Steve and Jane Potomak had travelled from their home in Aldergrove, B.C., to Calgary, Alta., for Hockey Canada’s National Teams’ Summer Showcase. Both of
their daughters were competing for roster spots, older daughter Sarah with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team, and younger daughter Amy with
Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team.
Sarah told her parents the teams would be named on Aug. 15, a Saturday night, then head directly to Lake Placid, N.Y., for a pair of three-game series
against the United States. Steve and Jane decided to book a flight and hotel that night for Sunday, figuring they could always cancel both if neither girl
cracked a roster.
“And then we find out they’re going to pick the teams Sunday morning, so we don’t know,” says Steve. “We had to take a chance. So we got on the plane and
flew out Sunday morning.”
“We thought we would have a few nights in Montreal if they didn’t make it and come back home,” says Jane, picking up the story.
“As soon as we landed we had a text message saying they made it,” finishes Steve. “Thank goodness.”
Lake Placid is just the latest place Steve and Jane have travelled as hockey parents of six. Thanks to Sarah and Amy alone, they’ve been to Budapest and
Buffalo, Quebec City and Chicago, and many more spots in between. “Since we’ve had kids, family holidays don’t exist anymore,” says Steve. “It’s just
What makes this trip extra special is that both of their daughters are playing for their country – “We wanted to experience it with them,” says Jane – in
Amy’s case, for the first time.
“I think she’s quite nervous,” says Steve. “Being in Calgary and being here helps a little bit. You feel a little bit more at home.” (As it turns out, Amy
wasted no time getting comfortable, picking up a goal and an assist in her team’s opening-game win.)
It isn’t any less nerve-racking for the parents, no matter how many times they’ve seen their kids compete on a major stage. Sarah, 17, was at the last two
IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championships (she was named MVP and Top Forward in 2015), played in two under-18 series, two National Women’s Under-18
Championships and the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Amy, 16, played alongside her sister in the latter in Prince George, B.C., their mom’s hometown.
“We want them to do their best,” says Jane, sitting in the stands, at Sarah’s request, shortly after Canada’s National Women’s Development Team finished
practice. “You get a little stressed out that they won’t.”
(The next day Sarah, herself, was anything but anxious, scoring with only 1:07 left in the third – then leaping skyward in celebration – to give her team a
2-1 win in Game 2 of the development series. “I do believe we jumped higher, says Steve. “She’s not that tall.”)
This is hardly the first time Steve and Jane have got to see Sarah and Amy share the same ice; what’s different here is that they’re not sharing a bench.
In recent years the sisters played together not only at the Canada Winter Games but also at the Pursuit of Excellence in Kelowna, B.C. In the fall, Sarah
will start her freshman season at the University of Minnesota, where Amy will join her in 2016-17. Just one more pin for Steve and Jane to figuratively
stick on their hockey travel map.
Off the ice Amy and Sarah are anything but competitive, both their parents say. On the ice, even on the same team, is another story, though.
“It’s funny because if one’s open and the other doesn’t give the pass right away, when they come to the bench you can see them both with the arms waving,
the hands are waving, and they both sit down and then a minute later they’re yelling again,” says Steve, laughing. “It’s exciting to see them playing
“At the same time it’s nice,” continues Jane, “because the other day Amy was watching Sarah and said ‘well, she should’ve been a little bit higher.’ They
know the game, both of them, so they help each other.”
With older siblings already playing hockey, Sarah and Amy took to the sport naturally, despite their mother’s initial ideas.
“I had four boys so I was thrilled to actually have a girl,” says Jane. “When Sarah was about three I got her this big play house and I think Steve bought
her a helmet. She never touched that doll set. She got this little stick and puck.”
It became a New Year’s tradition for the Potomaks to take their gear to the outdoor rink in nearby Manning Park and take on other families. “Families that
came along would see that we had two girls and it was always a surprise to them how good they were,” says Steve.
It’s something a lot more people are quickly discovering, as both Sarah and Amy make their names on the international stage.
It wasn’t so much foresight as it was not wanting in hindsight to wish they had acted sooner.