Less than three months ago, the final outcome of the women’s hockey event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games may have seemed almost unthinkable for competitors Caroline Ouellette and Genevieve Lacasse. Competing for Canada in the gold medal game, the squad faced a 2-0 deficit in the third period.
An overtime come-from-behind victory was nothing short of a modern day Miracle on Ice providing Ouellette with her fourth gold medal, while Lacasse garnered her first. Such success in Sochi now seems like a precursor for facing adversity on an even bigger scale.
In collaboration with the True Patriot Love foundation, Lacasse and Ouellette were part of a remarkable trip to the North Pole. The motivation behind the journey was to pay tribute to Canada’s military troops and recognize the heroic sacrifices they made. Ouellette and Lacasse were part of a group of 53 dedicated and courageous individuals on a humanitarian mission of friendship, while hoping to raise awareness.
For Ouellette, a 14-year veteran of Canada’s national team, she has devoted many hours off-ice to numerous charitable causes. In addition to proudly serving as an RBC Olympian and an ardent supporter in the cure for breast cancer, Ouellette has also travelled to Africa with Right to Play.
After the Sochi Winter Games, Ouellette donated her time for a Hockey Helps the Homeless event near Montreal and a fund raiser for the Concordia Stingers women’s ice hockey team. One of Canada’s remarkable sporting humanitarians, Ouellette is a positive role model for the next generation of Canadian hockey heroines, such as Lacasse.
Beginning at Resolute Bay on Easter weekend, an average day for these hockey heroines consisted of dragging sleds in excess of hundred pounds for an average of 12-15 km a day. Supplies such as food (consisting of various meats for lunch and army rations and cheese for dinner), water and the camping gear accounted for the heaviness of the sleds. Adding to the challenge was the unforgiving temperature of -35 celsius while the sun shined on a continual basis.
Following a breakfast consisting of oatmeal, crackers, coffee and/or tea, tearing down the camp may be the most demanding part of the journey. Before continuing the journey towards the Arctic Circle, the task of tearing it down takes a minimum of three grueling hours. Afterwards, the skiing is divided into lengths of two hours each, with a 15 minute break in between.
With the constant cold presenting its own challenges, it forces all participants to be mentally tougher. As nighttime does not provide any relief in terms of temperature, attempting to keep warm was just as challenging as skiing through the day.
Escaping one’s comfort zone, it was an experience that certainly pushed world class athletes such as Ouellette and Lacasse to limits they may have never even conceived possible. Certainly, the opportunity for them to participate in the event with some of Canada’s soldiers (of which a dozen participated) helped them appreciate what members of the military can endure on a daily basis.
May 3, 2014 signified the end of the heroic journey as these two hockey heroes successfully completed the expedition with the rest of the brave individuals involved. The True Patriot Love expedition to the Arctic Circle was testament to the dedication and toughness that may be uniquely Canadian.
While Ouellette and Lacasse have returned to the comforts of home, they do so with the gratitude and appreciation of many proud Canadians and hockey fans the world over. During the week of May 4, Ouellette was recognized by the Montreal branch of the YWCA as she was bestowed with a Women of Distinction Award. Although more than a decade separates the two in age, Ouellette and Lacasse have been exposed to an event that will certainly generate a unique and special bond between the two.