Jennifer Botterill is one of Canada’s most successful athletes, achieving Olympic glory on numerous occasions. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and an Olympic silver medalist with the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team, and responsible for the assist that won gold at the 2010 Olympic Games. This year, Jennifer was on the other side of the boards, acting as a commentator in Sochi for CBC. Below, Jennifer shares her “best” moments from the Games in a piece written as she journeyed back home to Canada from Russia:
As I travel back to Canada after another Olympic experience, I find myself reflecting on the moments that our country shared. After the final of the women’s hockey game our broadcast team felt exhausted by the emotion of it all! I think that perhaps more so than ever, I am in awe of the spectrum of emotion that people experience at the Olympics. As an athlete, I was focused and driven on the task of performing. Although in a different capacity, the same can be said for my first experience as an Olympic broadcaster. We wanted to make sure we told the stories, shared the moments and brought the coverage to life for people. It took lots of time at the rink and preparation to try to do our job as well as we can in order to try to give justice to the Olympic athletes that have dedicated so much of their lives for these experiences. While we were focused on our task, we were still following along and loving the success stories that Canadians were enjoying! We would soak up those moments of elation, and refocus on our events.
On the way back to our beautiful country, I feel incredibly honoured to have been a part of the Olympics. It was a different perspective than my time as an athlete, but I think it allowed me to soak up even more of the overall grandeur of the Games. Even if it was just short glimpses of the other sporting events that we would catch on our monitors at the rink before the hockey games began, or during an intermission recap from the CBC studio, it was fun to share those moments. I always said as a Canadian athlete, you share in others’ success stories. This is clearly the case for all Canadians. We were motivated and elated by performances in all sports.
The wonder of the Olympics never ceases to amaze me. Medals and defining moments can be determined by hundredths of seconds, by fractions of points, by a sliver of a blade, and by mere centimeters of a rolling puck.
Here is a look at some of the stand out, special, and memorable moments from my perspective:
Top Moment of Appreciation
The women’s hockey team on the ice waiting to receive their gold medals. As they were standing in line, I was thinking about how happy they are. Just before I needed to go to the mix zone to get ready for interviews, I thought about how much each of these players appreciates wearing the team Canada jersey. I wanted to mention it on the air, but never got the chance. It was Cassie who would always take a moment to be grateful in the locker room before she put her Canada jersey on. It was a moment that many of us learned from her. Before any game, including the Olympic Gold Medal game, Canadian players take a pause, a moment to appreciate the maple leaf they are about to wear. As they stood on the ice as a team for their medal ceremony, it was a moment of celebration and appreciation.
Most Emotional Moment
The mix zone in the hockey venue was an emotional roller coaster area. It’s the very first place the athletes visit after they leave the ice. From the tears of joy to the tears of heartbreak, it was unlike anything I have ever seen so up close and personal. It was all so fresh and raw. If you can imagine almost every spectrum of feeling and emotion that people can experience, that is how these athletes felt as they walked through our mix press zone. Elation, anger, pride, joy, sadness, disappointment, surprise, disbelief, honour, and happiness were all felt there. From talking to an athlete whose dream was shattered mere moments ago, to having the opportunity to speaking to an athlete who just had an Olympic gold medal placed around their necks and had their dream come true, it’s a unique place to be.
The women’s hockey medal day was especially tough for this. It was certainly a crash course in learning to shift from one extreme emotion to another. I really wanted to connect with those I was speaking to and therefore wanted to try to understand and embrace how they were feeling in that very moment.
I found myself really feeling for the USA girls who had to deal with the press after the gold medal victory literally just slipped through their fingertips. For some their eyes were already puffy as they walked by, and for others they were already sobbing. As an athlete you do know how much they wanted that moment, how prepared they felt, how much they believed. I looked over at the USA coach, Katey Stone at the end of the 3rd period when the puck hit the post instead of going into the empty net, and saw her smile. Instead of giving her team a margin of victory too tough for Canada to overcome, it opened the window, even if it was small, to a different outcome. It was such a subtle moment, but she did smile. She was enjoying the whole game, and looked to be embracing the excitement of it all. It was a great approach in that moment, but soon became heartbreaking for them on how the rest of the story unfolded. Tremendous credit goes to the captain Megan Duggan, who asked for moment to regroup before she started her first post-game interview.
Most Joyful Moment
The euphoria of the women’s hockey players when they won gold, filled us with such elation, joy and pride. These girls could hardly believe the story book ending they just created! After a year where the topic of discussion was consistently how exhausted and tired they were, this was the moment and the source for their inspiration. They were each overjoyed, reflective and expressive in our discussions.
Most Selfless Moment
Denny Morrisson/Gilmore Junio. Gilmore decided to give up his racing spot to his friend and teammate Denny (who had fallen during the Canadian Olympic trials and didn’t qualify for the race). I almost cried as we left the Shayba rink one evening and saw Denny Morrison riding his bike back to the athletes Village. It was the first that I had seen him since the heartwarming story of his performances and the unmatched human selflessness that his teammate Gilmore Junio showed. Is there anything more appropriate to match the epitome of the Olympic spirit!?
Best ‘Class Act’ Moment
It was the Canadian cross country ski coach, Justin Wadsworth giving the Russian athlete a spare ski to finish his race. It also brought back memories from when Canadian Sara Renner was given a pole in the 2006 games from a coach from Norway and ended up winning a medal. THAT is what the Olympics are all about.
Best Moment of Overcoming an Injury
1 – Mikkelson playing with a broken hand in the women’s gold medal game and playing VERY well.
2 – Heather Moyse – We were catching a quick peek at the television screen at the rink as Heather and Kaillie flew down the track, waiting for another run, then seeing the pure celebration of their emotion. They both worked SO hard for this, and Heather just returned from hip surgery this season to be better than ever.
Best ‘Pay it Forward’ Moment
The letters from athletes within the Canadian team were phenomenal. Heather Moyse and Kaillie Humphries started the trend with a heartfelt note to the women’s hockey team. Caroline Ouellette said after the game that their words of motivation could not have been more fitting for how the game played out. The women’s team then paid it forward on an inspiring handwritten letter to the men’s hockey team before their semifinal victory.
Most Helpful Broadcast Moment
A huge thank you to Mark Lee and Cassie Campbell Pascall. You both are tremendous people and it was an honour to have the opportunity to work with you both. You are both class acts, supportive and generous with your time. I learned from you every day. Thank you for making the Olympic experience so enjoyable for me. From day one, people told me there aren’t two better people in the business, and I certainly could not agree more. From touchdown in Sochi, our schedule was quite solid and the time felt like it flew by!
Best ‘Life is Good’ Moment
Jennifer Jones and the curling team. Following their team’s victory, Jennifer spoke about coming back from injury, having a daughter, qualifying for the Olympics, then winning Olympic Gold. This happened moments before we were scheduled to go on air for the women’s gold medal game preview. Their team brought us to tears with their interview.
Most Reassuring Moment
Ron MacLean, the ultimate broadcasting idol who continues to bring memorable moments to Canadians. It was an honour to be on the air with him. He was reassuring, encouraging and professional.
Best Repeat Performance
Women’s hockey, Men’s Hockey, Alex Bilodeau, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse.
Most Authentic Emotion
Speaking with Haley Wickenheiser after the gold medal game. She has shown amazing dedication and perseverance over many years. For a person who is often so driven and focused, it was a treat to see her smile with joy and elation on the ice moments after the buzzer sounded to end the gold medal game. As tough and exhausting as the process had been for her over the past few years, it was worth it. She was expressive and free; it was moving to speak with her in the mix zone. As she got emotional, (and mentioned she couldn’t believe she was getting choked up), it demonstrated the power of the Olympics.
Best ‘I Remember When’ Moment
Interviewing with Teemu Selanne. I still remember growing up in Winnipeg and thinking of the classic visions of Selanne’s glove toss and shooting it down celebration after he broke the rookie scoring record! Here in Sochi, he was a pleasure to speak with. He was calm, well spoken, articulate and inspiring. It was great to see him take home a bronze medal for his country, AND mention his gratitude for Winnipeg’s support following his final Olympic game.
Most Gentlemanly and Polite Moment
Daniel Alfredsson. He carried himself with such class and dignity. Even down to the wrap of the interview that ended with a ‘thank you Jen.’
Most Generous Moment
Kevin Dineen on many occasions. He would take the time at the rink before every game they played at the Olympics to do an interview with us. He always had thoughtful, and insightful comments. It was always a pleasure to speak with him.
He also gave his credit card to the women’s team while they were in Austria for their pre-Olympic camp. He wanted them to go out together, have a nice dinner and relax after an extremely tough and draining year. Perhaps it was the turning point for this Olympic Gold Medal team? It was a pretty significant moment in any case.
Most Educated Moment
Learning how hard the broadcast and media personal work to share Olympic moments with people around the world. I certainly have a massive amount of respect for the dedication from people in the industry to this event.
Best Hockey Clutch Performance
Marie Philip Poulin. She was already a national hero after scoring 2 goals in the gold medal game in 2010 in Vancouver, but just in case you didn’t know who she was yet… she gets the game tying goal and the golden goal in OT in Sochi. Impressive as well as the nicest, most humble, and respectful person. Future captain of Team Canada.
Best Game Saver Performance
Shannon Szabados. She was calm, composed and steady all throughout the final game. Even before she hit the ice for warm up, you could tell she was focused and totally ready. She made a number of incredible saves, and this allowed her team the opportunity for the amazing late game comeback. She had a tough emotional year, and was quick to credit her teammate Genevieve Lacasse for helping her through.
Jayna Hefford. She was steady all year and throughout the Olympics, she was rock for this team. She spoke very well before 3rd period in the gold medal game, there was no panic in her voice. She said they knew they had been there before, and clearly they responded!
Best ‘Joy of the Game’ Moment
Florence Schelling – faced thousands of shots in Sochi (okay, maybe hundreds… but an awful lot!) She has always been gracious in defeat, and constantly shows her joy of the game! To see her rewarded with a bronze medal was wonderful to see. It was well deserved.
Most Appropriate Quote
Coach Mike Babcock’s quote following his team’s gold medal performance – “Does anyone know who lead the Olympics in scoring? Does anyone know who won the Gold Medal? Thought so.” Nicely put.
Best Moment of Teamwork
Men’s hockey team effort. They all bought in, and were unselfish in doing so! They really showed their support of each other and the Canadian athletes. The first thing the men’s team did upon arrival in Sochi was watch the 3rd period of one of the women’s game in their locker room. From St Louis, to Subban, to Crosby, to Toews they all handled their roles with class and dignity, and helped the team any way they could. I also love that they chose to stay and walk in the closing ceremonies.
Best Hair Moment
Toss up (no pun intended), but both go to men’s players. I suppose boys need to check their hair before tv interviews as well. One NHL player, who shall remain nameless, needed to check his coif in the television reflection prior to air time. Credit to him, he did have to wait a moment for us to wrap our previous interview, but still entertaining. The winner by a narrow margin might be the legend, Sandis Ozolins. We did an intermission interview and after he took off his helmet before we started rolling, he laughs and asks ‘how’s my hair’? Not necessarily what I expected during Olympic competition, but clever and somewhat refreshing.
Most Entertaining Interview
Sandis for the reason mentioned above and he was as relaxed as a guy who just wrapped up men’s league game, or someone who just got off the outdoor community rink.
Best Non-Sport Related Celebration
Shared winners Szabados and Spooner – each proclaimed ‘NAILED IT’ at the conclusion of their post-game interviews in the mix zone.
Best Reunion Moment
Having the chance to work alongside both Cassie Campbell Pascall and Kim St Pierre each day. Great friends, great teammates, and now great colleagues.
Most Flattering Moment
“Thanks Botts”. The majority of interviews with Canadian players would wrap with a “Thanks Botts”. As soon as they would take a step or two away, it would be a smile or laugh… “Oh, I mean Jen/Jennifer”! Cassie was kind enough to mention it’s the ultimate compliment and a sign of respect.
Most Caught Off Guard Moment
“You smell nice” from one of the men’s players while covering one of games between the benches.
‘Need to Refocus’ Moment
Cassie and Mark talking about the ‘shovel boys’ who clear the ice. They were always right in front of me before I went on camera.
Most Unexpected Non-Sport Moment
Dolphins on the sea wall in Sochi. Dozens of them. Jumping and playing. Beautiful.
Best Family Moment
Dufour Lapointe sisters and the Bilodeau brothers.
Most Humbling Moment
All of the wonderful messages of support from friends, family and Canadians. Thank you.
Best ‘WOW’ Moment
The women’s hockey final game. Wow.
Best Clutch Performance
All of the Canadian athletes who performed personal bests and who reached the podium. Congratulations.