By Ryan Dixon and
Marie-Philip Poulin doesn’t like talking about herself. But as her undefeated team enters the playoff rounds in Beijing, we bugged the Canadian captain — and past and present teammates, coaches and rivals — to shed some light on the most clutch player in hockey
By Ryan Dixon and

M arie-Philip Poulin has been skillfully stickhandling around questions about herself for the past 10 minutes or so, filling time with statements like “to be honest” and “it’s hard to describe,” and making admirably frequent use of the word “special.” When the Canadian captain does expand on a big moment she authored, speaking over the phone from Calgary, before she heads over to Beijing, it’s really only so she can credit her teammates.

Did Poulin score a game-winning goal, or two or three, in the biggest moments her sport offers? Sure, but how about that pass from Brianne Jenner? And what about the shot Laura Fortino faked before dishing the pass to set up the goal Poulin scored in overtime, the last time Canada won Olympic gold?

Poulin’s ability to shine a spotlight on her teammates is almost as world-class as her on-ice talent. The 30-year-old from Beauceville, Que. flat out doesn’t like talking about herself. “No,” Poulin says, sans hesitation. “I do not.”

As her undefeated Canadian team enters the playoff rounds in Beijing, looking to avenge a shootout loss from four years ago against the rival Americans, we forced the issue as much as Poulin would kindly tolerate. But mostly, we sought out teammates and coaches and rivals, past and present, to shed some light on the most clutch player in hockey.


Poulin grew up about 45 minutes south of Quebec City, and she was 15 or 16 when it became clear to many that she’d soon be at the highest level in her sport.  

JAYNA HEFFORD, former Team Canada teammate: The first time I saw her on the ice, she got called up to play for Montreal [in the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League]. I think she was like 15. She came up and played in this game and was one of the best players on the ice [laughs]. That’s when you knew she was going to be great.

LAURA FORTINO, former Team Canada teammate: We both played for the first-ever women’s U-18 national team [in 2008], and going into that first training camp, who didn’t know about Pou even back then, right? She was this young generational player who was projected to be this amazing superstar.

BRIANNE JENNER, Team Canada linemate: That U-18 team was the first time I played with her, but I remember playing against her when she played for Team Quebec and I was on Team Ontario. We were really aware of her and where she was on the ice. You had to be.

FORTINO: When I met her off the ice at the U-18 camp, I was like, “Wow, okay — this is her? She’s so kind and awesome.” And we got on the ice and I go, “Okay, now I see what makes you so amazing.” [Laughs.] Her talent was above and beyond. You knew this girl was going to accomplish great things.

Poulin won a pair of silver medals with the U-18 national team program, then debuted with Canada’s senior team at the 2009 World Championships, again winning silver.

GINA KINGSBURY, former Team Canada teammate and Team Canada national director: She got right into our senior national team, and she was outstanding from Day 1. It was very clear that she was very gifted, even at 18. Few athletes have that maturity and ability to impact at the senior level at that age, but she had it from that moment on.

HEFFORD: She was shy — very shy, especially when she first came in.

“You get the puck in Pou’s hands and you know she’s going to know what to do with it.”

Poulin was still in high school when she was named to the Olympic team for the 2010 Winter Games.

POULIN: I remember getting told I was making [the Olympic team]. To be honest, it was very stressful and it was very exciting. When we were getting to the rink [ahead of the 2022 Olympics] and seeing the young ones see the jersey for the first time and having their name on it, it brought me back to my first time and having so much emotion through it all.

Canada entered the 2010 Olympics as the underdogs against the defending-world champion Americans, and the teams (of course) met for the gold medal. In the biggest game of her life, Poulin registered two shots in the first period — and two goals. Her first held up as the winner, and Canada won its third straight Olympic gold.

POULIN: I was on the fourth line, I was not expecting to play a lot.

MEL DAVIDSON, Team Canada coach in 2010, GM in 2014: One of the things I think people lose sight of is, she scored those two goals in Vancouver playing on the fourth line. One of them was a four-on-four situation where we put out [Poulin and fellow youngster Meghan Agosta] and both of them were like, “Really? Four-on-four?” Because [as young players] they’re not very good in our own end, right? But the faceoff was in the American end.

And then the other goal with [Jennifer Botterill and Gina Kingsbury] and her [on the ice], they were our fourth line.

POULIN: I was given the opportunity to have a couple shifts and lucky enough it went in.

DAVIDSON: In 2010 there was no expectation on her to do that, right? Sometimes that bodes well for you as a young player.

POULIN: Those were pretty special. Having my family there, being on home soil was really special. The red and white in the stands, it was unbelievable. We could barely hear ourselves on the bench, and just having the whole country behind us was very special.

The seconds after Poulin’s 2014 Olympic overtime winner (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Poulin had not committed to any college before the Olympics. Just after the Games ended, Boston University was among the NCAA schools trying to recruit her.

KATIE LACHAPELLE, former BU assistant coach: I remember calling her one day thinking maybe she was already back from the Olympics and she was [about to get on the plane]. I think they were maybe going to Calgary, and she answered the phone, just the nicest kid in the world: “Yeah, hey, sorry can I call you back? I’m just about to —” basically, go get honoured by the entire country for winning a gold medal. Just nonchalant.

BU’s recruitment efforts continued, though the coaching staff was pretty sure Poulin wasn’t going to commit to the school.  

LACHAPELLE: She had actually said she wasn’t interested. I won’t want to mess the story up because I know there were a few things to it, but at some point it just felt like she wasn’t interested. And then [somehow the conversation re-opened], but we thought it was a closed door. Then her and [national team teammate] Catherine Ward came on a visit; a nice, sunny April day and about a week later she said yes. The program at BU at that time was only in the fourth year and it was just an absolute game-changer.

When Poulin arrived at the school as a freshman, few knew that months earlier she had scored two massive goals on home soil to help her country win Olympic gold.

LACHAPELLE: I remember her professors, they just thought it was some kid with a heavy French-Canadian accent in their class for, like, almost the entire term. Then they found out she played hockey and then they found out she literally won a gold medal for her team and people were blown away because they just didn’t even know.

The Terriers were national runners up in 2011 and 2013. Poulin won her first-ever world championship gold medal in 2012, then added a silver medal in 2013. She took a season off from college ahead of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi to centralize with Team Canada. She wasn’t 100 -per cent healthy by the time the Games began.

KEVIN DINEEN, Team Canada coach, 2014 Olympics: When we were working our way towards Sochi, she had some real challenges, specifically an ankle injury. Those ankles, they don’t heal. You tape it, you do different things and then all of a sudden you tweak it. There would be times she would tweak it during a game and there would be five, 10 minutes where she literally wouldn’t be able to stand on it. Then the pain would go away and she’d be right back in there. There’s a large, large dose of grit that goes along with her makeup.

I was concerned about the health factor. If I remember correctly, she had tweaked her ankle a little bit early in that [gold-medal] game and had to sit out a shift or two and then, bang, was right back out there.

Canada didn’t get off to a hot start in that Olympic final. With fewer than five minutes to go, the team was down 2–0 against the Americans. The game looked all but over, until Jenner struck to halve the deficit.

POULIN: We’re down 2–0 to the States, and they’re so good — that team was so good. It was hard, but we never gave up. That first goal from Brianne Jenner kind of kept us hoping at 3 minutes, 26 seconds.

Not long after that, goalie Shannon Szabados was pulled from her net to give Canada the extra attacker. With about a minute to go in regulation, Canada had a faceoff in the American end. Dineen called a timeout.

DINEEN: The play was basically, you have a structure for [the other] five, but for Pou it was to find the open space and be in the right area — a little bit of a roamer. Sure enough, she was exactly where you want to be. When you have 30 seconds [at the bench] to [draw up] what you’re trying to put together, I think you have structure. But at the end of it was, “Try to get the puck to Pou.” That’s a pretty good game plan.

It worked. Poulin scored with 26 seconds to go, forcing overtime.

POULIN: Obviously being able to tie the game with about a minute left was very special.


In overtime, American forward Hilary Knight got a penalty on Hayley Wickenheiser to put Canada on the power-play. It was over soon after, as Team Canada and Poulin authored one of the greatest comebacks in hockey history.

DINEEN: It was the same idea; there was a lot of different plays, but you get the puck in Pou’s hands and you know she’s going to know what to do with it.

First, the puck went to Team Canada defender Laura Fortino.

FORTINO: A lot of people were yelling at me to shoot [laughs] — a lot of people. And I made that fake shot and I said, “Why not pass it to Pou? The natural goal-scorer, the clutch player, maybe this puck is better on her stick.”

POULIN: It was a great play again by [Rebecca] Johnston and Fortino, and lucky enough I was there.

FORTINO: If she’s open, the puck is going to her stick. I saw her wide open out of the corner of my eye and I made her that pass and of course she did what she does best and she scored and we won the gold medal. To this day I still get shivers talking about it.

POULIN: [Laughs] Sochi, I mean obviously it’s a fairy tale. Even when you just asked me, I giggle every time. It was so special. It was pretty fun. It was a great moment. Every time I look back, I see the bench jumping so high and so much pride and so much fun. It was unbelievable.

As was the case at the Olympics four years earlier, Poulin wasn’t on the top line in Sochi, but she was the player counted on in big moments.  

DAVIDSON: She was technically probably [a third-liner] at that time. That’s what makes some of it really remarkable, is how she scored those goals with probably less ice time than a top-six player would have.

Just as she had in Vancouver, Poulin celebrated the victory with a cigar.

DINEEN: She took a little heat for smoking a cigar in Vancouver, but I will say we also shared a smoke after the game in Sochi and that was a pretty cool moment, not only for me, but I had my whole family there. Everyone’s family and loved ones were also part of that celebration. Putting some young, young teenagers to bed at about five in the morning was just so much fun for my kids and for the players as well.

Poulin and her victory cigar pose alongside teammate Tessa Bonhomme after winning gold in 2010 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Poulin was 22 years old, and she had established herself as the most clutch player in the women’s game, and one of the most clutch players in hockey, period.

CAMMI GRANATO, Team USA legend, Hall of Famer: I don’t know one other women’s hockey player that is in that many big situations and is that clutch. She’s the one. Look up “clutch” in the dictionary and it’s her, there’s her picture. And there’s no disputing that.

HILARY KNIGHT, Team USA forward, PWHPA teammate: She’s one of those players that I think is etched into many memories associated with winning — above the border [laughs].

LACHAPELLE: You can put two kids in the same situation and one is going to be in absolute panic. And with her, it’s like she’s playing [the way] I play hockey with my four-year-old nephew. That’s how she plays hockey with people her own age. It just slows down for her.

POULIN: As a group I think we train day-in and day-out to be the best, to play against the best, and we want to succeed in those moments. At the end of the day, you sweat, you sacrifice a lot of time for those moments, and for myself, yeah, I’m coming to the rink day-in and day-out to just give my best and if I have a chance to make the difference, it’s gonna happen [laughs] — if I’m lucky enough that I’m at the right place at the right moment. But there’s a team there that’s going shift after shift with different opportunities and lucky enough, sometimes it’s me.

JENNER: What can you say about Pou’s goals? She’s Captain Clutch. There’s a reason she has that nickname and she’s always there offensively to give the team the boost that it needs.

But no teammate would ever call Poulin “Captain Clutch” while she’s within earshot.

JENNER: She would probably be really mad at us if we called her that to her face, but maybe behind her back we’ll call her that [laughs].

POULIN: They call me Pou or Mary. I think my first couple years with the U-18 and national team, people were saying my name was a little long and people said, “What the hell is this name?” [Laughs.] And I think they just shortened it, and Pou was easier.

Mary started with [former teammate] Tessa Bonhomme, she started calling me Mary. People kind of picked it up.

JENNER: Sometimes it’s Mary, but I think she prefers Pou [laughs].

BLAYRE TURNBULL, Team Canada teammate: I’ve never heard her complain about it.

“She does all the little things right and that’s why she gets those opportunities — she doesn’t cheat the game at all.”

Poulin’s most recent game-winner on the international stage came at the 2021 World Championship in Calgary, securing Canada’s first world title in nearly a decade. Heading into that tournament, the country was coming off its worst-ever result in world championship history, winning a bronze medal in 2019. The Americans had won five straight world championships, and in the 2021 final, it looked like they were on the road to a sixth, up 2–0 against Canada after the first period.  

POULIN: Coming back from a 2–0 deficit in a gold medal game against the U.S., it’s been a while where we were able to do that, so that was huge for us.

Canada forced overtime, thanks to goals from Jenner and Jamie Lee Rattray. Asked about the goal she scored in overtime, Poulin stayed true to form.  

POULIN: Playing overtime, obviously we had a couple plays where we missed the net a couple times. We had a couple chances in Calgary.

Her teammates helped expand on that answer.   

JENNER: [The game-winner] started with a smart, quick transition from [Canadian defender] Jocelyne Larocque, and then I was just trying to pick up the puck and get up ice as quick as I could. I think Pou decided pretty early that she was going to take off, and she had a ton of speed and I was like, “Just get her the puck. Don’t screw this up.” I was trying to find that seam and obviously she did the rest.

TURNBULL: Jenner had the puck in the neutral zone and she made a really great pass over to Pou, and Pou, you know, we want her to have the puck in those situations. She’s got the best shot in the world, and I think as soon as she went down the wing and shot it, she knew it went in.

POULIN: I saw the puck touch the back of the net and I saw it went in, but the ref didn’t blow it right away.

The lamp didn’t light, the referee didn’t point at the net to indicate a goal, the whistle didn’t go and the game didn’t stop. And so, Poulin pointed at the net, like a referee would’ve, to indicate she’d scored. The play continued anyway.

POULIN: I tried to make a point that it went in, but it didn’t work out. [Laughs.]

LAURA STACEY Team Canada teammate: She saw it. She knew it went in, that’s for sure. I think the only other people who saw it for sure were six girls who were standing behind the net. When I saw them jump up and cheer, I figured it was over. But the game kept going.


Poulin got off the ice for a change.

POULIN: I kind of knew in my mind it was in, but coming to the bench and the coaches were asking me, “Was it in, Pou? Are you sure it was in?” And to be honest at that moment when people question me, it’s like, “Oh no, I don’t think it was in!” [Laughs.]

TURNBULL: On the bench, we didn’t see the angle of the puck going in the net, but with her being so sure that it went in, we all knew that it was in as well. And then she came to the bench for a change and I was taking her off, so I hopped on the ice and I ended up getting the puck behind our net, and then the buzzer went two seconds later to indicate that we had won the game.

POULIN: I was ready to go back on until the buzzer went. And obviously it was a great moment for all of us.

TURNBULL: She was right. She did score.

RENATA FAST, Team Canada teammate: I only saw the replay of the goal, and wow — just an incredible shot. I think the coolest part about it is just how quickly it elevated from her stick to that top corner. It was like a bullet. The whole play – the pass from Jenner, Poulin beating the American player up the ice to generate that opportunity — it was incredible.

TURNBULL: It was a pretty cool moment to be a part of, just knowing how special of a talent she is and, you know, just leave it to Pou to score another game-winning overtime goal.

As teammates attest, Poulin is not the type to await an opportunity. She’ll help to create it, working hard at both ends of the ice.

FAST: She does all the little things right and that’s why she gets those opportunities — she doesn’t cheat the game at all. She plays defensively hard, and that’s how she generates her opportunities.

JENNER: I think one of the most special things about her as a player, as a superstar, is she’s so clutch away from the puck too, defensively, and we trust her in all areas of the ice. Sometimes that’s not always the case with superstars.

DINEEN: A really good comparison [and player Dineen coached as an assistant in Chicago] would have been [prime] Jonathan Toews. You could easily throw somebody [extremely offensively skilled like Patrick Kane] out, but Pou was one of those players who would take face-offs, kill your penalties, but also had that offensive mindset and could be in the right place and make those big plays.

Teammates rush toward Poulin after the final buzzer in Sochi (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images)

Those who know Poulin best say that what sets her apart is her work ethic.

KINGSBURY: When those big moments happen, she’s probably taken that shot 1,000 times before in practice.

HEFFORD: This is what I noticed about her right away, and what I find about the best players in the game: They do things the right way. And Pou does that. She’s obviously one of the best players in the world, if not the best player in the world, but she’s also a good teammate. And you can tell by the way people talk about her that they love her. She works hard, she leads by example. You want teammates that you can count on, you know what they’re going to bring every night, and that’s her. She’s going to show up and she’s going to be there in big moments and she’s going to show up on the hard days and work her butt off. She does things the right way, she doesn’t cut corners.

DAVIDSON: It’s work ethic, it’s compete, it’s that fire that you can’t teach and you can’t coach it into people. They show up at your door with it.

STACEY: A lot of her leadership is in actions, showing what it’s like to be a champion versus talking about it. I think it’s important for her to lead by example. By no means [is she silent]. She does say a few words at the right time, and that’s what makes those words more important and more impactful is that when they come out, you know how much they mean.

KINGSBURY: I think everybody recognizes her as one of, if not the best player in the world. I do think she brings a lot more than what the public sees. She’s a great leader for us. She’s extremely passionate, probably the most hard-working athlete that we have. She works the hardest in the gym, she works the hardest off the ice, she works the hardest in practices. She won’t lose a battle or lose a puck and she competes like that in practice as well. That’s the special thing about her: it’s not a switch that goes on and off. She’s always competitive and pushing herself to be the best she can be and pushing her teammates to be the best they can be as well by playing physical.

ANN-SOPHIE BETTEZ, former Team Canada teammate, PWHPA teammate: She will put in extra reps in the gym or if ever there’s free time on the ice, she’s always going to be staying. She never missed the chance to be on the ice. In the gym, the training’s over but she’ll still do an extra rep. Every time that she’s able to get extra work in, she does. I think throughout the years, though, she’s learned to listen to her body and make smart decisions. That doesn’t put aside that she wants to be the last player off the ice.

“I think she has a quiet strength about her. She’s very comfortable in her own skin.”

KNIGHT: I was able to play on the same team as her on the pro level, and to sort of learn from her daily habits was awesome. She sees the game a little differently, and she knows how to create space for herself. You combine all that and her other skillsets and she’s one of those players that, I think, if you’re going to choose who comes out of the mold, you want her, you know? You’re going to make the mold around her. It just speaks to all the effort she’s put in on the ice to get herself and put herself in great positions to be that game hero.

ERIN AMBROSE, Team Canada teammate: There was one time where she couldn’t get a rep on one of her exercises and she did not leave that exercise until she got it. Our trainer was like, “Pou, you’ve done enough, you’ve done the work,” and she said, “No, I’m getting it.” It’s just simple things like that. Oh, she got it. Of course she did. That’s what Pou does.

Her daily habits amaze me, being in the gym with her, being on the ice with her for practice, there’s nobody better, there’s nobody you want to be around more to push you to make you a better player — and a person. That’s the other thing, I’m so thankful to be able to call her one of my best friends. I’m lucky to be able to say that.

STACEY: The person she is off the ice is even more special. The leadership she brings to our team, the work ethic — she’s the full package for sure.

At five-foot-six and just shy of 160 pounds, Poulin isn’t big, but she plays tough.  

JENNER: She’s really hard to knock off the puck. She’s really strong on her feet and I think that’s the No. 1 way she uses physicality. She can also obviously lay a really good hit, but I wouldn’t describe her as a dirty player in any way. She’s pretty clean the way she uses her physicality — I think it’s her core strength. It’s really hard to knock her off the puck.

FAST: Oh, it’s so hard [laughs]. I do like going up against her because why wouldn’t you like going against the best player in the world? It’s challenging you, for sure. I tell her all the time, I don’t even look at the puck when I go against her in practice, I just play her body. You can’t get puck-focused on her. I’ve had my fair share of times where she’s completely made me look silly in practice, but the more I’ve practiced against her, I don’t even look at the puck anymore, I just take her body and try and limit her time and space. But it’s hard.


Poulin has a unique curve on her stick. Nobody else on her team uses it, and it seems that’s for good reason.

JENNER: There’s a lot going on [laughs].

POULIN: It was a pretty straight pattern until three years ago when I had the chance to go to Bauer. We switched it up a little bit. My curve is always very straight, so I wanted three quarters of my blade pretty straight still, but the last bit of my curve has a little toe, so I can snap it or grab it when I’m closer to the net.

STACEY: She has a pretty big toe and then she also has a pretty thick blade in general, so no pucks are bouncing off that thing [laughs].

JENNER: I remember when she changed it because we were skating around the ice for warmup, and we always clue in if we’ve changed the colour of our tape — like if I had white tape and I switch to black tape she’ll come up to me and be like, “What’s going on, are you okay?” [Laughs.] I remember seeing her new stick curve and I asked her about it.

It was a really cool moment because she was like, “Well, I just want to be able to get the puck up kinda quicker, in tight.” I just thought, that’s pretty cool, she’s how many years into this career and still looking for ways to tweak things to get a little bit better. One of the best shooters in the world and she’s still trying to figure out ways to gain that edge.

POULIN: I’m not sure if the curve has a name, but this is unique to me right now — I’m pretty lucky. Not sure if it’s called ‘The Poulin,’ but it’s a curve. [Laughs.]

FAST: I was looking at her stick the other day — it’s really unique. She probably has the most customized stick on our team. It has quite a bit of toe curve on it, and for instance if you watch that [2021] world championship goal, she’s able to keep that puck, like, it sits on the toe of her curve and she’s able to just snap pucks.

TURNBULL: She also hides her release really well. I think it’s tricky for goalies to know when the puck is going to snap off of her stick. And just the strength and speed she puts into her shot, there aren’t very many women who can shoot the way that she does. It’s a super hard shot and it’s extremely accurate.

FAST: This is the best shot I’ve ever seen Poulin have, really. She’s always had a great shot, but this year in particular, I think she’s completely elevated her game overall. Like, it’s crazy. She’s better than she’s ever been, but her shot in particular is so accurate.

“Have I heard her brag? Never. Never. No, not a chance.”

Poulin’s on-ice exploits are the stuff of legend, but her personality off the ice is lesser known.

DAVIDSON: She’s shy; introverted. She cares about people, but she’s not your gregarious, charismatic-type person. But she’s comfortable in any setting. She understands the responsibility she has given the talent she has and the role she plays in the program — not just for the program, but for young girls. I feel like one of the strongest qualities she has is her give-back to the game, to go to hockey camps and — not just make cameo appearances — but actually be a part of a weekend or a week-long or day-long camp.

DINEEN: I think she has a quiet strength about her. She’s very comfortable in her own skin. She understands, No. 1, that she has a platform as a role model. I think she carries herself [in a way] that would make any teammate, coach or even country incredibly proud to have her as one of your representatives. It’s not a stretch to say [she carries herself the same way] I saw Wayne Gretzky at the [1987] Canada Cup.

KNIGHT: She shares stories and stuff. She’s a normal person. [Laughs.] She’s great. She’s one of the reasons I moved out to Montreal. She lives and breathes it. How you see her is how she is as a person. She has an incredible amount of integrity and she’s a wonderful role model, great person and there’s just something that’s magnetizing about her that you want to be around.

LACHAPELLE: This is probably why she is the way she is. I’ll never forget; her parents dropped her off [for her freshman year at BU] and asked if we thought she’d play a lot. When they asked, I [thought to myself] “This is just going to change our program.” Of course, [on the outside] we’re playing it cool: “Yeah, yeah, she’ll probably play.”

Obviously the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You get to know the parents a little bit. They didn’t speak English a ton, but you get to see them enough and know them a little bit. I’ll never forget watching her parents looking at her [celebrate on the ice after the 2021 worlds], especially her mom. If you keep watching the end of the ceremony and the players are [looking up at their parents], just the look her mom has seemed like so much pride for her and probably amazement that like, “I can’t believe my daughter keeps doing this.”

Poulin says the way she was brought up explains why she isn’t a big fan of talking about her accomplishments.

POULIN: I think it’s part of my family values and putting your head down and doing the work.

JENNER: Talking about herself? Oh, she’s not good at that. She’ll get red in the face.

FAST: Have I heard her brag? [Laughs.] Never. Never. No, not a chance.

JENNER: Definitely not hockey-related. Maybe if she beat us in a card game, but not really. She’s pretty humble. Boring, you know? [Laughs.]

Poulin celebrating her most recent gold medal-winning goal at the 2021 world championships (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Teammates who meet Poulin for the first time are sometimes nervous or intimidated, but that feeling doesn’t last long.

SARAH FILLIER, Team Canada teammate: It was crazy to see her in real life and be like, you know, this is sort of my childhood hero. I ended up being roommates with her [during Fillier’s first experience with the senior team], so it was just crazy. She was really great about letting me know that I was there for a reason and made sure that I was confident and that I knew I was good enough to be there, and that I should be there. I think that really helped calming the nerves of playing in my first 4 Nations Cup against people who might be 10 years older than me with years of experience.

KRISTEN CAMPBELL, Team Canada teammate: It’s incredible to be on the ice with her. She was one of my favourite players growing up — I watched her score all those big goals on TV [laughs]. It’s honestly crazy to be her teammate now. What stands out the most about her is in pressure situations, how calm and composed she is and how nothing fazes her. It’s really admirable. And then once you see how great of a person she is, she loves to be around people and she’s always making you feel welcome and part of the team.

FAST: I remember when I met her for the first time. It was my first under-22 camp and it was my first time in the Team Canada program. I didn’t know a single soul at camp. I was so nervous. We were cooling down after a practice and I was on a treadmill, and Poulin came and went on the treadmill beside me and she introduced herself and started talking to me. And I just remember thinking, like, ‘Wow, she’s so nice.’ For her to come over here and spend some time for me, and choose to walk beside me during cooldown? I couldn’t believe how nice she was [laughs]. When there’s new faces in the room or people where she can tell they’re maybe not that comfortable, she makes a conscious effort to go over there and get to know them and spend time with them, which alleviates some of that feeling that she’s a little bit scary or anything like that. She isn’t at all, and she does that off the bat.

TURNBULL: A lot of people might think that captains can be very intimidating, but if you ask any of the rookies on our team about what she’s like to work with and what it’s like to be her teammate, they would all agree that she’s the most kind and inclusive person there is. She goes out of her way to make each and every one of us feel that we’re special and that we’re a huge part of this team, and she’s just a great friend and a great person. I think her athletic ability is second to all of that.

Off the ice, many of Poulin’s favourite activities happen outdoors, and she’s recently been spending more time out there with a new addition named Arlo, the golden retriever that she and Stacey bought about a year ago. Poulin’s parents are taking care of Arlo while Poulin and Stacey are in Beijing.

STACEY: I’ve had dogs pretty much my whole life but she’s never had a dog, so it was pretty cool to see Pou and her parents fall in love with Arlo. I don’t think she ever thought she would love a dog. She would always say, “I’m not letting the dog lick my face.” And honestly, Arlo is all over her, shedding everywhere, licking her face like crazy [laughs].

FAST: She’s so in love with Arlo. She’s always on the Furbo [remote dog camera] checking in when we’re on the road and her parents have the dog. It’s cute. She’s really become a dog person.

“She’s the best hockey player in the world, and I think she’s a better human and better teammate than she is a hockey player.”

POULIN: Yes, now I am! [Laughs.] To be honest, it was during COVID, our little son in our life. Out of nowhere we went to get him. It was a change of routine, and it was fun.

STACEY: We got the name googling ‘unique dog names’ [laughs]. So many of our friends have dogs. We wanted a unique name that none of our other friends had named their dogs before. We tried to find something a little bit different and clearly we only got to ‘A’ on the list of unique dog names [laughs]. So, Arlo. It was one we both agreed on. When we went to the little farm to pick him up, we called, “Arlo!” There was about eight dogs and he came running to his name and we were like, “That’s it!”

Arlo isn’t the only fresh addition — there’s also an RV.

POULIN: It’s 26 feet, it’s pretty much brand-new. There’s a big bed at the back, there’s a toilet, a little kitchen. It’s pretty spacious.

STACEY: It’s huge. I remember we rolled up to [teammate Natalie] Spooner’s wedding this summer in the RV and Spooner’s whole family was like: “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think it was going to be this big!” It took up kind of the whole driveway [laughs]. Her RV’s awesome. She loves it, that’s for sure. She’s a big RV girl.

And I think the RV, she might not say it, but she did buy it as a family thing, for her parents. When they were young they would go camping and on trips like that. I think that’s a cool side point. Yeah, she’s an amazing hockey player, but family is so important to her as well. I think the RV is a little bit of a connection to that and getting to spend time outside of the rink with them.

POULIN: When I have the time in the summer to go out and go camping with the RV, I find that fun. We were lucky enough to have five days last summer just to go around a couple different camping grounds and being by the water. I love going outside, being outdoorsy, just going for walks.

STACEY: Nature. She loves nature.

POULIN: I would love to go across Canada, and down to the States, make a little trip there.

JENNER: We were talking about it the other day because we were going to try to get her to bring the RV to Ontario this summer. My in-laws have a place on the lake and the Rattrays [the family of teammate, Jamie Lee] have a place on the same lake. So we’re trying to coordinate, how do we get the team up there and get Pou to bring the RV?

POULIN: I do like driving it, it’s pretty fun.

STACEY: I feel safer when she’s driving than when I’m driving it that’s for sure [laughs]. I got to drive it for the first time this summer and only in a straight line, like only on the highway. I don’t feel comfortable parking it. She has driven it tons of times, she had a previous RV even before that, not nearly as big, so she’s had plenty of experience.

POULIN: No accidents yet! [Laughs.]


Canada heads into the playoff round in Beijing having topped the Americans 4–2 in round-robin play. Four years ago, the scene was the same: Canada beat Team USA in their first meeting. But in Pyeongchang, they went on to lose in the gold-medal final in a shootout. Poulin makes no bones about the fact that she is in part fuelled by the desire to avoid repeating what happened the last time she was on this stage. It was the first time since 1998, the first Olympics to include women’s hockey, that Canada had to settle for silver.

POULIN: We look back, losing was very hard. It was a tough one to swallow. But we did learn a lot from that as a group and I think we’ve moved on from there, and we keep working hard towards that goal. Obviously [the goal] is the gold medal. Since 2018, this has been in the back of our head, it’s been the motivation. We want to bring it back to Canada.

For Poulin, it would be a third career Olympic gold medal. She has already cemented herself as a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

AMBROSE: She is the definition of a leader, the definition of the greatest female hockey player, I think, ever. And will continue to be.

KINGSBURY: She’s been a huge part of this program’s success and a huge part of this program’s history in a lot of ways. 

DINEEN: When you get down to the bare bones of a tight situation, she’s the one you want on the ice.

LACHAPELLE: She’s the best hockey player in the world, and I think she’s a better human and better teammate than she is a hockey player.

HEFFORD: She’s consistent, right? She’s solid on D, she’s great offensively, she’s strong, she’s quick. She blocks shots. She’s not worried about hurting herself, cause, you know, it’s her passion.

AMBROSE: Just being able to watch her, there’s nobody better in the world.

FORTINO: She should be so proud — we’re all so proud of her. We’re all blessed to have been her teammates.

LACHAPELLE: She’s better than she was 10 years ago. She just keeps getting better. It’s amazing to watch. I hope she plays for another three Olympics because we need talent like that and we need to keep being able to watch somebody like her play.

STACEY: She doesn’t like to talk about herself, she doesn’t like to talk about her accomplishments and her success. I think it’s important for all of us to talk about it for her, because she doesn’t like to [laughs].

AMBROSE: I could go on about Pou forever.

Photo Credits
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Doug Pensinger/Getty Images; Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images; Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images; Derek Leung/Getty Images.