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On the eve of Olympic competition, it is reassuring to see that women's international hockey is no longer a tale of two countries.
Canada-USA is the rivalry that North Americans love, of course, but Finland, Russia and Germany are all serious contenders nowadays, which can only be beneficial for the game.
Canadian forward Natalie Spooner can barely wait for the puck to drop in Beijing.
It may seem like a paradox, but she is convinced that the enforced isolation from COVID has actually injected new strength into the Canadian national team.
Nobody asked for time alone, but when it happened Spooner and teammates had the scope to work on individual skills, and to focus on the many small things, on ice and off, that can make each separate member of the roster travelling to Beijing stronger.
Believers in wholistic team-building might demur, but there is no arguing with Canada's domination in last August's world championships. Isolation or not, when the team comes together, as Spooner tells Player's Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis, it really comes together.
Veterans like herself are more than happy to help the new generation of players find their happy place. Good vibes in the locker room translate to good team cohesion on the ice.
This is a national team that has every reason to believe in itself.
As Spooner says, "if we're a goal down … we know we are a team that can score four times in a period."
Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. Transcripts are available here. To listen to Natalie Spooner, any of the guests from earlier episodes, and Canadian athletes through the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, head to CBC Listen, or wherever you get your podcasts.