Like most kids in the Vancouver area, Sarah Potomak grew up idolizing the
Vancouver Canucks. As a hockey player and fan, she knew the names of Henrik
and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo.
But when February 2010 rolled around, Potomak, who was 12 years old at the
time, became passionate about another squad – Canada’s National Women’s
Team. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games took place in her backyard and the
excitement, pride and passion displayed by millions of Canadians over those
two glorious weeks made a lasting impression.
“I definitely remember watching all of the games on TV with my friends,
especially the gold medal game, and celebrating when the men and women
won,” says the University of Minnesota senior, who was at a friend’s house
watching Marie-Philip Poulin score both goals in a 2-0 win over the United
States. “My family went to downtown Vancouver one day and walked around the
city. I remember thinking how cool it was, how many people were supporting
our athletes and how much gear and Canadian flags were there. It brought
our city and country closer together.”
Potomak, who grew up in Aldergrove, B.C., about an hour southeast of
Vancouver, says the Games were the first time she recognized the level at
which girls could play hockey.
On Feb. 5, the best players from Canada and the United States will play a
game in Vancouver for the first time since that golden day in February 2010
as the Rivalry Series continues at Rogers Arena. It will be the second of
two games in British Columbia as part of the five-game series; Canada and
the U.S. face off on Feb. 3 in Victoria.
Potomak and her younger sister Amy are among the generation of players who
took the inspiration from the 2010 Games and now compete at the highest
level as part of the national program. Both sisters were part of the
2017-18 Olympic centralization process and, while they didn’t end up making
the team, they’re on the radar for future Olympics.
“When the Olympics came to Vancouver, I started idolizing the women who won
gold,” says Potomak. “And now to play with some of those players is
special. I became a huge fan of Marie-Philip Poulin, who was 18 at the
time, and scored those two big goals. She has really inspired me as a
player and person.”
Potomak wasn’t the only B.C. native who turned her Team Canada dreams into
reality thanks to 2010. Micah Zandee-Hart is another West Coast product who
used those Olympics – and even those before – to fuel her Olympic fire.
Zandee-Hart, a defenceman in her senior year at Cornell University, grew up
in Saanichton, on Vancouver Island.
At 13 and clad in a Team Canada jersey she received as a gift when she was
five years old, Zandee-Hart cheered from the stands as Canada defeated
Finland 5-0 in the 2010 semifinals, and then watched the gold medal game on
TV at home. She says the 2002 Games kick-started her love of Team Canada
and 2010 gave her an up-close look at the magic that is the Olympics.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to go to the Olympics,” says
Zandee-Hart. “I didn’t necessarily want to go for hockey – not to say I
didn’t want to go for hockey. But it was more that I just wanted to go to
the Olympics because I thought the whole event of all those sports in one
place and all those athletes competing on that stage was the be all, end
all in life. Being a part of that experience would be my greatest dream
Zandee-Hart played in the two Rivalry Series games in December, both won by
the Americans, and won’t be in the line-up for the final three games as
she’ll be with her Cornell teammates. But she continues to add to her
international experience, which includes the 2019 IIHF Women’s World
Championship, two 4 Nations Cups and two IIHF U18 Women’s World
Championships, including the 2014 gold medal-winning team.
Zandee-Hart watched her heroes in 2010. Now, some of those players are her
“For someone my age, I think all of us younger players, we will always be
fans of players like Poulin, Agosta, Mikkelson, those girls that are still
around and were really part of the legacy that Team Canada women built over
the years in hockey,” she says. “When you get the chance to play with
anyone who has been a part of a group that won four (Olympic) gold medals
in a row, it’s pretty surreal.”
The Rivalry Series game in Victoria has sold out, but tickets are still
available in Vancouver. Visit HockeyCanada.ca/Tickets
for more information, and to purchase tickets.