Just having Hockey Hall of Famer King Clancy as her great-grandfather was exciting enough for Laura Stacey as a youngster. But as an adult, she needed to know more.
Recent conversations with her grandmother Carole Kavanagh, Clancy’s daughter, made Stacey feel more connected to the man in the family photos.
"Knowing more has definitely brought me closer to that legacy," Stacey said. "Now he’s more of a role model and inspiration for me in the sense that I know more about him and his life and the character he was."
The 22-year-old forward from Kleinberg, Ont., will make her world championship debut for the Canadian women’s hockey team Friday in Plymouth, Mich.
An all-star defenceman, Francis (King) Clancy played 16 NHL seasons for both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs between 1921 and 1937. The three-time Stanley Cup winner went on to coach, referee and work as a Leafs executive.
Clancy, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958, has been included on more than one "top 100 players of all time" lists. His son Terry, Stacey’s great uncle, also played in the NHL. The King Clancy Memorial Trophy is given annually to the NHL player who demonstrates leadership qualities on and off the ice and makes exceptional contributions to the community.
It’s hockey ancestry to be proud of for sure, but Stacey felt the need to dig deeper into the man who died eight years before she was born.
"My mom never saw him play, but my parents know a decent amount of stories," she said. "My dad lived in his house just before my parents got married for a little bit.
"It’s my grandmother for sure who knows the personal side of my great-grandfather."
Stacey found out Clancy missed almost every Christmas dinner playing hockey and would phone home apologizing for not being there.
"Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best," Stacey said. "Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.
"I can really cherish his legacy and do my best to follow in his footsteps."
At five foot 10 and 156 pounds, Stacey has a booming shot and gives Canada a physical presence around the opposition’s net.
She was named the rookie of the year in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with 11 goals and 13 assists in 20 games for the Brampton Thunder.
Stacey scored her first goal for Canada in a 5-3 loss to the U.S. in November’s Four Nations Cup final.
She wears No. 7 whenever she can in honour of her great-grandfather. It’s her number with the Thunder and she also wore it during her college career with the Dartmouth Big Green.
Stacey has been wearing No. 43 with the national team, which works for her because it adds up to seven.
"It does mean a lot to wear seven," Stacey said. "I have a necklace I don’t take off with No. 7 on it."
The Maple Leafs retired No. 7, worn by both Clancy and Tim Horton, and raised it to the rafters in a ceremony at the Air Canada Centre in October.
Stacey’s family was there, but she wasn’t.
"I wish I was there," she said. "But I had a hockey game."