Leading the Prairie pack

Canada


It’s quite easy to get inspired listening to Emily Clark.

The Saskatoon native is one of 28 players centralized with Canada’s
National Women’s Team, trying to make the final roster that will compete at
the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

Despite 27 national team games and three IIHF Women’s World Championships
under her belt, Clark still finds herself in awe when she joins her Team
Canada mates.

“Everyone talks about how special it is putting the Maple Leaf on for the
first time but, really, every time you get to do it, you get to live out
your childhood dream and not a lot of people can say that,” says Clark.
“Just even walking in the locker room, the jersey is always facing out so
you can see the logo and then you look up and see your name plate on your
stall, it’s pretty cool and it’s a reminder that you get to live out your
dream.”

Clark, 21, is the fourth-youngest player on the centralization roster, with
only the Potomak sisters – 19-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amy – and
20-year-old blue-liner Micah Zandee-Hart younger.

Still, she can hardly be considered a rookie given her Team Canada
experience to date. In addition to her three women’s worlds (she won silver
in 2015, 2016 and 2017), Clark has a pair of gold medals from the 2012 and
2013 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships, and also spent time with
Canada’s National Women’s Development Team.

Clark is also putting together quite the college career at the University
of Wisconsin, getting even more big-game experience. In 2016-17, she led
the NCAA in game-winning goals with nine, finished third in Wisconsin
scoring and was named to the WCHA Third All-Star Team. In each of her three
seasons the Badgers have reached the NCAA Frozen Four, including last
season’s run all the way to the championship game.

The next seven months, though, are all about the Olympics and chasing the
gold medal. Clark witnessed first-hand the magic of a Team Canada gold
medal celebration, as she helped support the recent Hockey Canada
Foundation gala in Saskatoon, which celebrated Canada’s National Sledge
Team gold medal win at the 2017 IPC World Para Hockey Championship.

Hockey Canada invited Clark to take part and she soaked up every second.

“It’s pretty cool to get the invite and be a part of that, especially with
it being in my hometown,” says Clark. “I like to follow along with all the
national teams and I followed the sledge team and their journey; to watch
them get their rings and be a part of their celebration was pretty special.
It’s inspiring because you hope to win a world championship every year. I
drew some inspiration from those guys and to have an event like that in
Saskatoon was pretty special.”

The gala is held each year to help support grassroots hockey and the 2017
event in Saskatoon benefitted Clark’s hometown along with a number of
surrounding communities. That support is paramount to Clark, who still
cherishes her minor hockey days in Saskatoon.

Clark says her game was “built in Saskatchewan,” highlighting her attention
to detail, strong work ethic and “not being afraid to grind and getting
bounced around in the corners.”

Clark is the only player from Saskatchewan on the centralization roster.
Going all the way back to the Olympic debut of women’s hockey in 1998, Team
Canada has always included at least one player from the Prairie province.
Of course, it helped that Hayley Wickenheiser also calls Saskatchewan home.

Wickenheiser retired from the game earlier this year and, while she will
long remain the standard-bearer for women’s hockey in the province, Clark
represents the next wave of young hockey greats from Saskatchewan.

She seems more than ready to take on the responsibility of being a role
model for girls from Weyburn to Rosetown to Nipawin and La Ronge.

“It’s hard to wrap my head around,” she says. “Obviously, I grew up
watching Hayley. For every girl across the country, Hayley Wickenheiser is
obviously one of the greats of our game but being from Saskatchewan, I feel
like I connected to that a little extra than some of the other girls my
age.

“Just this past year, I think [being a role model has] sunk in a bit, being
able to go out to some girls skates … I went to the KidSport event in
Saskatoon recently and got to play road hockey with some of the younger
girls. Just having them come up and ask me questions or for a signature, or
just hearing from their parents about how excited they were to get a talk
with me, saying they watched worlds and want to be just like me, obviously
there is a responsibility that comes with that, but it’s a cool opportunity
to be a role model for those girls in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan.”



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