Bringing home more than gold
The winter holiday break means something different for everyone. For some, it means going home and spending time with their family and loved ones.
For others, it means migrating somewhere outside of Canada and taking a much-needed break somewhere warm.
For Laura Brooker, captain of the Wilfrid Laurier women’s hockey team, it meant representing Team Canada at the FISU Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy and capturing a gold medal.
Brooker joined a group of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) all-star women’s hockey players to play in the international tournament for ten days in December.
Even though her primary goal was to compete for a gold medal, Brooker left Italy with so much more; a trip filled with camaraderie, family and history.
It wasn’t just about the hockey.
“We got a couple days to shop. Family time, they would call it,” the Laurier forward explained.
“Basically our motto was to ‘Leave our mark’ and we got to see the colosseum,” she continued.
“The empire of Rome left [their mark] and it’s still standing, so it was what we were going off of, to leave our mark and to continue tradition. It’s really unique.”
On top of visiting the historic colosseum, Brooker also bonded with many of her teammates.
“It’s meeting the girls and realizing when you branch out to other teams how great these girls are.”
But it wasn’t easy.
In the first couple days after meeting, everyone was getting over their shyness, but it wasn’t long until the student-athletes started getting to know each other better.
All it took was a reminder from the coaches that they were a team, and should start acting like one.
Soon after, everyone began talking. That was when the team finally stopped just being a “team” and turned into a “family.”
Brooker still keeps in touch with them after returning home.
She even walked away with a new best friend.
On the feeling she got while representing her country, Brooker replied, “Yeah, words can’t describe that, it was an experience and being able to say ‘I did it’ and we got to keep our jersey.”
Upon coming home, it’s back to routine, putting on their own school’s jerseys and playing for their universities.
Team Canada’s friendships may last off the ice, but their competitive rivalry restarts as soon as the puck drops.
“Until you hit them on the ice,” Brooker joked.
“Then everything is pushed aside.”
Even after she safely returned to Canada, it still feels like a dream. Brooker would remember back to being greeted by breathtaking mountains every time she looked out her window.
Above all, Brooker will always remember the joy she felt when she captured the gold medal with the help of her teammates and coaches.
“Gold medal game. Winning gold was definitely the highlight.”
Brooker scored seven goals and three assists for ten points in seven games, which was tenth best on the team. Her performance helped an already-dominant Canadian squad, who went undefeated en route to another consecutive gold medal at the tournament.
Canada has remained perfect at the tournament since women’s hockey was added in 2009, winning all 21 games.
But when all is said and done, one thing is guaranteed; this will be a winter break that Brooker will never forget.
“It was like my Christmas present, and my birthday. I turned 22 in Italy.”