Laura Schuler has been good at hockey since she was a 10-year-old girl in Scarborough, Canada. But some of her earliest memories aren’t the best.
When she was just ten years old she was thrown off her hockey team despite being the league’s top scorer. It wasn’t because of anything she did, it was because she was a girl.
It was very upsetting for her and it was just the first obstacle of many that she would face as a female ice hockey player.
“I just wanted to play with my friends,” Schuler said. “I was pretty young so it was definitely devastating.”
Almost 40 years later, Schuler is still using that defining moment to fuel her desire to win when coaching Canada’s Women’s National Team.
After being kicked off her boys’ team, Schuler was determined. She joined a girls’ team where she thrived despite being the youngest.
“I ended up playing with the Toronto Arrows but I had to play with girls that were three and four years older.”
Ten years after the incident, she became part of Canada’s first national team before the 1990 World Championships. She would go on to win three world championships with Canada, but the first title meant a lot to the budding hockey star.
“For me, even making the very first Canadian national team was such a special moment because there wasn’t a Team Canada.” She added, “Every kid always had the dream of playing for their country, but you never as a female thought that was ever going to come to fruition and so, when it did, it was such a magical, special moment.”
Schuler and her teammates’ dedication paid off when women’s ice hockey was added to the Olympics for the 1998 Nagano Games. Schuler and her teammates lost to the United States in the final and would take home the silver medal.
“You want the other color, for sure. It was definitely disappointing (in 1998).”
That is the last time Canada has lost a women’s ice hockey final, having won the last four gold-medal matches.
Schuler added, “Obviously, when you represent Canada, you’re going after one medal, but when you look back at it, the whole grandeur of things, then you realize it was a golden moment for all of women’s hockey.”
It’s easy for Schuler to see how far the sport of ice hockey has come for females. In the 90’s, her teammates needed jobs to support their hockey participation. Now, current players can play in the National Women’s Hockey League and other leagues as full-time professional athletes.
Coach Schuler is making her Olympic-coaching debut 20 years after her first appearance as a player. Her squad opens pool play on February 11th against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.