Laurier Grads Soar is a ten-part series that features former Wilfrid Laurier University varsity athletes and student-leaders in the Athletics and Recreation Department and the success they have enjoyed since leaving Laurier. Written by award-winning journalist David Grossman, a different feature will be released each week over a nine-week span that will emphasize the role Athletics and Recreation played in helping them achieve success.Cheryl Pounder - Former Canadian National Women's Hockey Team Member
For Cheryl Pounder, everything is about passion and confidence.
It was back in high school in Mississauga, that Pounder became the youngest female to make Canada’s National Women’s ice hockey team. For a 17-year old, it was quite an impressive accomplishment.
Just two years later, while studying at Wilfrid Laurier University and with women’s hockey making its debut at the Winter Olympics, months of hype and being in the spotlight suddenly turned to tears for Pounder after learning she was not on the Canadian roster.
“At the time, it was devastating,” she recalled. “Part of me wanted to pack in hockey, but being cut turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. It made me accountable for my actions and I chose to dig in, work harder and not to give up.”
Graduating with academic honors and a Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology, Pounder also worked harder on the ice, returned to the National team, the international stage and became one of the premier female hockey players in Canadian history.
Check out just a few of her accomplishments: a two-time Olympic gold medallist, a member of six World championship teams, seven Nation’s Cup winners and a three-time all-star in the Ontario university game.
“I knew the passion was there to play hockey - and play well,” said Pounder, who was a key member of the Laurier squad that won the first Ontario University Athletics league championship in that sport. “The real success was having a positive state of mind, being effective and working with the people around me, the camaraderie and teamwork.”
Growing up playing baseball, Pounder can thank her two older brothers for convincing her to put away the cleats and switch to skates. They introduced her to road hockey – and she was the goalkeeper.
“My parents were open minded, back then a girl playing a sport that only boys played – and I got to love the game,” she recalled. “I even remember telling my grandmother back then that one day I would be at the Olympics playing hockey.”
Realizing goalie pads were not for her, Pounder favoured the game outside of the crease and took on a stellar role playing defence and keeping the opposing team away from scoring goals.
Her competitive days of the game now a thing of the past, Pounder is still associated with hockey. A mother of two girls, and instructing them on how to play the game, Pounder is also conducting an all-girls hockey school called “Strictly Hockey”. You’ll see her as a TV analyst and at dozens of speaking engagements speaking on topics ranging from leadership to, yes, hockey.
“I share my journey, the good and bad times, the challenges and how we can accomplish so much more by doing things for each other,” said Pounder, who was Laurier’s top female athlete and President’s award winner in 1998. Little did Pounder know back then that seven years later, she would return to her alma mater and be inducted to the prestigious Golden Hawk Hall of Fame.
“As a young person, I made my mind up to pursue athletics as a career,” she said. “Wasn’t sure if it would be in fitness, medicine, but somewhere in the health field and linked to sports. From time to time, I look back at the emotional journey and fulfilling a dream. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you’re successful.”
Ending up at Laurier was no fluke for Pounder, who came from a family of hockey fans, including her grandfather who was general manager of the Montreal Junior Canadiens.
“I chose Laurier because of its reputation for a great education,” she said. “When I visited for the first time, the university was small and had a cozy feeling. I felt a connection and it was like home. I also appreciated that Laurier was very supportive of my athletic goals.”Previous FeaturesWeek 1 - Steve Griggs - Chief Executive Officer and President, Tampa Bay LightningWeek 2 - Sophie Kotsopoulos - Senior Director of Integrated Marketing, National Hockey LeagueWeek 3 - Mike McKenna - Former Director, Telecom, Media and Technology Investment BankingWeek 4 - Nicole Lee - Director of Integrated Marketing, National Hockey LeagueWeek 5 - Mike Bartlett - Executive Director, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Foundation
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