It was a good quality team that Canada sent to Japan to play in the first-ever women’s Olympic ice hockey tournament and one that went on to have a huge amount of success in future tournaments.
Shannon Miller was the woman in charge of Canada, the legendary Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs head coach who won five NCAA championships when in charge there. Her head coaching career ended with a win percentage of .707 but she was only in charge of Canada for a relatively short period of time.
Two netminders went to Japan in Manon Rheaume and Lesley Reddon. Rheaume has the distinction of being the first woman to take part in an NHL game. She suited up in a preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning in both 1992 and 1993, turning 36 just after the Olympics were concluded so the addition of hockey came too late in her career. She would end the Olympics with a 1.15 goals against average and a save percentage of .926 while Reddon would only have a .810 save percentage.
Becky Kellar, Fiona Smith, Geraldine Heaney, Hayley Wickenheiser, Judy Diduck, and Therese Brisson were the blueliners on the team, with Brisson being the sole alternate captain in the squad.
This was the first of four Olympic games for Kellar who would win three golds after the silver in Nagano, captaining Canada in 2010 in Vancouver. Wickenheiser would also play on those same three gold medal-winning teams.
It is probably fair to say that Wickenheiser is as good of a player as the world has seen in the women’s game, making an impact in the men’s as well. She did that first when playing in a men’s league in Europe and now as an assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wickenheiser also played softball for Canada in the Summer Olympics in 2000.
Cassie Campbell, Danielle Goyette, France Saint-Louis, Jayna Hefford, Jennifer Botterill, Karen Nystrom, Kathy McCormack, Laura Schuler, Lori Dupuis, Nancy Drolet, Stacy Wilson and Vicky Sunohara were the forwards selected for the tournament with Wilson acting as the captain of the team.
Campbell was made captain for the 2002 games as well as 2006, leading Canada to a pair of gold medals. 218 points in 171 games for Canada were the figures that Goyette ended her career with.
The addition of women’s ice hockey at the Winter Olympics came at the perfect time for Hefford. Aged just 20 at the Nagano games, she would win a gold medal at the next four in a row to go down as one of the most successful to ever don skates, scoring 30 points in 26 games at the Olympics. She is currently the commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Botterill is also part of that four-time Olympian group (along with Kellar, and Wickenheiser) with three golds after the Nagano silver. A Harvard graduate, her college career saw her only fail to score a point once in 113 games for the university.
Although this was the only time that Drolet would go to an Olympic Games, she has her name etched in Team Canada’s history in the World Championships. In both the 1997 and 2000 championships, Drolet would score the winning goal in the gold medal game in overtime, the first player to ever do so.
Two gold medals would come the way of Sunohara in 2002 and 2006 but it is what she has done since as the head coach at the University of Toronto that could see her make history further down the line.
She has opened up the sport for a new generation of female players and proven herself to be one of the top female coaches in the sport. It might be a while yet before an NHL franchise takes a chance on hiring a female head coach but the day that it does happen, it is widely believed that Sunohara will be that woman to break through the glass ceiling.