During the 2013 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds in Heinola, Finland, Karly Heffernan became a national hockey hero. Having scored the gold-medal winning goal for the Canadian contingent, it was the third gold medal in program history. Although it was her only goal of the tournament, she scored it at the perfect time.
Said goal put the native of Sherwood Park, Alberta in the same rarified air among the likes of other gold-medal scoring heroes such as Paul Henderson, Sidney Crosby and Nancy Drolet. Heffernan’s goal quickly became national news.
While the transformation from hockey player to overnight celebrity was surreal, she always maintained a humble yet admirable demeanor. Although said goal feels like yesterday, it shall always stand as a treasured moment for her.
“Definitely the coolest moment of my career so far. It is hard to believe that it was already eight months ago. Being able to do that for my team was great. It is a phenomenal feeling and I could not have shared it with more amazing people.”
Encompassing the experience that comes with being a world champion, it is an ambition that she hopes to repeat in 2014. “Having one under my belt, I know what to expect. No other feeling compares like standing on the blueline with my teammates.”
As one of the more experienced players attending the August 2013 U18 training camp, she understands that she has the responsibility of a leadership role. “Yes, for sure, I try to take a leadership role. We are taking baby steps at this camp. My goal is to lead my team to an (intra-squad) series win at this camp.”
During the camp, Heffernan played for head coach Laura Schuler, a member of the Canadian contingent that competed at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. In addition, Darren Turcotte, a former competitor at the NHL level with the New York Rangers and Hartford Whalers was an assistant coach at the camp. The opportunity to learn from such accomplished players is one that she was grateful for.
“It is amazing. You learn something new every time and you do not take it for granted. You try to absorb everything and take every opportunity you can out of it.”
For Heffernan, the thrill of wearing Team Canada jersey for the first time in her young career was one that was shared with her teammates. Like all the other young women she shared the experience of teamwork with, the chance to represent one’s country is validation for the sacrifice and commitment needed to be among the nation’s elite.
“The first time you put on the jersey as part of a team, you feel the passion. It represents the hard work that all of the girls put in.”
Since 2011, Heffernan has competed for the Edge School in Alberta, which participates in JWHL competition. In her rookie season with Edge, she was named the Canadian Sport School Hockey League Rookie of the Year, while earning JWHL All-Star nods, respectively. In 2013, she would lead Edge to a gold medal at the inaugural Female World Sport School Challenge, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 61 games played, she has logged an impressive 75 points.
In autumn 2013, she will be joining the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy in Kelowna, British Columbia. Of note, the academy has produced talent such as Christine Bestland, Meghan Dufault, Halli Krzyzaniak and Brigette Lacquette. While the change to new scenery brings with it some adjustments, she is very excited about the opportunity to compete with the program.
“Definitely, there have been a lot of great players to come out of the program. I am taking the leap. It will be interesting to have new experiences with new coaches.”
Also donating her time with the Alberta Committee of Citizens and Disabilities, Heffernan has a coach that she has looked up to. Helping to shape her game and learn the values of responsibility and leadership, she recognized the impact of the following, “I have a coach, Bil LaForge, who helped me with developing my skills. He also taught me some great life lessons. I learned from him at the Mount Carmel Hockey Academy in Edmonton.”
While she discussed the best part of her game, she also shows great maturity in discussing areas to improve her game. “Seeing the whole ice and trying to develop plays (is the best part). Obviously, I have been putting my offensive game first and that needs to be coming to an end. The defensive game needs to improve.”
Having been named to the Canadian squad that shall compete in a three-game exhibition series versus the United States Under-18 team in Lake Placid, New York, it is an opportunity for Heffernan to stake her claim as one of Canada’s principal players. The experience she brings to the ice will make her a valued asset with Canada looking to build momentum heading into the next edition of the U18 Women’s Worlds.
photo by Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald