While many people are cheering on the Canadian women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics this week, young Westman female players will get a chance to rub shoulders with a pair of former gold medallists.
Cherie Piper, who was on the Canadian women’s hockey team that won gold in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics, and Sami Jo Small, who was on the 2002 and 2006 squads as well as the 1998 team that won silver, will be in the Wheat City on Monday for the third-annual HockeyFest, put on by Scotiabank.
Piper, who has retired from hockey and works as a teacher in Markham, Ont., loves touring Canada to be involved in clinics. Not only does it give her a chance to see more of the country, but it’s an opportunity to instill the love she has for hockey into the next generation.
"It’s a great opportunity for the girls and great opportunity for Sami and I to share our experiences with them," she said. "For me the focus is just continuing to have fun while they’re playing a game that I’ve loved so much and I’ve gotten so much out of. We’re only on the ice with the girls for a certain amount of time, so the focus is a little skill development, but more to appreciate the game and love the game."
Giving back to the game is important for Piper. When she was growing up, she didn’t have female hockey role models to inspire her. Instead, she looked up to her two older brothers, Michael and Stephen. She tried every sport they were involved in and she followed them around to the rink to play hockey.
Although Piper figures she drove her brothers crazy, she credits them with her success.
Now that she’s retired, Piper is involved in Markham’s minor hockey program and looks forward to serve as a role model for younger players.
In addition to helping them with skills on the ice at Monday’s event, which will be held at Westman Place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Piper, who was a forward, and Small, a former goalie, will talk about their personal experiences during the off-ice sessions. Piper will bring her gold medals with her as well.
Piper feels the time will fly by on Monday, but she hopes she can encourage the next generation of players to stay with the game regardless of what the kids decide to do with their lives.
"Our stories are just to motivate them to pursue more with hockey, whether it’s to become an Olympian or get an education or just be healthy and active," she said.