TORONTO, Ontario — Hockey Canada and Markham Thunder forward Laura Stacey had quite the whirlwind season.
The 24-year-old won silver in her first Olympics games — picking up an assist in Canada’s 5-0 win over Russia in the medal round — then returned to the CWHL and scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the Thunder win the Clarkson Cup.
“It was unbelievable,” Stacey said, describing her Olympic experience. “It’s something that’s almost impossible to put into words. It gives me shivers thinking about it still. Sometimes I think about it and wonder, ‘Did I really just go to the Olympics?’ It’s pretty shocking and it’s still really fresh. It was an absolutely amazing opportunity, and I miss it already.”
It was a unique experience in many ways, including being so far from home and not having the usual type of Canadian fans. “I think we’re in pretty big of a bubble when we’re over there.” Stacey explained. “I still had my phone, I was still getting messages. I tried to limit my social media for sure, because it was quite a big distraction. I think to some extent we know how much Canada is behind us, and we know how much they’re cheering for us. But in the other aspect, we are in our own little bubble.”
“We’re focused on ourselves, on the task at hand. I think it’s nice to be surrounded by your teammates, some of your best friends, and only be focused on the present. It’s a pretty special experience, so you want to be in the present as much as possible.”
The 3-2 shoootout loss to Team USA was heartbreaking for the Canadian players, a loss that was felt across Canada and all the way to Pyeongchang. Having to come back home off such a loss, Stacey had no time to reflect on her experience. She had to get back to the rink, and prepare for the CWHL playoffs.
Being centralized with Canada Hockey meant that Stacey and her teammates were away from the CWHL for much, if not all of the 2017-18 season. Scoring the winning goal in the Clarkson Cup was a big moment for Stacey, coming off the experience of playing in her first Olympics.
“It was unbelievable.” Stacey beamed. “It’s hard to kind of put that feeling into words. Just to kind of see all the reactions from all my teammates, and to see the smiles on all of our faces after the championship was really something special.”
Family is a big part of Stacey’s life. Her great-grandfather is Hall of Famer King Clancy, who played 16 seasons in the NHL. The King Clancy Memorial Trophy is named in his honour. Stacey’s great-uncle, Terry Clancy, also played in the NHL. Perhaps Stacey was destined to become a professional hockey player.
“I don’t know about that,” Stacey wondered. “Hockey is pretty big in my family, it always has been. Since I grew up, it’s been a part of me. Their legacies have been a part of my hockey career. I’ve always heard stories, seen their jerseys, or seen videos, and pictures of the legacy that they’ve created, and their love of the game.”
“It definitely helped me in the start of my love for hockey. Hearing about their experiences kind of made me want it even more. I don’t necessarily know if I was destined for it, but I do think hockey is a pretty big part of my family.”
Having an opportunity to live in greater Toronto and also play professionally in her own backyard is a special feeling. Not many athletes can say they have won a league championship while playing so close to home. The CWHL has grown so much since Stacey first started playing hockey, and she knows how lucky she is to play at home.
”The CWHL has started something pretty special here,” Stacey explained. “We can only hope that this league continues to grow, and continues to be even better, and even closer to other professional sports, like the NHL in the future. When I was a kid, I never really got to see any professional women’s sports being played. Boys, and girls have the opportunity to see women’s hockey on a pretty professional and big scale.
“I can only hope that it grows even more, and young kids get to experience even more success than we have. It’s amazing to be a part of the growth of women’s hockey.”
Stacey has a bright future for both club and country. She’s excelled with the Markham Thunder, and she should be a household name for Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. She’s got the skill, determination, and work ethic to make things happen.