Natalie Stanwood always dreamed of playing hockey for team Canada. Until February, she never thought that would be a reality.
“I heard I was going to be playing for team Canada, and I got a chill through my entire body,” says Stanwood. “That’s something I have always dreamt of, and I didn’t know it was going to be a realistic dream for me in the near future.”
The fourth-year Dal Tigers defencewoman was chosen to represent Canada at the 2019 winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, which is a city in Siberian Russia, the winter Universiade is a sports tournament, which gathers top student-athletes from around the world for what is essentially a Winter Olympics for university students. It is held every other year.
￼After Dalhousie women’s hockey Head Coach Sean Fraser let Stanwood know she was selected, she had less than a month to prepare for the trip.
“It was a surreal phone call,” says Stanwood, who is from West Vancouver B.C. “It was a phone call I’ll never forget.”
Fraser followed all the games through live webcasts from Halifax. He wasn’t surprised when he heard Stanwood was selected for the team.
“She’s a highly-skilled player,” says Fraser. “And she’s a leader on and off the ice.”
Stanwood was Dalhousie’s best defender over the past two seasons. This past season she was tied for third on the team with 12 points in 28 games. She is also solid defensively; she can read the play well and is usually in the right position to break-up an attack.
Even with her success, Stanwood was surprised to be named to the team.
“It was something I definitely didn’t see coming, I didn’t know that I was on the radar for something that big,” says Stanwood.
The team was made up of top players from Canadian Universities. Three of Stanwood’s team Canada teammates are her rivals in the Atlantic University Sport women’s hockey league. Other AUS players on the team are Cassandra Labrie and Katryne Villeneuve from Université de Moncton and Abby Beale from Mount Allison University.
“As much as we had conflict playing against each other on different university teams, when we were on the same team we didn’t have any issues on or off the ice,” she said.
On the ice, the team dominated the early rounds of the tournament. Canada opened with a 10-0 win over China. They won six games and lost one before the gold medal game, outscoring their opposition 30-7.
Canada lost 2-0 to Russia in the gold medal game. It was not surprising though; Russia had 11 players who played on the Russian women’s hockey Olympic team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“It was bitter-sweet, obviously playing in the gold medal game, with the anticipation of working so hard for the gold,” says Stanwood. “But knowing that we had played the best game of our tournament there and that we all played for one another, I don’t think any of us have any regrets.”
While Stanwood says she didn’t want to assume how many minutes she would play, she was an important player on the team playing on the power play and penalty kill.
“I was just very grateful to have made the team in the first place, and I didn’t have any expectations how much ice time I was going to have as compared to [playing] at Dal,” she said.
Stanwood was gone for two weeks, but she used reading week to catch up on work. Luckily most of her midterms were completed before she had to leave. She also had three days of travel to get in and out of Russia, so she had a lot of time on the plane to study.
Stanwood’s silver medal will serve as a reminder of her time as a team Canada player — a feeling she says will stick with her for a long time.
“It was the honour that every time I was stepping out on the ice that I was representing myself, my family, Dal and our entire country,” she says.