Saskatchewan hockey player Emily Clark to make Olympic debut

Saskatchewan forward Emily Clark will be part of Team Canada when the puck drops in South Korea this month. Dave Holland / Hockey Canada Images

Saskatchewan’s Emily Clark is set to embark on a quest for Olympic gold.

The forward will make her Olympic debut on the Canadian women’s hockey team in Pyeongchang, South Korea, during the Winter Games, which run from Feb. 9 to 25.

According to Clark, hockey was her life’s first calling.

“All my older brothers play and my dad being so involved coaching and now working at Canlan Ice Sports, it was natural for me to play,” Clark said over the phone from South Korea on Friday.

“A couple days after I was born, I was in the rink with my mom watching my brother, so it’s all I’ve ever known,” she said. “I definitely fell in love with the game at a young age.”

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Clark learned how to play hockey while growing up in Saskatoon and played three seasons with the Saskatoon Stars of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League.

Her passion for the game and work ethic took her to the University of Wisconsin. In three years as a Badger, Clark has amassed 118 points in 113 games and led the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in game-winning goals last year.

She deferred to play the 2017-18 season with the Badgers to prepare with the Hockey Canada national team and will go back and finish her senior year next fall while studying economics.

“I’m not sure a lot of people know the full process of making it to this point,” Clark said. “(From the) end of May to mid-June we had what’s called a bootcamp (from) 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for just anything they could throw at us for three and a half weeks, so that was definitely tough and mentally challenging.”

“It’s been a long year, an emotional year and a tough journey, but honestly all worth it in the end.”

“Once the team was announced on Dec. 22, 2016, a weight was lifted off your shoulders to know you’re on the final roster,” she added. “It was a pretty demanding and stressful year trying to make the top 23 to go (to the Games).”

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While the Olympics will be a new experience for Clark, donning the Maple Leaf is something she’s already accustomed to.

She’s appeared in three IIHF women’s world championships to date. At the 2017 championship, Clark scored twice and played on Canada’s top line during the final two games of the tournament.

“Obviously it’s always an honour and special every time you get to live out that childhood dream every time you wear (the Maple Leaf), but (the Olympics) is a much larger stage than a world championship or Four Nations Cup,” Clark said.

“To be a part of the Olympics is one of the greatest privileges any athlete can have and it will be different in the sense it’s the multi-sport event … so I think it will be cool to be part of something much bigger.”

Clark is the only player representing Saskatchewan on this year’s team in South Korea.

“It’s amazing. I take a lot of pride being from Saskatoon and Saskatchewan and it’s a pretty special feeling knowing that you’re the only one,” Clark said.

“Definitely growing up playing in Saskatchewan, I learned a lot of traits that have gotten me here. Between my grit and my work ethic and looking at the history of hockey players in (the province), it’s pretty special to know that I’m on the path to potentially being one of them.”

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Clark also credits the strong support she’s received from her family and community.

“My family has been absolutely amazing through my whole journey and … being the only one from Saskatchewan, I’ve received so much support from the community and people that I’ve never even met, but they’re just so proud of me from being from there and representing them well,” Clark said.

The centre is also the youngest player on Team Canada’s roster at 22 years old.

“I think being the youngest player, I bring a lot of energy,” Clark said. “I’m definitely looking forward to using my speed.”

With the opening ceremonies approaching, she believes her accomplishment of making it to the Olympics will finally sink in.

” I don’t think it’ll fully hit me until we’re walking in the opening ceremonies,” Clark said.

“I know that I’ve done everything that I needed to do and could have done to prepare, so come puck-drop, I’ll be ready.”

The upcoming Winter Olympics will mark the sixth time women’s hockey has been part of the Games. Canada will be aiming for its fifth-straight gold medal.

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Women’s hockey opens on Feb. 10 and culminates on Feb. 22. Canada is scheduled to compete in Group A and begins preliminary-round play on Feb. 11.

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