potomak is back

Five years after her first IIHF Women’s World Championship, and four years after she last wore the Maple Leaf at any level, Sarah Potomak has returned to the Canadian Women’s National Team in Denmark.

Junior hockey players across the country are about to start testing. They are hard, stressful and sometimes they don’t end the way we want.

So most Canadians can identify with someone like Sarah Potomak, who was released from a team in December 2017. The main difference here is that Potomak was the latest advancement to the 2018 Women’s Olympic Team, a crushing blow for a player. who worked his life. her to get to that stage and ultimately fell short.

For some, that moment might have been the end, but Potomak kept pushing, working, fighting and, almost four years later, once again carrying the maple leaf as part of Team Canada at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship. .

“It feels amazing. It’s been quite a long journey for me with a lot of ups and downs and stuff. But it feels good to finally be on this list and I’m excited for things to work out,” says Potomak, who is helping defend his world title in Denmark. “Obviously there were some more difficult days than most, but I believed in myself what I could offer this team. I went with it. I still love hockey and the motivation was always there. Obviously, when disappointments keep coming up, you question yourself. But I held on to what I believe in and leaned on those close to me and ended up being able to do it, which feels pretty amazing.”

The last time Potomak wore the Canadian jersey at a women’s World Cup was in 2017 in Plymouth, Michigan, where she scored twice and added an assist as Canada won the silver medal. Her last international appearance was with the Canadian Women’s National Development Team in a three-game series against the USA in August 2018.

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The road back onto the world stage has meandered in a number of ways for the Aldergrove, BC product. In 2019-20, he wrapped up a four-year career at the University of Minnesota where, as a Golden Gopher, he had 65 goals and 114 assists in 145 career games.

Potomak planned to stay with her alma mater to continue her education, with long-term plans to become an elementary school teacher. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought her back to her home in British Columbia, where she landed a job as an assistant coach on the Trinity Western University (TWU) women’s hockey team before the start of the 2020 season. -twenty-one. The Spartans had just recently received U SPORTS status and were in the midst of building their program. Potomak also had the opportunity to continue her education at TWU.

Jean LaForest, a long-time coach at the junior, pro and college ranks since the early 1990s, heard about Potomak when they were discussing possible coaches to join their staff and, after a few conversations, knew he would be a good fit.

Potomak went to work for the Spartans’ inaugural season and hasn’t looked back, becoming a trusted and integral part of the coaching staff.

“It became very apparent to me that although she was very young in terms of training, Sarah was extremely mature in terms of her approach. It was a benefit to me,” says LaForest. “I am in the last parts of my career. I’ve been coaching hockey for about 30 years and it was really nice to see him because I was learning a few things myself. She told me one day ‘I’m learning a lot’ and I told her ‘Well, there are two of us because I’m also learning a lot’. Having someone with Sarah’s character and perspective in the game really helped.”

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Potomak was a unique assistant coach from the start. Her playing career was not over and she continued to have goals and aspirations with Team Canada, including competing in the Women’s World Cups and the Olympics. So instead of just donning a helmet, skates, and gloves for team practices, Potomak participated in practices with the full team, often participating in every drill.

That, says LaForest, was a real benefit not only to keeping Potomak in tip-top shape, but also to members of the Spartans.

“We talk about it. She still had aspirations and goals of wanting to continue. She faced some challenges,” says LaForest. “In all my years, I haven’t come across (an assistant coach participating in drills). He benefited her by keeping her fresh, training regularly. But she really had an impact on our product on the ice, when she was watching the pace of practice, when she was watching when our players were watching her play, she was an absolutely huge resource for the development of our program and where we are right now. We’re ahead of the curve in terms of where we thought we’d be from a program perspective just in terms of player development.”

LaForest says that the TWU program, not just the hockey team but the entire athletic program, educates its student-athletes about “all-around champions.” It is a term that implies academic success, athletic success, personal development and progression of faith. He says that Potomak embodies all of that better than anyone.

“I was carrying a full course load, playing for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and coaching full time. That was a lot at somebody’s plate and it hit the ball out of the park in all three areas,” she says. “You talk about someone who has a lot of potential, someone who is motivated and excels under pressure and really makes the most of what she has and gives 100% of what she has… I wish I had had the chance to train her like a player.”

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The road has been long and hard at times. And while this is an incredible achievement for a player who might have been down five years ago, Potomak isn’t just happy to be here. She is in Denmark with the goal of having a significant impact on the team and continuing to work and strive with bigger dreams in mind.

You see, 2026 is not that far away.

“I’m still very focused on going to the 2026 Olympics. That’s where my mind is,” says Potomak. “It’s a year-by-year process and it’s a long journey to get to the Olympics, but I’m willing to work for it. To be able to take this step for this world championship is quite big. It is an additional motivation to move forward and continue living my dream.”