Poulin, Canada’s Clutch captain, ready for the 4th Winter Games

Marie-Philip Poulin will always remember watching the members of Canada’s women’s hockey team burst into tears as they celebrated their Olympic victory against the United States at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Poulin, 10 at the time, turned to her mother on the couch in their home in Beauceville, Quebec, to ask why everyone was crying.

“And she said, ‘One day you might find out,'” Poulin recalled.

Eight years later, at the Vancouver Games, as the youngest hockey player to represent Canada at the Olympics, Poulin had the opportunity to appreciate her mother’s words.

“I knew what she meant in that moment,” she said. “It was special.”

Very special, perhaps, given that Vancouver was where Poulin began to establish his reputation as Canada’s ‘Captain Clutch’ and eventually drew comparisons to Sidney Crosby by scoring both goals in a decisive 2 win. -0 for the championship.

Four years later in Sochi, she did it again, scoring the last-minute equalizer and then again in extra time as Canada beat the United States 3-2 for another gold medal. . Then came last August, when Poulin scored in overtime – the puck went so fast it wasn’t scored until after a review – to secure a 3-2 victory over the Americans in the World Championship final to end the United States’ five-game tournament winning streak.

At 30 — don’t remind him — Poulin is about to make his fourth Olympic appearance and his second as team captain at the Beijing Games.

She is the undisputed leader of a mostly veteran team made up of 13 players with Olympic experience. And while beating the Americans at the world championships was just the start, Poulin and the Canadians have their work cut out for them after losing to the U.S. in the final of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

It’s no coincidence, after Canada lost back-to-back games to the Americans in their pre-Olympic rivalry series in November, it was Poulin who responded by scoring overtime goals in each of the two games. following.

“We’ve been working for this moment and have been waiting for this game for the last two,” Poulin said after a 2-1 win on Dec. 15. “It was a good time to turn things around.

His teammates were hardly surprised.

“Being able to deal with a high-pressure situation as a group, and especially having our captain in the lead, is huge for us,” striker Emily Clark said after a 3-2 win two days later. “She is the heartbeat of our team.”

In 70 career games against the United States, Poulin is the team’s active leader with 27 goals and 46 points. Overall, she ranks seventh on Canada’s career list with 162 points (78 goals, 84 assists) in 145 international games and eighth with 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 15 Olympic Games.

“She shows up in the biggest moments,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, who played with Poulin in 2010.

“She can go out and play really well, and that’s what you expect of her. But then those moments come and all of a sudden she goes to another level,” Hefford added. did over and over again. And so I think that secured his legacy.

Poulin behaves with quiet modesty, laughing happily when his nickname is mentioned.

“Yeah, it’s happened many times, but I know there are days when it’s not okay,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words. But one thing that I have always found is my environment, my environment, my people, my teammates, my friends, my family.

One of Canada’s most famous hockey players grew up in humble surroundings in a town of about 6,300, closer to the northwest border of Maine than an hour’s drive north to in Quebec. She got into hockey at a young age, following in the footsteps of her older brother, Pier-Alexandre.

Without a women’s hockey program in town, Poulin played on men’s teams until age 15, when she moved to Montreal. It was there that she stayed with family friends, developed her game and began to learn English in order to get a scholarship to an American university.

Poulin then played at Boston University where she helped the Terriers win four straight Hockey East titles and made two Frozen Four appearances, losing both.

“Obviously, those weren’t easy times. There are times when you wonder why? If I had made the right decision when I was struggling in school,” Poulin said of his life in Montreal.” But I had a lot of people who wanted me to succeed, and I think that really helped.”

Poulin recalled times when she attended team parties at a local restaurant and was limited in what she could order because her parents couldn’t afford much. While others drank Coke, she had water. Dessert was a luxury.

“I don’t come from a wealthy family and they had to work two jobs to make sure my brother and I would play what we loved the most. And that’s something we’re very grateful for,” she said. “It’s beautiful what they have done for us. And to be honest, I would take that water and that meal anytime.

It was at the Vancouver Games after Canada’s victory, and with her family around her, that Poulin really appreciated their sacrifices.

“I was able to share this gold medal with them, and we were all in tears, all in tears,” recalls Poulin. “It felt like, finally, we could share together all the hard work that we’ve all done in our own way.”

The tears she once saw on television flowed with emotions of unrestrained joy.

“At that time,” Poulin said, “it was our gold medal.”

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