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Celebrating Canada's Diversity

Q&A with Sarah Nurse, Canadian Professional Ice Hockey Player

Sarah Nurse

Sarah Nurse

Canadian Professional Ice Hockey Player


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Who and what inspired you to pursue a career in hockey?

I was a young child. My dad introduced me to skating; hockey was something that he was never able to play himself. I had just returned from the Caribbean, and his family didn’t know much about hockey, so he funnelled that passion through me, and it’s something that we have always been able to share with my brothers as well. So hockey has been in my life since I was five years old. 

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Growing up, who were your role models in hockey?

I only had a few. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see women playing hockey. I saw team Canada play at the Olympics once every four years, but other than that, I didn’t see other women playing hockey. I definitely had some favourites. Like, I loved watching Jarome Iginla growing up. Obviously, my family was able to connect with him and his story. Just being an incredible black hockey player, he was somebody that we were able to look up to. But other than that, I didn’t have traditional role models in the sport. 

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As a Black Canadian, what challenges did you face when making your way to the Olympic team? 

Growing up, you know, as a biracial Black girl playing hockey, I didn’t necessarily feel like I was the most welcome in the space or that the hockey world was necessary for me. And so I think that was a challenge that my family and I had to overcome — just finding our way, our lane, and where we belonged in the sport. So, I was lucky growing up to have some awesome teammates who accepted me for who I was. And as I got older, my family just supported me and encouraged me to be me and be unapologetically myself. And so a huge thank you to my support system, who were always able to do that. But, growing up, I noticed that as young kids who, you know, were a visible minority or were girls or who had different abilities, with playing the game. I guess it wasn’t good enough to just love hockey. You really had to be good at it, or else you were questioned as to why you were playing hockey and not something else. Not something that was, traditionally, you know, a girl sport or traditional, or something that Black people played. And so for me growing up, it was towing with that line of, you know, you have to be good at your sport; you have to be good at hockey to be able to play it. 

Sarah Nurse_Ice hockey
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Are there any ways that being a visible minority motivated you in your career to help you succeed? 

I guess now it’s kind of been like a full-circle moment. I’ve been able to meet so many young Black girls who, you know, want to play hockey and play hockey, and they’re able to relate to me and, you know, they see my curly hair coming out of my helmet, and they’re like, oh, I can be like her too. And so, I think for me, just having that full-circle moment, knowing that I can represent the next generation of girls who may be deciding if they want to play hockey, struggling with the decision to play hockey, or feeling unwelcome in the hockey world. I love that I can be somebody they can look to and say, if she did it, maybe I can do it too. I want young girls to be able to look and not put those self-limiting beliefs on themselves. I want them to believe that they can be whoever they want to be. 

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How has the culture of hockey developed over time? 

It has definitely changed over my career. When I started, it was 100 per cent a male-dominated sport, like a white, male-dominated sport. So, growing up, I was changing in the closets and the bathrooms. When I played with the boys, there were only a few girls’ organizations around. So now, just with a huge surge in women’s hockey and it becoming such a popular side of the sport has been awesome. I love seeing that. Canada is a multicultural society, so hockey is our national sport, and the hockey world needs to reflect that. Growing up, my family was the only Black family around. So I always knew where my dad was in an arena because he was the only Black man. And now I see that changing with different families from different places all over the world, playing hockey, getting introduced to youth who have immigrated to the country and want to be a part of what we do here and play hockey. So I see a shift in hockey culture. I want to see more so that everybody feels welcome into our sport and enjoys hockey.

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How important is it for you to be the first woman on the cover of EA Sports NHL 23? 

It’s a huge honour and something I’m very grateful for. The response has been honestly remarkable. And I think that it’s times like these that are really going to help push women forward in the game. So it’s something that I, again, am so honoured that I was able to be a part of, but seeing the reaction from the young girls and thinking that I can be a professional hockey player. I can be on the cover of, you know, one of the biggest video games in the world has been incredible. But also to see the reaction from the young boys who have been able to recognize me and understand that I play hockey professionally. I play on Team Canada, and I’ve gone to the Olympics and the World Championships. I’ve just seen this shift and this kind of respect for women in the game and seeing the value of women increase because I’ve always valued myself as a hockey player. Still, it’s, it’s amazing to see other people also value women in the sport as well. 

So I think it’s going to help shift how people view women playing hockey, and I hope that it shifts it for years and years to come. 

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Is there anything you would like to tell Canadians in regard to embracing their cultures? 

With Canada being such a multicultural society, so many incredible traditions and cultures from all over the world are really encompassed in Canada. And everybody’s culture and everybody’s tradition should, you know, be respected, and upheld there. So many different things, from rituals and services to the food, can bring us all together. And I think if we take the time to get to know one another and understand where each other’s coming from, we will have a special place to live. And it will create an amazing environment and culture in our country. And I hope that extends into the hockey world. I hope that all young kids from different places or cultures and backgrounds are embraced and accepted for playing hockey. 

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