] Mom, we scorreeeddd. Oh my god what a great goal!

Mom: Ya that is a nice goal. #17 made a nice pass.

Me: That's Jennifer Botterill. She's awesome.

Mom: Oh that really pretty one!? Now she makes hockey players look good. And she's so pleasant.

Me: Uhhh she's pleasant? Have you met her before?

Mom: No but I saw an interview with her the other day. She was so positive and soft spoken. Not like SOME people who swear every 5 seconds when they watch a game!

Me: [Rolling eyes] Oh geez Mom sorry to let you down. You know she's a Harvard grad too?

Ohhh crap, I really shouldn't have told her that! That was the moment - the moment I knew I'd never hear the end of it. My mom isn't great with names (she pronounces Hayley Wickenheiser as Hayley Wicken-howzer) so in our household Jennifer Botterill is known simply as "the Harvard hockey player."

When Becky Kellar, Gina Kingsbury, Colleen Sostorics, and Carla MacLeod retired from the Canadian National Women's Hockey team (1) I stated that I would always view them as being members of "the original Team Canada." These were the players that I grew up watching and they were the ones who inspired me and paved the way for me to play the game I love. Jennifer Botterill is in that same category. To me, she is a staple on that team. The way I still find it weird to not see Cassie Campbell and her #77 out on the ice in the red and white, I think it'll feel the same way with Botterill and her #17. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer but through interviews and articles I think I can safely conclude one thing: that Jennifer is the ultimate team mate - she's the person who keeps everyone positive and happy, the one who helps sort out any issues or differences that may be occurring in the locker room, and the one who doesn't abandon a team mate when a 5 hour bike ride through the hills of Calgary is becoming just a little too challenging! (2) A team has to be lucky to have a player like that on the team. After a rigorous day of training, after a tough loss, and even after a big win, that attitude of loyalty, of passion, and of enthusiasm is so badly needed.

And Jennifer was also a heck of a hockey player - 3 Olympic gold medals, 5 World Championship gold medals (voted tournament MVP twice), the only 2-time winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award (top woman college ice hockey player in the United States), and NCAA Frozen Four MVP are just a few of the highlights and honours of her illustrious career. Jennifer is the Harvard Crimson's all time leading scorer and holds the record of an incredible 80 game point streak! Her national team point totals are sparkling too - 65G, 109A, 174Pts in 184 career games - good for 5th on the all time list. (3) And oh yeah, she also graduated from Harvard with an honours degree in Psychology.

Today Jennifer Botterill announced her retirement from the Canadian National team. Her performance with the team over the past 14 years has put her into a category of legends. She has left her mark not only on the Canadian team but also on the Harvard Crimson and on all club teams she's ever played on. She has inspired a generation of young girls and women to strive to be the best - in hockey, in academics, and in life. And her example is one that we can all learn from on how to be a good team mate, a good friend, and a good role model. "The Harvard hockey player" is a hero to so many of us. I'll miss cheering for her on the National Team but I wish her nothing but luck in her future undertakings. Thank you Jennifer :)

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