By Meg Tilley — RogersPlace.com
The Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team has a message for all the young, aspiring female hockey players out there: We see you.
“I think every time we jump out there we feel the crowd, we hear the crowd, I think it gives us more energy, it’s the [seventh] player on the ice and I think it showed,” said Team Canada’s Captain Marie-Philip Poulin.
“Seeing the little girls in the stands, their big eyes open and maybe [we instill] that spark to dream, to [one day] be part of this team.”
Rogers Place welcomed 17,468 fans for the final showdown between Team Canada and Team USA leading up to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games Sunday night.
The sixth and final game in a six-game exhibition series wrapped up in an exhilarating Olympic gold medal-like fashion as Canada claimed a 2-1 overtime victory with 27 seconds remaining.
“Every time we play on Canadian soil we definitely want to win,” said overtime Team Canada goal-scorer Jennifer Wakefield.
“We want to take care of our fans that come out and support us…the crowd was into it right from the very beginning and even when we weren’t necessarily in the game, they were in the game, so it was nice that they had our back and kept the momentum going, even when we didn’t necessarily have it.”
The arena was packed, with many in attendance sporting the heavily favoured red-and-white jersey instead of the usual orange and blue.
Among the sea of fans stood many youthful admirers, wide-eyed and ready to cheer on their home team. They may be small in stature, but their voices are mighty, and together, Team Canada said they played a big part in their overtime victory.
“It’s awesome,” said Wakefield.
“I take notice a lot, during the warmup on the ice, watching all the little girls and little guys that come up to the glass and cheer us on. It’s really nice to see all their posters and it’s just great that the parents are taking them out to sporting events to expose them to what they could become.