As Canada’s sesquicentennial approaches, the feeling of national pride takes on even greater meaning for Amy Potomak, whose call to Centralization for the national women’s ice hockey team brings with it a historic presence. With Hockey Canada having named its roster for Centralization, a quadrennial occurrence in preparation for the Winter Games, Amy is also joined by her older sister Sarah, representing the first time that two sisters have been named.
Subsequently, a dual sense of national and family pride is evident within the Potomak family. Hockey certainly runs in the blood as their household also consists of four brothers, which features Brandon and Devin Potomak also gracing the ice. For Amy and Sarah, whose youth involved designing plays in the backyard before putting them to the test on ice, it was an early indicator of their assiduous and cerebral approach to the game,
“It is very humbling and a huge honour, this is what we have dreamed about since we were little kids. It means the world to us, not only being one step closer to accomplishing our dream of playing in the Olympics, but being able to do it together. Our whole family is very excited and happy for us.”
Raised in Aldergrove, British Columbia, the presence of Amy and Sarah Potomak at Centralization represents more than just a sensational milestone. Joined by fellow BC resident Micah Hart at Centralization, they represent a new generation of on-ice prodigy from Canada’s Pacific Coast, which sees the region flourish as a new hub for sensational women’s ice hockey talent. Simultaneously, their presence signifies the first millennials to participate in Centralization, heralding a new era of promising talent.
Considering that the first competitor from British Columbia to compete at an IIHF Women’s Worlds Championship was goaltender Danielle Dube over 20 years ago, the presence of the Potomak sisters and Hart is testament to how much the quality of the game and the players have evolved in the region. At the 2017 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, Amy, who was named an alternate captain, was joined by Meagan Beres, Olivia Knowles and Courtney Voster, resulting in four BC residents on the roster.
The chance for Amy to share in the Centralization journey with her older sister also represents a remarkable continuity in their careers. At the 2015 Canada Winter Games, both were members of Team British Columbia’s roster. Coincidentally, Hart served as team captain for said team.
Prior to the 2016 holiday break, Amy gained the opportunity to call her older sister a teammate once again. Suiting up for Canada’s national women’s senior team for a two-game exhibition series against their eternal rivals, the United States, it marked the first time that sisters were on the same roster. Undoubtedly, it also represented a significant personal pinnacle as each sister was making their debut for the team. As a side note, it allowed Sarah to be the first player from BC to play at all three levels of Hockey Canada’s women’s national teams.
“It was an incredible honour, anytime a player gets to wear the maple leaf and represent their country, it is truly amazing. Being able to do it at that level against the U.S. was a great experience. Playing alongside the girls who I looked up to growing up, was really special.”
For both of these sensational sisters, the 2016-17 season has definitely represented a coming-out party, affirming their world-class talents. In addition to competing with Canada’s U18 national team and Senior Team, Amy competed with three other teams.
In the autumn of 2016, Amy made her third appearance with BC’s Under-18 Provincial Team, competing at the U18 Nationals. Logging eight points in five games, she captained Team BC to their second straight appearance in the medal round. Unlike the fourth place finish in 2015, the prestige of a podium finish awaited them in 2016, capturing the bronze medal. Enhancing the sense of euphoria was the fact that she gained her second consecutive honor of tournament MVP.
Making the jump from the Pursuit of Excellence (where she played for Melanie Jue, a gold medalist for Canada at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds), logging 147 points over three seasons and capturing a silver medal at the 2014 World Sport School Challenge, Amy registered an astonishing 28 points in merely 12 games played with the JWHL’s Pacific Steelers. In addition, she was also bestowed the honor of the Steelers captaincy.
During 2016-17, Amy would also break the gender barrier, competing with the Valley West Hawks in the midget boys’ BCMML. Becoming the third female to compete in the BC Hockey Major Midget League, following in the path of Kaleigh Fratkin (who would go on to play in the first two NWHL All-Star Games) and goaltender Kimberly Newell, a fellow Canadian U18 alum. Logging three assists a pair of games with the Hawks, the combination of tenacity and alacrity established her as one of the finest junior players in the province, male or female.
Sarah would eclipse the 100-point plateau with the Golden Gophers on February 11, 2017, becoming only the 34th player in program history to do so. Scoring five game-winning goals in the first 10 games of the 2016-17 season, she was honored as the WCHA Player of the Month in November.
In addition, she would record four points in one game twice in 2016-17. She would finish her season with her second straight appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four (she was named Frozen Four MVP in 2016), along with a spot on Canada’s roster at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Plymouth, Michigan. As a side note, she was spotlighted in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd segment on December 14, 2015.
With Amy having committed to play hockey at the renowned University of Minnesota, it reinforces that sense of continuity in the hockey odyssey that is linked with her sister. For Gophers fans, the autumn of 2018 is poised to bring many memorable moments at Ridder Arena. As CBC in British Columbia labelled their on-ice efforts with the unique sobriquet, “Potomagic”, it is a trend poised to continue in the State of Hockey.
Taking into account the legendary recruits in Gophers lore, Amy’s arrival should translate into more than just great on-ice chemistry. The anticipated possibilities of further “Potomagic” is certainly poised to maintain the gold standard of excellence for the Gophers, whose frequent championship journeys represent some of the greatest moments in the annals of the university’s long athletic legacy.
While the current focus for an energetic and enthusiastic Amy is on Centralization, it would be unfair to look at her as a possible underdog. Although she may be one of the youngest players at Centralization, she is also part of a unique youth movement. Of note, 12 players are gaining their first opportunity to audition for a spot on the Winter Games roster.
Bringing a combination of eagerness, vigor and maturity, Amy has a remarkable outlook on the game. Perhaps more importantly, she is also brings a keen willingness to learn and a tremendous respect. Approaching this milestone with a sense of gratitude, simultaneously acknowledging the others who have worn the Maple Leaf before (she lists Natalie Spooner as her favorite female athlete), her confidence compensates for the age gap, ensuring that any success attained shall be definitely well-earned.
Perhaps the most endearing element of this new generation of hockey prodigy is their humility, combined with a respect for the game that constitutes an admirable demeanor. Simultaneously paying tribute to the past, while blazing an exciting path forward, Amy certainly represents such revered values, signifying that the game’s future is more than in good hands, but retains a solid foundation for continued success.
“I am going to focus on playing my game and putting forth my best effort every day and enjoy the moment. I am looking forward to working, learning, and forming relationships with these girls. Getting the opportunity to try-out, improve, and the chance to represent my country in the Olympics is a dream come true; being able to do it with my sister is an indescribable feeling.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Hockey Canada Images