Mikkelson skates towards Sochi
Winter Olympics in Russia on tap for Team Canada defenceman
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 06:00 am
It’s back to work for Meaghan Mikkelson, as Team Canada gets down to business in defence of their Olympic gold medal.
The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics will mark the seventh season on the national women’s team for the St. Albert defenceman.
Mikkelson, 28, made her Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Games and in the 2-0 win over the United States for the gold medal she recorded two shots on net and was plus-one.
Overall in the tournament, Mikkelson was plus-11 and averaged 17 minutes and 40 seconds of ice time per game to help Canada win its third consecutive Olympic gold.
The first female to play rep hockey in St. Albert in 1997 with the atom AA provincial champion TD Lightning is a former bantam AAA Sabre and a two-time NCAA championship winner with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. As a senior at Wisconsin she was the Western Collegiate Hockey Association defensive player of the year and first team All-American. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association defensive player of the year that year led all NCAA defencemen in scoring and was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, presented to the NCAA’s most valuable women’s hockey player.
Mikkelson – one of the inaugural 24 inductees into the City of St. Albert’s Skating Wall of Fame – spent the past two seasons playing for Team Alberta in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
The member of Canada’s 2012 world championship winning team also donated $5,000 to the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association's Play Like Girls program on behalf of the RBC Foundation's Olympian Grants program last year.
In Monday’s interview with the Gazette, Mikkelson talked about the challenges ahead for Canada in Russia, the preparation process for the Olympics and how her life has changed since the Vancouver Games.
What stage is Team Canada at for the Olympics?
“We’ve all been here in Calgary now for about three weeks. We had a week of fitness testing and we had two weeks of full-on training. It’s been pretty intense. We’ve had 10, 11 hour days at the rink. They’re working us really, really hard and it’s very challenging but we all know that now is the time to put in the work so that it will pay off in the end.
“Everyone is really excited to be here and excited to get the journey started. It’s only Olympic years where as female hockey players we all get to come together and this is our job for the year. We get to be hockey players fulltime, going to the rink every morning for practice and working out in the afternoons.”
Is Team Canada approaching Russia the same way it did for Vancouver or is it different?
“There are some similarities but there are some differences as well, taking the things that seemed to work at the last Olympic cycle and using those strategies again but at the same time knowing that was four years ago and things have modernized and things have changed in terms of training.
“I don’t think location necessarily makes a huge difference. There is definitely the challenge of a time change and not having the home country advantage but that’s part of the Olympics. We were lucky the last time around for it to have been in Vancouver but getting the opportunity to experience an Olympics in a country like Russia will be very cool.”
Team Canada will once again play midget AAA teams leading up to the Olympics. How exciting was it to play against the St. Albert Raiders (4-2 win over the Raiders in front of 2,300 spectators Jan. 10, 2010 at Northstar Hyundai Arena) prior to the Vancouver Games?
“The midget series we play against the boys is huge for us and we’re going to be playing some junior A teams as well this year.
“To come back to St. Albert and play in my hometown the last time around was so exciting. The amount of people that came out to support our team, it just speaks of what a great supportive city St. Albert is and how enthusiastic they are about Canada and hockey in Canada.
“It was a very proud moment for my parents and it was proud for me standing on the blueline with the opening line-up at Servus Place. I will never forget it. I will also never forget the big hit I took on my first shift.
“I’m really, really looking forward to it and I really hope we have the same amazing turnout that we had four years ago.”
Was losing to the United States in the final at worlds (3-2 in Ottawa) this year extra incentive or motivation to beat them again at the Olympics?
“That loss is in the back of our minds. It’s still pretty fresh, but it’s not something we’re focusing on specifically. Ultimately when it comes down to it we will do everything in our power and in our control to make sure we’re training our hardest to be our best team because we’re a different team than they are. Instead of focusing so much on our opponents, the most important thing is that we’re focusing on ourselves and on the process we’re going through.
“In the same breath, Canada and the U.S.A. is one of the best rivalries in sports right now. We lost the last world championship leading into Vancouver as well and I think it just adds a little extra fuel to the fire. When you’re training and you’re doing hill sprints or something, you just think about that for a second and you think about how it felt to lose that game in Ottawa and it gives you that little extra push.”
What’s the game plan for Team Canada at the Olympics?
“Honestly I’m not sure at this point. I’m sure we’ll do things to try to adjust to the time change and what not. We’re going to Russia next Sunday and I’m sure we’ll get a little taste of what it’s going to be like but right now we’re focusing on the process. We have over four months before they even select the team so the main focus should be on going through this process and making sure we’re doing everything that we can.”
What was it like to do the Sport Chex commercials, which included voiceovers by your mom and dad, as part of its Mother’s Day and Father’s Day ad campaigns?
“It was a really great experience. I had never shot a commercial like that before and it was very, very well done. Sport Chex has been amazing and such a huge supporter of me. I’m really thankful to be part of the Sport Chex and the Canadian Tire team.
“Around Mother’s and Father’s Day we’re always thinking about how thankful we are for our parents and what they’ve done for us over the course of our lives and over the course of my career there is no way I would be where I am today without my parents (Bill and Betsy). It was a great way just to recognize my parents for everything that they’ve done for me.”
How has your life changed since the last Olympics?
“I was thinking the other day about going into this Olympic cycle versus the last Olympic cycle. This is my seventh season with the senior national team and back then I was a rookie so it’s changed my life immensely, not necessarily winning the gold medal itself but just the experiences I’ve had with the national team over the years. That’s part of life I guess. You go through your career and on your path to wherever it is you’re going and it changes you. It definitely has changed my life and for the better.
“I’m just so thankful and so grateful that I have the opportunity to be where I am today and that I grew up playing hockey in such an amazing and supportive community. I’m very proud to say that I’m from St. Albert and I just hope that whatever I do this season I can make the city proud.”