Canadian women's hockey team forward Blayre Turnbull turns the page on disappointment

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CALGARY — Blayre Turnbull had to make peace with not playing a women's world hockey championship in her home province of Nova Scotia.

The forward from Stellarton was going to represent Canada at the world championship in Halifax and Truro in 2020.

The championship cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those communities were awarded the tournament again in 2021.

Originally scheduled for April 7-17, the championship was postponed to May 6-16 to allow more time for the pandemic situation to improve.

Turnbull and Halifax teammate Jill Saulnier were in that city wrapping up a Canadian selection camp April 21 when the premier pulled the plug on the championship.

"As soon as we found out about the cancellations in May, it was kind of a turning point for me," Turnbull said Friday in Calgary.

"At that point, I just wanted to play hockey and I didn't really care about where it was going to be played anymore."

Hockey Canada relocated and rescheduled the tournament to Calgary in August in order to have a women's world hockey championship this year.

"It was still quite disappointing as I haven't gotten the chance to play in my home province with the national team," Turnbull said.

"It would have been really special, but nonetheless we're here in Calgary and it still feels pretty amazing."

Turnbull is one of the assistant captains on the Canadian team facing Germany in Saturday's quarterfinal. The semifinals are Monday followed by the medal games Tuesday.

Hockey Canada didn't provide an update Friday on Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who took a hard shot in the upper chest in Tuesday's 5-0 win over Switzerland.

She didn't play Thursday in Canada's 5-1 victory over the United States. Canada topped Pool A with a 4-0 record.

Canada blanked Germany 5-0 in a quarterfinal in 2019, when the world championship field was expanded from eight countries to 10.

Russia faces Switzerland in Saturday's first quarterfinal, followed by the United States versus Japan, Canada's game against Germany and Finland meeting the Czech Republic to cap the round.

The quarterfinal losers compete in placement games Sunday to determine pool seeding for the next world championship.

Canada outshot its opposition 196-53 and outscored it 20-5 over four games in the preliminary round.

The Canadians have yet to score a power-play goal in the tournament, and have given up two the 16 times they were short-handed.

Turnbull's emotional ties to Nova Scotia made her want to do something to help after a gunman murdered 22 people there April 18-19, 2020, in one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.

Seeing other fundraisers start up and knowing what it felt like to lose a parent at a young age — her mother Margie died of cancer when she was a teenager — Turnbull started one of her own.

Turnbull raised over $20,000 in just one week with her "Hope For Home Helmet Sticker" campaign, and distributed funds among children who lost parents or a parent in the tragedy.

Designed by Karley Gittens, who is Canadian teammate Victoria Bach's aunt, the stickers were produced in New Glasgow, N.S.

The money went to cover registration or equipment fees for sport, music and other activities.

Turnbull wanted to meet recipients in person, but distributed the money via mail because of Nova Scotia's travel restrictions.

Turnbull says "25 or 26" children received funds.

"More than I expected," the 28-year-old said Friday. "I wasn't able to see people face to face, but I was still able to have a bit of an impact on them. They certainly had one on me too."

Turnbull is a member of the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA), which is working toward a sustainable women's pro league.

The PWHPA's announcement this week that a two-day showcase is scheduled Nov. 12-13 for Truro pleases her, even though she won't be able to participate.

Turnbull is among 29 players centralized in Calgary this winter to try out for the 2022 Olympic team and prepare for February's Winter Games in Beijing.

"I hope the PWHPA players put on a show and show everybody in Nova Scotia what it's all about, and we can gain some more momentum out east, and continue to push for a league," Turnbull said.

"I'll do my best to try to get as many people out as I know from home in those seats at that rink. Sad to be missing the games myself, but obviously really happy with the circumstances that I'm in too."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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