Ann-Sophie Bettez waited a long time to play for Team Canada again.
Nine years, one month, three days to be exact.
The last time Bettez wore the Maple Leaf was in the gold medal game at the
2010 MLP Cup. That was Jan. 9, 2010, as a member of Canada’s National
Women’s Under-22 Team.
The next time is now. This week, Bettez makes her long-awaited debut with
Canada’s National Women’s Team, a 31-year-old rookie for the three-game
Rivalry Series against the United States.
After years of being passed over, had the dream of playing for Team Canada
“It was kind of over,” says Bettez. “It was something that I put aside, and
I was playing hockey because I really love the sport. I wasn’t training to
be part of Team Canada anymore. I was doing it to be the best that I could
be and to help my team win.”
Bettez never focused on what she couldn’t control. What she could control
was what she did on the ice, and there she simply dominated.
She won three CIS national championships (along with a silver and bronze,
for good measure) at McGill University. She capped off her collegiate
career by winning the Broderick Trophy as CIS Player of the Year and the
BLG Award as CIS Female Athlete of the Year.
The Montreal Stars (now Les Canadiennes) drafted her in 2012. After leading
the league in goals – and finishing second in league scoring – she was
named CWHL Rookie of the Year in 2013. Her sophomore season, she won the
Angela James Bowl as league scoring champion and was named CWHL MVP. She’s
finished top five in scoring every season since entering the league,
averaging better than a point and a half per game. As the Rivalry Series
kicks off, she sits second in CWHL scoring with 44 points in 24 games.
So why was now the right time to bring Bettez back into the national team
“It’s the start of a new [Olympic] quad, and she’s proven herself in the
CWHL the last several years with her consistent play,” says Gina Kingsbury,
director of women’s national teams for Hockey Canada. “Last year, with her
linemates away at the Olympics, she showed how valuable she is to her team,
offensively, defensively, in all aspects.”
In October, Kingsbury and head coach Perry Pearn reached out to Bettez to
let her know they were watching. While she didn’t change anything she did
on the ice – “They approached me because I was doing something right, so I
just want to keep doing what I was doing” – she was suddenly much busier
off of it.
She joined the Montreal-based national team players at skills sessions. She
increased her off-ice training sessions from once a week to three times a
week. Her priorities shifted.
Bettez is a financial planner. She meets clients on their schedules, which
often means working evenings, which can conflict with her practices with
Les Canadiennes. Last year, she partnered with an associate; the support
from their assistants frees up Bettez to focus on her clientele – and, now,
her busier training schedule.
Bettez appeared to be on a typical trajectory after the 2010 MLP Cup. An
invitation to selection camp for the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Championship
came the next year. When the invites stopped coming, her attention shifted
to her career. Now, eight years later, she has the foundation to chase a
dream that appeared over.
“It gives me the confidence that whenever I retire, I know I’m going to
have a job waiting for me,” she says. “I’m happy I was able to create the
work relationships I have. I can now focus on putting all my efforts into
training and making sure that I’m at the best of my capacity so if it does
work out, I’ll have done everything in my power to be my best. And if it
doesn’t [work out], it was at least a great opportunity that I was able to
witness in my career.”
Bettez is the second-oldest player on Canada’s roster for the series, and
the oldest skater (goaltender Shannon Szabados is 14 months older). She’s
also one of three players making their National Women’s Team debut.
“I do feel like a rookie, but in my mind I don’t want to feel that. I’m
looking forward to being part of that elite group of women’s hockey,” says
Bettez, before laughing. “Hopefully, they won’t have me fill up all the
“All kidding aside, even though I’m one of the oldest and a rookie,
hopefully I can bring some experience and some calm and composed momentum.”
“As we mentioned to her, our expectation isn’t that she comes in and
dominates as she does in the CWHL,” says Kingsbury. “It’s getting her feet
wet and bringing what she normally brings.”
Bettez doesn’t feel any added pressure to prove anything. “At this point, I
have everything to gain. What brought me here are the things I was doing,”
she says. “Playing hockey makes me happy. Being part of the elite group and
playing hockey at the highest level is an amazing opportunity, and I just
want to have fun and leave everything on the ice.”
That means looking no further than these three games. What the future holds
beyond that is out of her control.
“I’m going to have no expectations,” says Bettez. “Just give my best, and
if they want me for what’s to come, I’ll be ready.”