#AnythingForHockey: Behind the scenes with Natalie Spooner

Watch Sportsnet Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. ET for the Canadian Women's Hockey League All-Star Game, where you can see stars like Natalie Spooner show off crazy skills like this...

You’ll never know if you never ask.

“Here’s one,” I texted Sasky Stewart, my good friend and Director of Marketing and Communications for the CWHL, “Can we get Natalie Spooner on the Molson Canadian rooftop rink?”

Sportsnet had already arranged for me and a few colleagues to get up onto the #AnythingForHockey rink atop an office building in downtown Toronto. We were going to skate around, take some wicked photos, get some videos of Eric Prime skating gracefully and me, well, “skating.”

Then it occurred to me that — wait a second — why not get Natalie Spooner up there to promote the CWHL All-Star game?

“I can get Spooner there if you can get her on the rink,” Sasky replied.

Sasky and I had already been talking about shooting a cool video of Spooner doing trick shots to promote the upcoming game, but we couldn’t quite figure out which rink to shoot it at. (How hard is it to book ice at the Air Canada Centre? How about Ricoh Coliseum? What about a random outdoor rink somewhere?)

Wait a sec – I’ll be on an outdoor rink on Monday when I’m at the rooftop Molson Canadian event! There’s no way they’ll say yes though… will they?

I phoned Sportsnet.ca overlord Mike Cormack who’s never one to shoot down cool ideas just because they sound hard.

“Sounds cool. Ask them.” I know that sounds basic but sometimes you need to hear it put in the simplest terms like that.

Next was calling up the fine folks with the Molson Canadian #AnythingForHockey rink. We had time from 1 p.m.-2 p.m. booked for Sportsnet, but I told them we’ll probably be needing a bit more than that because of our new idea. The Molson folks were super cool — and, generally speaking, “Hey can I bring an Olympian, too?” gets a positive response — so we were in. Green light!

Next we needed a camera. I called up super producer Amanda Da Ponte and booked a camera operator. Amit Mann was the guy on duty for Monday. You might know Amit as the guy I argued with in the Toronto Free Agency video.

Amit said “My skates are in Peterborough.”

“Whatever just use mine instead!”

OK, so the CWHL is down, Molson is down, Sportsnet is down, we have a camera… dude. We’re going to shoot a bunch of trick shots with an All-Star/Olympian up on a roof!

Wait. No. We need a goalie. We can’t have Spooner sniping on an empty net!

Around midnight on Saturday, Sasky tweeted that if any goalies were available for Monday afternoon to respond and volunteer. I’d love to embed the tweet but it’s gone, because even though she sent the tweet late at night, she was absolutely inundated with goalie volunteers. The first among them, completely by fluke, was Sportsnet’s very own Joe Pack.

Alright we’re good. Let’s roll.

Spooner and company showed up right on time at 2 p.m. My Sportsnet friends and I had already been up there for an hour so we were freezing. Poor Kailey Sibley brought two phones and both of them tapped out like “Bro I didn’t sign up for this windchill. Peace.” When Spooner and company arrived however, it warmed things up. She has been in Olympic gold medal games before, but you could tell she was just as excited for this moment as anybody else.

“So what do I do?” Spooner asked.

Oh. Right. We’re here for work.

I had a couple ideas for cool shots Natalie could do, plus we got people to send us some of their ideas via Periscope. That’s all nice, but it’s Natalie freaking Spooner. Just get out of her way and let her do her thing.

It was great seeing Amit flash some creativity from behind the camera, too. I have to admit, I didn’t give him much instruction beyond “Yeah so we’re going to be on a roof and shoot some cool stuff.”

Once he had his bearings, he started telling Natalie what to do a bit, switching angles up, getting close shots, etc.

After trying a few dozen moves, Natalie asked me if I had any suggestions.

“How about the Pavel Bure?”

“Which one’s that?” she asked.

I pulled out my phone and YouTubed the Pavel Bure goal. You know, the Pavel Bure goal.

Spooner watches it once, basically goes “Oh OK,” and totally nails it.

Watch the full video from that day, including the Pavel Bure and more importantly, the Natalie Spooner, at the top of this post.

You can watch Natalie’s skills — and the skills of many more of the CWHL’s brightest stars — in the CWHL All-Star Game at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT this Saturday on Sportsnet.

And if you want to go to the event and see it live, the puck drops at 1 p.m. in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.

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