When Annie King made her Team Canada debut at the 2020 IIHF under-18 Women’s World Championship in December, she knew the nation was behind her.
The loudest cheers were coming from the North.
Though she was born in Regina, King spent much of her childhood in Yellowknife after moving there with her family at age seven. Naturally, the long, cold winters — and short days throughout — lend themselves to plenty of hockey nights in the Northwest Territories’ capital city.
“The lights are on in the rink all night, so that’s all that matters,” King told Sportsnet.
King’s dream of donning her nation’s colours began in Yellowknife, a hockey-loving community and host of this year’s Hockey Day in Canada on Feb. 8.
“There’s the community, which is so tight-knit, but then there’s also the hockey community, which is even tighter,” King said. “I just know that the group of parents and the group of kids that we all kind of grew up playing with, just always wanted to work for other people, always willing to put in that extra step to make sure things happened for us as kids.”
But like many hockey hopefuls hailing from small towns, King’s dream soon required a move in search of more ice time and tougher competition. So, as she approached Grade 9, she headed south — though, not too far south — to Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask., a boarding school widely recognized as a leader in hockey development.
Being in a larger pool of competition and playing on a bigger stage ultimately led to King getting noticed by Hockey Canada scouts. She landed a spot on the long list as one of about 60 players to watch last summer, and from there spent the next several months impressing scouts with her strong skating and smart playmaking throughout a series of camps and tournaments.
At five-foot-three, King knows size will never exactly be on her side when it comes to playing a physical game — her game is all about speed.
“I definitely rely on the speed of my feet and I work to put myself in good position so I’m able to compete with the bigger girls,” she said. “I try to move the puck quick and up the ice to the best of my abilities.”
As Hockey Canada’s long list was whittled down, King’s name remained, and in November hers was one of 23 selected to represent Team Canada at the U18 world tournament in Bratislava, Slovakia, in December.
“Honestly, I didn’t even have the words to describe it,” King said of the moment she found out she’d made the team. “For a dream to actually become a reality.”
With King chipping in on the blue line, Canada put together an impressive win streak that extended all the way to the gold medal game, which they lost in overtime to a talented U.S. squad.
“I’d say the biggest change was definitely the speed,” she said, when asked about biggest differences between club play back home and international competition. “And obviously there’s depth within the lineups. All the lines, all players, are just as skilled as the ones you see before.”
Throughout it all, she felt the support from home.
“The support from the North was insane. I don’t even have the words to describe it,” said King.
Now in her final year at Notre Dame, King has committed to playing Div. I hockey at Dartmouth beginning in the fall. She said the small-town feel of Hanover, New Hampshire, “definitely played a big role” in her ultimately making the decision to make Big Green her next hockey home.
As for her original hockey home, King plans to continue traveling back North whenever she can — a trip that usually involves a hockey tournament or helping out at the same Shoot to Score camp she attended as a kid.
“I like to go back to just kind of give back because I remember when I was younger and had older girls do that for me. I really appreciated it,” she said.
And of course, she hopes more camps are in her future.
“Obviously I hope to continue getting asked back to Team Canada camps,” she added. “That’s definitely something I want to keep pursuing.”