Among the feel good stories that define the journey of Canada’s women’s ice hockey team leading into the 2018 Winter Games, one of the most heartwarming and inspiring most certainly belongs to Bailey Bram. For the last decade, Bram has been an integral part of the national women’s program, her body of work running parallel to a fascinating time in the game’s evolution.
Having appeared in 88 games in a Canada jersey, Bram would participate in a total of 58 with the senior team. With the chance to play on the world’s biggest stage, Bram is eager to add to the legacy of Canada’s golden generation, one that features four consecutive Olympic Winter Games gold medals. In asking what Bram is looking forward to regarding the experience, it is evident that she is ready to absorb every aspect to unfold.
“All of it! I have been dreaming of this experience since I was a little girl so I am so excited to get there, experience it and take it all in—and hopefully come back with a Gold medal around my neck! (smiles)”
Bram’s journey on the road towards this prized moment began in historic fashion, as she played in her first-ever game for Canada’s U18 National Team, a three-game series in Ottawa that saw them host their American counterparts. It was part of a landmark year that also saw Bram competed for her home province of Manitoba at the Canada Winter Games.
One year later, Bram was joined by the likes of Delayne Brian, a future teammate on the Calgary Inferno, and Natalie Spooner, among others, competing for Canada at the inaugural IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships. It would serve as the springboard towards a fascinating journey with Hockey Canada, which also involved three straight gold medals at the MLP Cup from 2009-11.
Calling Winter Games gold medalist Meghan Agosta (also a member of the 2018 edition of Team Canada) a teammate at the NCAA level with the Mercyhurst Lakers, the two were part of a remarkable roster that also featured future Canadian national team members such as Vicki Bendus and Jesse Scanzano. Capturing the College Hockey America Rookie of the Year Award, along with multiple finishes in the Top 10 for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, Bram quickly emerged as one of the game’s rising superstars.
Graduating from Mercyhurst in 2012, it was part of a fascinating year, one that saw Bram play alongside her sister Shelby for Canada’s U22/Developmental Team at the Nations Cup. In that same year, Bram would reach the pinnacle of gold at the IIHF Women’s Worlds, contributing towards Canada’s emotional victory against the United States in Burlington, Vermont.
That year would also see Bram be part of the legendary 2012 CWHL Draft Class, the greatest in league history. Taken eighth overall by the Brampton Thunder, Bram would call luminaries such as Jayna Hefford, Lori Dupuis, and Florence Schelling as teammates in that first season of CWHL hockey. Throughout, Bram continued to be part of a growing legacy of women that played at all three levels of Canada’s national women’s program.
Definitely, the chance to play for Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games represents the pinnacle for this highly accomplished player. Reflecting on the day that she received the news from head coach Laura Schuler (who competed for Canada’s inaugural team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games), there was a flood of emotion from Bram, attaining a dream that resulted in a flood of emotion,
“Instant tears, instant gratitude, instant relief. It was everything. I cannot even put the moment into words; there is absolutely nothing else like it.”
Undoubtedly, playing for Canada in the Olympic Winter Games is more than an affirmation of a tremendous career. Such a privilege is one that holds dual purpose. Not only is it the culmination of a lifelong dream, it also represents an inspiring tale of redemption.
Part of Canada’s Centralization for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Bram was not named to the final roster. In spite of such a heartbreak, Bram was a portrait of perseverance. Maintaining her friendly demeanor and admirable work ethic, qualities that have always made her a highly valued teammate, the four-year journey that followed was one where outstanding character was its hallmark.
Refusing to give up over these last four years, Bram’s ability to stay motivated and pursue her Olympic dream is definitely a source of inspiration for other aspiring players. With a journey that involved competing professionally in Sweden, capturing the Clarkson Cup with the Calgary Inferno, while gaining a spot with the Canadian national team for the IIHF Women’s Worlds, Bram navigated these waters with the destination providing a well-deserved reward,
“There were a lot of ups, and probably even more downs. To be that close to achieving your lifelong dream, but coming short is something that definitely isn’t easy. It took me a while to bounce back after Sochi, but when I decided Pyeongchang was the new goal, I put absolutely everything into it. It became my focus and I was lucky enough to have amazing support from my family, fiancé, and friends and I am feeling incredibly grateful that everything turned out the way it did.”
With such a proud moment in her career, it is only fitting that she is joined by Jocelyne Larocque on Canada’s roster, who grew up in the same hometown as Bram in Ste. Anne, Manitoba. Collegiately, their paths would cross in a unique manner, providing for a proud chapter in Manitoba’s hockey mythos as they were among three residents of Ste. Anne (each playing with different schools) at the 2009 Frozen Four. Of note, Larocque competed for head coach Shannon Miller (who served as Canada’s bench boss for the 1998 Winter Games) with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
Taking into account that Larocque attended Canada’s Centralization in the autumn of 2009, and was released before the final roster was named for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, her rise towards Olympic gold in 2014 was certainly a point of inspiration for Bram. Coincidentally, after Larocque was released from Centralization, she joined Bram as teammates at the 2010 MLP Cup, which saw Canada’s U22/Development Team capture gold in dominant fashion.
Their professional careers also involved a tinge of irony. Of note, August 16, 2014, would see the Thunder and Inferno make a trade, as Bram and Larocque were traded for each other. Larocque would become the last captain in the history of the Brampton Thunder, as the franchise relocated to the Toronto suburb of Markham in autumn 2017.
In addition, fellow Manitoban Brigitte Lacquette would call Bram a teammate on the Inferno, winning the Clarkson Cup during her first season of professional hockey. Also named to the roster, extending the proud province’s legacy of elite women’s hockey, which also includes Sami Jo Small and Jennifer Botterill, Lacquette was part of another career defining moment.
Earlier this season, this triptych of talent each shared in a monumental milestone. With a series of exhibition games against the United States taking place in a wide range of cities, from Quebec City all the way to San Jose on the Pacific Coast, there were notable stops along the way.
Of note, several contests took place on NHL ice, including the Xcel Energy Centre, home of the Minnesota Wild, plus Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers. There was also another stop in Prairie Canada that brought with it tremendous emotion: Bram, Larocque and Lacquette were jubilant in the chance to play at MTS Place, home of the Winnipeg Jets. With Canada enjoying a 2-0 victory, as Genevieve Lacasse earned the shutout, it was an opportunity to play in front of friends and family in a venue that truly accentuated their status as hockey heroes.
“It is so special. Growing up in the same town, Jocelyne was always the female athlete figure that I had to look up to. Although she was only a couple of years older than me, she always paved the way and took me under her wing. She is an amazing teammate, leader and most importantly friend, so being able to share this Olympic experience with her is something that I am so looking forward to!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Hockey Canada Images