The opportunity is right there in front of Laura Stacey.
She can feel it, she can taste it. The Kleinburg, Ont., native has a chance
to crack Canada’s National Women’s Team, compete at the 2018 Olympic Winter
Games and, in the process, carry on a family tradition of hockey excellence
that dates back to the 1920s.
“It would mean the world to me,” says Stacey. “It’s hard to put into words.
It gives me shivers thinking about the fact that I have the opportunity in
front of me. Every time I put that jersey on with the Maple Leaf, it’s an
absolute honour. Being able to wear it in PyeongChang would be the
Stacey’s hockey journey has taken her from minor hockey rinks throughout
Ontario, to NCAA Division 1 hockey with Dartmouth College, to the bright
lights of Team Canada and, now, to the prelude to the main event.
But the path Stacey is on goes back generations, as her hockey bloodlines
run deep. Her great-grandfather was King Clancy, who played in the NHL from
1921-37 and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.
As a young girl growing up in hockey, Stacey had this image of her
great-grandfather. He was (and still is) an icon to her. But it has been in
recent years that Stacey has wanted to learn more about him.
She wore No. 7 throughout her college career in honour of Clancy, for whom
the number hangs in the rafters of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. And
after wearing No. 43 for her first nine games with Canada’s National
Women’s Team last season, including her first world championship, she’ll
make the change to No. 7 this year.
“I feel like now, because he’s becoming a role model for me, I want to be
able to continue that legacy that he has created,” says Stacey. “In order
to do so, it was important for me to know more about him as a person. I
don’t just want to know his stats, or about who he was on the ice. It’s
important for me to know who he was as a person. This whole idea of
carrying on his legacy and following in his footsteps has become more
important to me.”
Stacey has heard stories from family members on just the type of person
King Clancy was off the ice. She mentions his generosity and the fact King,
on pay day, would share some of the money he made from the game with rink
staff who he saw each and every day. Stacey laughs at one of her favourite
stories, which is that he was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Leafs
for ... a horse.
“The owner of the Leafs at the time won a bet on a horse race and used that
money to get my great-grandfather to come to the Leafs,” she says. “It just
shocks me because the amount of money that’s being spent in the NHL today
compared to horses back when he was playing. I guess horses were a pretty
big part of his childhood growing up. He used to shoot hockey pucks of
horse manure because there were no pucks in his yard. It’s funny stories
The Clancy legacy didn’t end in hockey with King. His son, Terry, carried
the family name and played 93 NHL games. Terry, though, left his biggest
mark on the international game, competing for Canada at the 1964 Olympics
in Innsbruck, Austria.
That Canadian team, unfortunately, was bumped off the podium in the oddest
of ways, when the tie-breaker formula was changed at the last moment.
Sweden, Canada and Czechoslovakia were in a three-way tie for silver
following a seven-game round-robin. Canada thought it had won bronze based
on its goal differential in games versus Sweden and Czechoslovakia, but the
IIHF ruled that the tiebreaker would be goal differential in all games,
meaning the Czechs won bronze.
Today, Terry is 74 years old and Stacey gets to see her great-uncle at
least once a year at the annual Clancy family reunion. Stacey – who has
battled through a lot of adversity to get to this stage (including breaking
both of her wrists as a senior at Dartmouth) – identifies with Terry.
“He battled through a lot of different injuries and adversity throughout
his career,” she says. “It wasn’t as easy in a sense or maybe as
straight-forward and linear as my great-grandfather’s career was. That’s
also pretty inspiring because (Terry) was a guy that had to deal with a lot
of different things and he pushed through.”
Stacey is doing her part to extend her family’s greatness in the game. She
has racked up 54 games of international experience, including a U18 women’s
worlds gold in 2012, and Meco Cup/Nations Cup titles with Canada’s National
Women’s Development Team in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
The fire to make Team Canada, and get the team back on top of the women’s
hockey world, burns bright in Stacey.
“The past few years have been a little disappointing in coming up short,”
she says. “Right now, it’s just about belief. We know we have the people,
the personnel, the plan and everything to achieve greatness and achieve
that gold medal.”