Natalie Spooner is an Olympic gold and silver medalist with Canada’s national women’s hockey team. She shares insight on some of her top-performing teams, and how to create an environment to excel. Spooner and host Sami Jo Small chat about how others have helped her on her path to success, and how she uses her platform to give back to the game she loves so much.
A full transcription of the podcast can be found below.
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Episode 6 – Natalie Spooner
Music/Man’s Voice: Welcome to Sami Jo’s Podcast. The show that is all about gaining insights from top performers as they share what made their teams successful and translate those ideas into your everyday lives and businesses.
Here is your host, 3 time Olympian, professional speaker, author and entrepreneur …Sami Jo Small.
Welcome to episode #6 of Sami Jo’s podcast
where I interview Olympic gold and silver medallist , Natalie Spooner.
Perhaps, one of the best known players on Canada’s current National Women’s hockey Team, She is a World Champion having participated in the Championships 7 times.
Natalie has built her brand around fun, energy and drive and she is constantly making time to lend her name to worthwhile causes.
Her message has resonated with countless fans to make her one of the most popular Olympic athletes in Canada.
We talk about how she first got into hockey, her most memorable experiences and what she brings not only to the ice, but to her team.
Having been a teammate of Natalie’s as well as her general manager, I saw first hand her devotion to her training, to her teammates and to the growing the game.
She is an incredible ambassador for women’s hockey.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Natalie Spooner
Sami Jo: Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional indigenous owners of country throughout Canada and pay my respect to them, their culture and their elders past, present and future.
Sami Jo: Okay, so we first met in, I think 2007 when you joined our Mississauga elite team heading over to the National Championships. However, I really didn’t get to know you until 2012, when you joined the Toronto Furies after you graduated from university. Instantly, I just I knew you were someone I wanted to be around, your passion for life and your desire to make the team better was just really what stood out for me. And I’m just so happy that you’re able to make time to come on my show today. So thank you and welcome.
Natalie: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I’m excited. I’m excited you got this show going and excited to see how it goes.
Sami Jo: All right, well, let’s dive right in. The first team that you were really ever a part of was your family. You’re the fourth of four kids and the first girl and I think there is some years between you and your siblings, right?
Natalie: Yep, there’s five. So there’s five years between my first two brothers, and then there’s only 18 months between me and my closest brother.
Sami Jo: Gotcha. Okay, so your parents, they weren’t really hockey people but they wanted their kids to be involved in sports. So I want to know what in their backgrounds gave them the sense that both extracurriculars and sports were really important. And how did they support their little girl as she navigated the sports world?
Natalie: Yeah, so. So my Dad, like my parents were from England, and they moved to Canada when they got married and my Dad was actually a rugby player over in England.
Sami Jo: I did not know that.
Natalie: Yeah,yeah. He came to Canada. He was like, I’m not putting my kids in any contact sports, like he had dislocated shoulders and he had like, all these things go wrong. So he’s like, okay, like, another pretty big sport in Britain is soccer. So I’m, or football, they call it. So I’m gonna sign my kids up for soccer. So my oldest brother Rick got into soccer and then all the kids in Canada who play soccer in the summer just happened to play hockey in the winter. So he wanted to continue playing with his friends. And so my parents said, okay, like, what do we get? And they always laugh because they went to Canadian Tire and literally, like, saw the mannequin of the kid just bought everything off the mannequin, but like, didn’t know that he needed like long johns or a jock.
Sami Jo: Right? All the other things, the extras.
Natalie: All the other things that go along with the equipment. So he showed up for practice with just that equipment. Eventually, you know, they figured it out by time by the time I came around, but yeah, to my Dad, like it was always important to be involved in sports. And I mean, he has like some crazy stories about like, the workouts that they would get them put through and working hard. So he never really thought that we were ever working too hard. It was always we could work harder. And you’d always see him in the stands at my games going between like, move my feet speed up.
Sami Jo: Was he involved in really elite level rugby over there?
Natalie: Yeah, he was.
Sami Jo: Wow.
Natalie: He was like semi professional. Okay. Yeah and then my Mom being a teacher, obviously. We needed to be good in school to and play sports.
Sami Jo: Did she play sports or have any of that in her background?
Natalie: Not really. She wasn’t really. I wouldn’t say she, she. I think she started like, we call it yogging, but jogging at? Like 40-45.
Sami Jo: Oh though that’s impressive. Yeah.
Natalie: No. Now she jogs a bit. But no, she didn’t really do many sports.
Sami Jo: And so it was really because of Rick, that you guys all started to play hockey? Did they see it as I mean, I guess they weren’t really hockey people. So did they see it as strange that you wanted to play too, or they just supported whatever you wanted to do?
Natalie: Yeah, it wasn’t really strange. Like, at least I didn’t feel that it was strange, because I was just doing like, whatever my brothers did at the time. Like, we just used all the hand me downs like literally the equipment have gone from like one brother to the next to the next then to me, so I just had, you know, all their equipment. Like I remember, like my first few years and then like, when I was five, I was with the girls team. And they were black pants, but I had these like bright blue pants and they were black helmets and I had a bright white helmet. So like, I just was wearing that stuff. And that was just like, I just was like, Okay, this I’m gonna play and to me, I didn’t feel like an outcast because I just thought Oh, I’m playing with my brothers. You know?
Sami Jo: I read that you played one year boys right? But then you join the Durham West. So it’s it was pretty common for girls to be playing around you. Did you have girls from your school that played too?
Natalie: No so no one really in my school played? I actually, this is the story. You’re gonna love this story because he knows this person too. But, um, so Okay, so I quit hockey after my first year playing with the boys
Sami Jo: Because you hated it?
Natalie: I hated it. Like my parents. I didn’t like wearing my equipment. I just wanted to go to like power skating. I guess I didn’t I don’t know if I didn’t like my coach. I just I just didn’t like it. So my parents were like, well, let’s continue skating lessons at least. So all the other kids would go in their hockey equipment and I would go in my snow suit. So there’s like all these boys. I could come in, I would just go my snow suit and do the best that I could. And then one week another girl showed up. Who was Jess Vella.
Sami Jo: No way.
Natalie: Yeah. So Jess Vella showed up at power skating.
Sami Jo: She ended up playing with, you can tell the listeners she ended up playing with us with the Toronto Furies. Amazing.
Natalie: Jessie Vella with us on the Toronto. Furies. So the week after that, I was like, Mom, there was another girl there. And she had her hockey equipment on like, I want to wear my hockey equipment again. So then the next week, I wore my hockey equipment, and Jesse came up to me, she’s like, you play hockey? And I was like, Yeah, I play hockey. After the power skating, her Dad asked my Dad if I wanted to, like, Come and join their team in Durham West. So it’s Jessie Bella that really saved my hockey career, and got me into playing for Durham West and like we played on the same team.
Sami Jo: Who knows you would have gone on to play for the national soccer team. Did you end up playing soccer as well?
Natalie: I did. I played soccer until grade 10. I gave it up. I gave up band and soccer both in grade 10. Just kind of focus on hockey because at that point, I knew I wanted to get a scholarship and I wanted to go away to school.
Sami Jo: Did your Mom because she was a teacher always have a rule that you had to do well, in school, my parents always had that I could only go to practice if I did well, in school.
Natalie: There’s always a thing – homework done first, and then you go to practice.
Sami Jo: I love that. That’s what encouraged you to stay in hockey. So let’s change tracks a little bit. Obviously, your family was your first team. But you’re a very accomplished businesswoman, as well. You have a mass following on social media. And you’ve done Battle the Blades, Amazing Race Canada amongst other exciting opportunities, and have lent your name to many important causes. And I want to know how you choose really what is congruent with your brand and what you lend your name to and how you make those decisions.
Natalie: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s definitely tough. I wish I could help everything that’s out there. And everyone because I think everything you know, has, has a special spot. But, you know, for me, some of the main ones I’ve supported, obviously, through Battle of the blades, I was able to support Fast and Female, which, for me being a female athlete, and, you know, seeing young girls now that are playing and a lot of young girls that drop out a sport so early on, I think it’s really important. Like even I mean, even I quit hockey, like if it wasn’t for, you know, another girl coming along and saying I play, it’s okay to play, like, come back and play then I might have been that girl. So I think that it’s really important. You know, to get girls just exposed to sports, and, you know, maybe the first sport they play is not going to be the love of their life and like the sport they want to play, they got to try a lot. So I think that that’s something really cool that Fast and Female does, it exposes girls to all different types of sports and all different athletes that play all these sports who are really amazing, accomplished ladies, who can kind of show them just, you know, some of the fun quirks about the sport, and maybe they’ll fall in love with it, too. Another one I get to support as WaterAid Canada, which you know, brings water to places that don’t have access to clean water. So I got to go on a trip to India, and see firsthand just how like devastating it is and how it’s really a woman and children problem and how the women are really relied upon to go fetch water. And they really can’t have goals, they can’t have jobs that they are like the ones who just have to go get it.
Sami Jo: It’s their whole life, right their whole life
Natalie: Because they walk kilometres a day to go get this water. So that was something that was really, you know, I was touched by that. And I think whenever you can, you know, empower women. And that’s what like bringing clean water there, they then have the whole day they set up like these little shops and they make things and they sell things and you just see a whole different change in these women as soon as they do have clean water, you know, running to their villages. And then another one I like to work with is Holland Bloorview Hospital and Capes for Kids, which is kids with disabilities and I think you know that for me like sometimes it’s just going in there and seeing them playing sports and getting to play sports with them. And just knowing that you know, you brought a bit of light to their day cause you know, it can be tough and even in going there sometimes it’s like, wow, this is you know, a real, like, we’re facing this like these kids are struggling and Holland Bloorview does that it brings like smiles to these kids faces and makes life a little bit easier and helps them get through whatever they’re going through and helps their families too. So I think that you know, that’s one that is really rewarding to work with and to know you know that these kids are having a little bit of an easier time.
Sami Jo: I don’t know if you know that Billy spent 18 years at Holland Bloorview, he spent the first two years basically of his life at Sick Kids Hospital undergoing so many different surgeries. But he really credits the people at Holland Bloorview for introducing him to sport because to him he could just couldn’t wait after each surgery to get back on the court and to be able to do stuff out there with the other kids, and just to even see kids that were like him, you know, so then at what it wasn’t about the disability is about, you know, what video game you’re playing in are what are you doing? Or you know, it’s just being able to have those conversations. So I think that that’s really important.
Natalie: I love it.
Sami Jo: That’s so amazing. I think that, you know, these kids, they’re probably really appreciate it. And they probably just really appreciate too, that you are, they’re speaking on their level, you know, you’re getting to know them as real people. And that’s, I think, really key and being around Billy for so long now. I it’s amazing what having that diversity of thought can bring to a social setting, and including people with disabilities, and all the decisions that are made, I think, is really a key for the future. So giving these kids the opportunities to find their voice and to find their passion. I think it’s really important. So if you could kind of sum up what the Natalie Spooner brand is, have you ever thought about that? Like, what really is how you want to represent yourself? Like, what is? What is the brand?
Natalie: I think for me, it’s about like, leaving a lasting impression. And like, you know, obviously, I’m, I’m a hockey player, and I want to be the best hockey player that I can be every day. And I work really hard. And I want to be known for that. But at the end of the day, it’s like when I’m not a hockey player, what am what am I going to leave behind and what have I, you know, helped move forward or given a voice to, think for me, you know, it’s a lot has to do with women, children, and making sure that like, they have the voices because they’re the future. And I think, you know, obviously with sport, and us in the PWHPA and fighting for, you know, professional Women’s League, it is those, those girls that are playing sports that are going to be the future and hopefully, you know, have a professional women’s sports team for every sport out there so that every girl can you know, dream of playing.
Sami Jo: I love that your mantra is to leave a legacy. That’s amazing. Are there areas of business that you’d like to pursue in the future? You know, I always say it’s not necessarily what are you going to do when you grow up? Because obviously, we are full grown adults. But in my life, it’s sort of constantly changing. And I’m sure it’s the same for you. So I guess, what are you really interested in next? Like, what do you see for yourself beyond sort of the social media landscape?
Natalie: Oh boy there’s so many things I would love to do.
Sami Jo: Now, what are some of them? What are some except I’m not going to hold you to anything, don’t worry.
Natalie: Obviously I’ve gotten my feet wet a little bit in sports broadcasting, which I’ve been enjoying a lot. So I would love to you know, keep getting better at that. And hopefully can make it a career one day we’ll see. I’ve also been super interested in like firefighting.
Sami Jo: Oh, wow. Was that through the CWHL that can cause a lot of the girls ended up taking courses.
Natalie: We had to do like the firefight challenge.
Sami Jo: Oh, wow. Okay. Amazing.
Natalie: Yeah. So I don’t know, I need to, like explore more on that or, like, learn more about it. Obviously, we have lots of teammates who are firefighters. Luckily, I can pick their brains. Um, other than that, like, I really like fashion or like interior design.
Sami Jo: Oh, cool.
Natalie: So maybe like eventually getting into something like designing spaces?
Sami Jo: That kind of combines all your passions together. Yeah, redesigning the next great hockey rink or something. Oh, that would be super cool.
Natalie: That’d be cool.
Sami Jo: Or having a Natalie Spooner fashion line.
Natalie: That I would want to do. Yeah, fashion line. That would be cool.
Sami Jo: Oh, my gosh, I could just see you strutting your stuff in your in your new clothes. That’d be amazing.
Natalie: Although if I was designing it, I don’t think I would be strutting as model.
Sami Jo: You can model your clothes.
Natalie: You can be my first model,
Sami Jo: Right? Yeah, for sure. I’ll be right. You know what? We were talking before this broadcast about do Jane Roos. And when I first met Jane Roos, we used to do this thing called the Future is Female. And she had these it was basically Olympic athletes combined with fashion, you would have loved it. And it was presenting to girls in the age group of about 13 to 18 that dropped out of sport. And so it showed these athletes from little tiny gymnasts up until you know myself, big athletes big weightlifters. And they would get some fashion clothing design designers to like, give us clothes. And we would do like a full runway model. And then we would give these speeches It was really intriguing because it shows the power of the woman’s body in all different shapes and sizes and that it can all be beautiful. It was really an amazing thing that she did. And that was before she started into the Can Fund that she has now supported so many Olympic athletes, but that was really her first passion so I could see you do something doing something like that.
Natalie: That would be really cool.
Sami Jo: Combine the two passions that you have,
Natalie: Like fancy clothing for athletes for all body types.
Sami Jo: There you go, that would be incredible. Yeah. What are the lessons Do you think that you learned in hockey that are going to serve you in future, the future business world or boardrooms or decision making processes in the future?
Natalie: Oh, boy,I mean, there’s so many things that you learn in sport, I think like, first of all, just work ethic, like, I think to get to, you know, the level we’re at, you have to, you know, make sure you’re working hard every day and pushing yourself and, you know, it’s about getting outside of your comfort zone. And I think that that’s something that you know, Olympic athletes or high level athletes are really good at is kind of finding that that next level. Next being on a team, like I would say, teamwork, for sure. Everyone is different. But I think it’s about you know, appreciating everyone’s differences and realizing that everyone’s different, I mean, I may be a little bit more louder and upbeat, and there might be some people that are a little bit quieter, but that’s, you know, that’s how they get ready. And that’s, that’s how they are. And I think that it’s about, you know, appreciating and being able to work with all different types of people. For sure, through this pandemic, I would say resiliency, I think as an athlete, we’ve had to find so many different ways to train and to stay on top of our game. And it always hasn’t been easy. So I say, for sure coming out of this, and you’re going to have a lot of resilient athletes. But also, I think when you get into the workplace, there’s, you know, there’s always things to overcome. So I think that would be another one for sure. Feel like I had another one, but I can’t remember.
Sami Jo: I think when it comes to resiliency for the hockey player, I think that it’s you know, it’s different for individual athletes, because they’ve always been responsible for themselves. But what I really find during this pandemic, is this is the first time that team athletes have had to be responsible for themselves and find that inner strength. I think that I’ve always been so jealous of swimmers, track and field athletes, they just they automatically innately have it. Whereas I find that we as team athletes tend to rely on others for some of our energy, you know, so I’m sure that you have found
Natalie: In the group setting?
Sami Jo: Exactly. And I’m sure that you found a lot of that during this time.
Natalie: I’ve had I’ve had a good training group, luckily, a little bit. So that’s been a nice and refreshing, then at first when we were really locked down and having to train on our own.
Sami Jo: Right, which is not always easy. I find this a thing I you know, I’d rather chase a ball or chase something or have people that are there to enjoy the experience with me. And so at times, it is hard to train on my own or find that own internal motivation. So it’s been a little bit of a challenge for me in these times to just go downstairs and hop on my bike, but I found a good show. So that’s good.
Natalie: We have to get some zoom friends.
Sami Jo: I know that you can do the same thing when I know that Cassie has done some stuff on Pelaton with a bunch of different people and it seems really motivating and motivates me even though I’m not part of the group that motivates me to go down and ride my bike.
Natalie: Oh, there you go.
Sami Jo: This episode brought to you by the Sami Jo Small Hockey School with locations in Winnipeg, MB and Oakville, ON.
Started in 1998 My philosophy is to teach in a safe, fun environment with a very individualized focus.
I try to attract some of the top hockey players and coaches in order that you an learn and be motivated from both Olympians and World Champions to University players, and great coaches and great people.
We want you to work hard, have a great time, leave with new friends and say, “That was the most fun I ever had at hockey school!”
Back to Interview
Sami Jo: Okay, so after the after the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and winning gold, it just an incredible fashion, dramatic fashion that was probably one of my favourite games of all time, in any sport to watch. Many of your teammates chose to be done with hockey for the season, and I get it. I mean, it’s a long season. It was gruelling. Obviously, it was taxing what you guys went through both physically and emotionally. But you chose to come back and compete in the CWHL with the Toronto Furies leading us to a Clarkson Cup Championship. And I want to know why you decided to come back to our team. And what made that team so special in your mind.
Natalie: Yeah, so for me, I always like knew I wanted to come back but I at the same time I didn’t want to come back and like take someone’s spot who had been playing the whole year. So I was really on the fence actually for a while and it wasn’t until I actually talked to the girls you know, like it was right after the Olympics as I talked to the girls and I was like, what should be the decision like I want to hear from you guys because I don’t want to be coming in and you guys either not wanting me there because I’m just coming in and taking someone spot. Um, and Tessa right away said no, like the team wants you back come back play for us. I said okay, I’m, I’m in and I mean, that was such a special team. We came into the tournament like ranked last place. We’ve been I think we have so much fun and every game. Every game you go in as an underdog you got an extra chip on your shoulder. So I think we just were like, we have nothing to lose out here. Let’s leave it all out there. Like people may be expecting, like not the same team that’s going to show up you know, so I think every game we surprised teams and I mean some of them in shootouts overtime, we found ways to win and I thought that I mean, it was so much fun.
Sami Jo: So what do you think that the girls within that dressing room did to make you feel welcome and make you feel like you, you know, wanted to play your best.
Natalie: Yeah, I mean, it kind of felt like, you know, when you have like those friends that you like, don’t talk to for a while and then all of a sudden you’re just like, always friends, you’re just always there and you can just talk to her. It kind of felt like that, like it kind of had felt like I had been there the whole season, when really I hadn’t, right. I had been gone, but I stepped right in and it felt like I belonged. Right, like I was, I had never left. Obviously, I knew all of them, because I had played with them in the like the year before but it can definitely be a little bit scary, like coming back when everyone, you know, had already been playing the whole season. But no, they just welcomed me back. And you know, kind of just was like, we need you here, like do your thing. And we’ll do our thing. And let’s make it work.
Sami Jo: That sense of feeling like you are needed probably too. I feel like I, you know, I watched you play at the Olympic Games, for sure. And you played amazing. But when you stepped on that ice for the Clarkson Cup, you were so dominant compared to everybody else. And I just felt like, I don’t know if there’s a team that elevated you to those levels, or you just felt like you’re on this high coming back from Sochi. But I saw you play some of your best hockey you’ve ever played. I don’t know how you felt.
Natalie: I think I like the pressure of feeling like I need to go like I know, like, you should always be like you can go out and make a difference. But I like having that that little bit of pressure on my shoulder being like, you need to be the one. You know, right.
Sami Jo: You had that you had the team on your shoulders essentially. And it was a construct that allowed you, well, I mean, it was a construct that allowed you to feel like that was okay, as well. You know, like you didn’t feel like you were coming in and usurping the leadership that was already in place. I felt like the leadership that we had on that team with Britni Smith, with Tessa Bonhomme. Who else was our assistant captain, do you remember? Maybe Lexie ya Lexie Hoffmeyer and Kori Cheverie. Maybe we like alternated?
Natalie: Yeah alternated, and Kohanchuk, who I played with when I came back. But I think she was still young then.
Sami Jo: Yeah, she had just been released from the Olympic team. So she only came to us right before Christmas. So she also was relatively new. But I mean, was obviously dominant on the ice.
Natalie: So many good players on that team.
Sami Jo: And you know, what I what I really think about that team was that there’s just so many nice people on that team that weren’t concerned about being in the limelight, being the one that scored or the one that sat and cheered, everybody was just really supportive during those times. And I feel like that was just a really special team to be a part of, when you when you think back to your Team Canada career, and I know it’s still going on. So I don’t want to assume that. You know, there’s this legacy that you have left, that you continue to lead but what was maybe the most special team that you were a part of, and maybe you’ll say that 2014 Sochi Olympic team. But, you know, the Worlds don’t often get as much accolades. So was there a particular team that you felt like, you know, you guys just could do no wrong?
Natalie: Hey, for sure, two teams, obviously. First, the 2014 Sochi Olympics, that year, we had been through so much adversity, and, you know, winning the way we did and coming together at the right time, like, it was great timing for our team to come together right before the Olympics. It just felt so special than to know everything we had been through and to win it the way we did. And to look around at the team and know, you know how much we all wanted it, but it hadn’t been going smooth up until you know, that Olympic time, that would probably be one of my top two. And then the other one would be my under 18 World Championships because it was my first ever World Championships. But also everyone else’s first ever World Championships because it was the first ever there was an under 18 World Championship. So getting to like put on that jersey at the exact same time as all the other girls and looking around. And we were just so excited and just, like just so happy to be there. I remember that being a really special moment. Like obviously, we had an amazing team, we lost to the US in the finals, but that that moment of still getting to like represent your country for the first time with everyone else who’s doing it for the first time was something really special.
Sami Jo: And having that shared moment together. Who are some of the girls that were on that team that went on to play with for the national team.
Natalie: Marie-Philip Poulin, Brianne Jenner, Lauriane Rougeau, Tara Watchorn. Who else would be like Amanda Mazzotta.
Sami Jo: where was that championships?
Natalie: In Calgary.
Sami Jo: So in Canada as well. Getting to wear that jersey.
Natalie: Yeah, yeah, father David Bauer arena.
Sami Jo: That’s pretty special. I mean, The that first moment of putting on that jersey, but let alone getting it to do it with so many of your friends. And I think when you’re going through a championship like that you become so close so quickly, right? It’s different than a centralized year, for sure.
Natalie: I mean, first of all, like getting to meet those girls, and we had like a series before. So we got to like, hang out, but then I think it just like bonds you because now we’re this crew, that came in all together. And we got to wear this jersey and plan this, this championship and kind of move up the ranks together too.
Sami Jo: Probably served you well, leading into the Sochi Olympics probably are the reason why you guys were able to stay together despite the challenging circumstances, we’ll say, I know, in conversations with you about that Sochi year, it was really hard. And it was really tough. Versus the PyeongChang year, which you felt more on top of your game, for lack of a better word, maybe that’s the wrong word. But you know, how do you think that that challenge and that struggle in the end, gave you guys this amazing victory versus perhaps the other way?
Natalie: Yeah, so what I always say like for, for the Sochi Olympics, everything was so hard leading up to it, that by the time you get to the Olympics, the Olympics felt easy. Right, like they had challenged us so much, they had pushed us so hard, pretty much to our breaking point. Like we had players that were pretty injured at times and luckily, we pulled it together at the end. By the time we got to the Olympics, like we had been in tough games, we had come back against the US and tough games before. We had been through a lot of the same scenarios that already happened at the Olympics. So we were prepared for them and knew we could overcome them. Whereas, PyeongChang was a much smooth sailing, we’re winning games, everything was great. And then you get to the Olympics, and you get in a hard scenario where maybe your team is not as prepared for, you know, those tough games that you hadn’t really, I mean, you tough faced tough games, but not the same kind of toughness, as we did in 2014.
Sami Jo: Do you think 10 years from now? Which scenario? Do you think you’ll have preferred?
Natalie: The 2014? One for sure.
Sami Jo: Yeah. With all the struggle? I mean,
Natalie: I mean, it’s hard to say because we want if we won 2018, it could be different, but like, he was different.
Sami Jo: Say you got a silver in both?
Natalie: I don’t know. I mean, I would take the hard days, you know, those dog days for six months to win a gold medal any day. Right? I mean, yeah, I think I still think 2014 you going through these hard things? Do you also come together? Right, as a team, or you’re there for one another?
Sami Jo: You know, in 2002, we sort of went through the same things that you guys went through in leading up to Sochi losing all our games, and then we ended up winning, which really made it special because you had all these challenges. In 2006, I think we had maybe what was the most dominant Canadian team and then going on to play Sweden, and the final just kind of steamrolling over the competition. And, you know, while that was still really special for those of us going through it, not many people remember the Torino Olympics, you know, so nobody really talks to me about those Olympics. So had you won in PyeongChang, and it was just easy. And even, you know, I think about the Vancouver team, where they, they won 2 – 0. And it was, you know, it wasn’t an easy game. But it wasn’t the comeback you guys had. And I’m sure that regardless, people will be talking about you to you about that game for generations, which must just be so special to relive it so many times.
Natalie: Yeah, I mean, I think people I think it really put women’s hockey too at a different point because it wasn’t as just seen as like, a great hockey game. Like people were like, this is one of the best hockey games I’ve ever seen.
Sami Jo: That was the best sporting moment I’ve ever seen. Like, it wasn’t just about male female. Yeah, men’s women’s it was it really was about sport, and just that incredible moment.
Natalie: Yeah, yeah, I think. I mean, when I came back to Canada, everyone remembered exactly where they were, whether they were on vacation, watching it somewhere in a hospital watching it wherever they were like they remembered exactly where they were when they had to, like, pause life and watch the game.
Sami Jo: was watching it at the Can Fund doing an event with Jane Roos hosting what was to be my adult women’s rec team, the Honey Badgers, which is Cari MacLean, Ron Maclean’s wife. And they were there and I just remember you know, I didn’t know them that well but when you guys won, just hugging them and just celebrating with them. And I’m sure you get stories like this all the time, but it was just I felt like we were right on the ice with you guys willing you guys to win. So thank you for letting us share in that moment with you. Not many people could really excel, playing alongside Hayley Wickenheiser it is not an easy thing to do. And, you know, playing with Hayley, the pressure is high. She is so intense. She expects so much of her teammates. And that’s what made has made her so great over the years. But why do you think? because you played with her in Sochi? Right? So why do you think that you did so well in that role and really were perfect for that role?
Natalie: You know what I think at first, I was definitely really nervous. I think the good thing was, she could tell she could tell that I was nervous and I didn’t really know, like, I thought along with her great like a guest I played with Agosta too. And me and Agosta got along great. And I guess we’re a little bit more light-hearted and a little bit more serious. So we could kind of, you know, crack a joke here and there and keep her light. But Wick really took me under her wing now Olympics, which was really nice. And she could tell that I was nervous. And I remember one game where I was so nervous, and she looked at me and she just said, “Spooner play your game, don’t worry what anyone else thinks”. And to me, that was I think, like my turning point, like, knowing that, like, this player that I’ve looked up to that is an amazing player thinks that I’m good. And like, thinks that my hockey game is good enough like that I you know, don’t need to, like, go out and change anything too much. Like, just make sure I’m playing my game. Um, meant a lot to me. And I think like, I still have to say that back to myself all the time. Now, let’s just go out and play your game don’t worry what anyone else thinks like, there’s moment all there’s always moments where you doubt yourself where your confidence is low. And so I just remember her saying that to me, and I think that it really clicked like, okay, like, she’s gonna be okay, if I make a mistake. Not gonna be the end of the world. If I make a bad pass to her, or, you know, like, sure, she may give a grunt or something. But like, it’s, at the end of the day, like she’s a nice person, and she cares about me.
Sami Jo: That’s the thing with Hayley is that she really does care. And she, if Hayley thinks you’re good, you’re good. There is there is only black and white with Hayley. And so that must have meant so much just to know that she felt like you’re a good enough player to play alongside her. Playing with Gus, Meghan Agosta, I guess that must have been amazing. She’s, to me one of the all time most naturally skilled players that I have ever seen in the game, and she just makes it look effortless, doesn’t she?
Natalie: I always say like Meghan Agosta across the ice. Never know how fast she’s skating because it doesn’t look like she’s skating fast but yet she’s skating really fast.
Sami Jo: I know. She always got yelled at in leading up to Torino. As a 17 year old. She’s like, the coaches be Meghan, you got to try. You got to try. And then she’d be the first in a drill to finish something. It’s like she didn’t even look like she was breaking a sweat ever.
Natalie: Yeah, she just floats. And then, I mean, also just a natural goal scorer. Like if we could get her the puck in the slot. Like she can find the net, which was amazing. I mean, she’s scored how many goals in her career so she is now a cop and had a baby and she can still play the game. So I think just you know, it just speaks to how just naturally like this sport was meant for her.
Sami Jo: And how just naturally gifted she is at whatever she tries. I mean, she makes motherhood look easy, she makes look at being a cop look easy. And I don’t know if that’s just is her demeanour, but she just has this way of making you feel like you can be along for the ride with her. And she just kind of makes things fun. Which I always appreciated about her.
Natalie: Yeah we had a lot of fun on our line.
Sami Jo: What are who are some other individuals could be with Team Canada could have been at The Ohio State. It could have been growing up but who are some individuals that you just really loved playing with that you just really clicked with?
Natalie: Tough one, there’s been I’ve had like a lot of different linemates for sure. Like, now. I mean, I’ve got to play with Brianne Jenner, like amazing player. I’ve got to play with Sarah Nurse, like super fun to play with to, um, but back in the day. Yeah, I got to play with Kori Cheverie. Like, she was a lot of fun to play with. I feel like she had a great energy and like we got along so well. Like, I remember scoring a goal off her forehead. One time I went up and hit her in the head and went in.
Sami Jo: Definitely was willing to do anything.
Natalie: Yeah, like we’re good laughs there
Sami Jo: Do you think you respond better to people that are able to have a good time like you or do you think you need somebody alongside you more like a Hayley that’s, you know, more serious and intense.
Natalie: You know what, as much as Haley was like, serious and intense. She also liked to like, enjoy me like she also could let loose so I think it’s like that balance because there’s some times where obviously I’m going to be in the zone too. And I’m going to be but I think it’s about having like that balance of like, oh like, you’re human, and you’re not just a robot, yes. Oh, there and you’re not, you know, so I think it’s, I don’t know, like if someone was serious all the time like, and I never saw them let loose, I would probably be a little bit worried. I don’t know if we’d get along so well.
Sami Jo: You might not have the best chemistry.
Natalie: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Sami Jo: So what types of individuals? Do you think that you play best alongside like, what? Like hockey wise? Do you need somebody that can stand in front of the net? And just allow you to be creative? Do you need somebody that can get you the puck? What do you think you need in line-mates?
Natalie: Oh, good question. I mean, I think like my game, I mean, now it’s, I’m in front of the net most of the time. So I’m now I think, I would say I would love to play with someone that can just score and I would just give them the puck, but I think there’s it’s kind of evolved over time, right? Like, I love to have the puck on my stick too. And I love to score goals. So I mean, I think that there’s not really one right or wrong answer. I think I can play with lots of different types of players. Obviously players that are- like that like to talk and, you know, we can chat about things, I think it makes it a little bit easier to figure out, you know, each other’s tendencies and stuff. But I don’t think there’s like one type of player in particular that, like, I’d be like, that’s the type of player I want to play with. Like, I love fast players. If they’re just busting out the zone as a winger, I could just give them the puck. Right? Um, but yeah, I don’t think I think I can kind of like adapt.
Sami Jo: you seem to be able to be very amenable, which means very adaptable to situations. And I even think back to your time on The Amazing Race with Meaghan Mikkelson, and I would have said that she was more of a serious hockey player. While she likes to have fun. She certainly is sort of the A to B type person, whereas I feel like you’re kind of more creative. More laissez faire is the wrong word. But you like to ensure that everybody else around you is having a really good time, too. And it was really noticeable that you guys really clicked well together, coming from two different ends of the spectrum. Can you talk a little bit about her personality? And why you guys why you think you click so well?
Natalie: Yeah. Oh, man. That’s a tough one. I mean, I think Yeah, we’re definitely like, quite different personalities. But at the same time, I think the great thing about sport is like when you have the same goal, like you guys are kind of willing to do anything. And on that race, like, we were good friends at that point. Like we didn’t, I wouldn’t say like, we were great friends going into the race, but we became great friends through it because of everything we had to go through. And then you just kind of get used to each other’s tendencies. And we definitely I mean, people who watched it, no, we had our little bickers about dancing and about the way we learn to dance about the way we you know, and I think, like, for me, it was even a growing moment being like, wow, like, she really learns differently than I do. Like, I don’t know, I never had to learn to dance with someone before, like, learn, you know, like, I just figured, like, okay, just do it, just get it done. Like, you know, don’t think too much about it. But to her, it was like, totally different. So I think like, we were both kind of able to, like grow through the experience and like, figure out what, what works for each other and what doesn’t. And I think that that’s why, like, we made such a great team and I came out of it better friends, because like, yeah, we may have like a bicker, but like two hours later and be like, Oh my gosh, like, like, what were we like fighting about like, dancing, but none of us are good dancers anyway.
Sami Jo: So like a good friendship where you can fight hard and love hard, and you just have this ultimate respect for the other person. That was definitely noticeable that you guys were, you had this just respect. And I guess to end off this podcast, I want to know what you think are some of the most important components of a great team. What do you think really makes a great team and, you know, you can maybe look back to some great teams that you’re a part of. But really what, how would that translate to from sport to business? And what can people do to ensure that they have successful teams as well.
Natalie: So like, the one thing I always say like, about being a great teammate is like someone that cares. Because I think all in all, like being a part of a team. You want to know that like you belong, but that your teammates care about you. Because if you know that they care about you, it’s not like they’re going out to do anything, you know, in spite of you, right? Like you’re, you want to go out there and do the best you can for them and you want them to go out there and do the best they can for you. So, I think for me, it’s like obviously honesty, hard work. You want your team to be hard working and I think that that’s watching your teammates work hard, like it gains a lot of respect. And I think like we talked about that Meghan Mikkelson like, I know how intense she is. But she was on and I had so much respect for her, because she got us through that race pretty quick, right? So I think it’s like when you look at your teammates, you want to know that they’re working their butts off just as hard as you are working your butt off. And also that, like, they care about you at the end of the day, and that, you know, whatever is whatever is said on the ice or whatever you have to overcome. Like, once you’re off the ice, you’re, you’re great friends, again.
Sami Jo: I think that is a really great way to end it because ultimately I think that you know when it comes down to team it comes down to respect and the things I remember the most about the teams that I played for, and I don’t know about you but, are the people and the friendships along the way that I made and you know we are all, we’re not necessarily cut from the same cloth but these people that I would have never got a chance to have in my life that I have in my life. I’m thankful for that, I am thankful for you, for being in my life and being such an amazing team mate to me at all times and for taking us to great heights but also having lots of fun along the way.
Natalie: Yes well I am grateful for you as a teammate and I am excited to listen to more of your podcasts and it was amazing you’re doing so great.
Sami Jo: Thank you so much and good luck with everything.
Natalie: Thank you.
Sami Jo: Alright take care.
Music/Man voice: Thank you for listening to Sami Jo’s Podcast. If you have suggestions for guests in the future, would like to book her for your next event, advertise on this podcast or to purchase a her latest book, The Role I Played please go to www.samijosmall.ca