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Hefford's experience helps Team Canada's road to gold

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Rizwaan Zahid, TSN.ca Staff
4/26/2014 12:19:36 PM
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On February 20, down 2-0 against the Americans with under four minutes to play, it looked as if the Canadian women's hockey team's dream of capturing their fourth straight Olympic gold medal had faded away.

Team Canada's experience though allowed them to overcome the late 2-0 deficit and make history beating the Americans 3-2 in overtime. However, the comeback that happened in less than 15 minutes of playing time took years of experience and preparation.

On the bench was Jayna Hefford. A member of every Canadian Olympic team since 1998, Hefford used all of that experience for the tense third period and overtime.

"With six, seven minutes left in the third, I thought 'it's not looking good', but that thought only lasted five seconds. Once we got that first one, I knew we'd be fine."

Hefford and Team Canada faced a big hurdle weeks before the historic gold medal game. Dan Church, their coach since 2012, unexpectedly resigned two months before the Olympics were to begin. Also, many veterans that were expected to carry a lot of the team's responsibilities were surprisingly not selected.

"With Dan, we tried to ask some questions to get some answers, but we really didn't find anything. It got to the point where we realized the decision was out of our hands."

Under new coach Kevin Dineen, the team spent ten days in Austria to regroup before they headed to Sochi. It was a time for rest and recuperation before the competition since every member of the team was exhausted both physically and mentally.

Despite the challenges, the Canadians put together a string of wins that led them to the gold medal game. And the team didn't need any extra motivation when they saw who was at the other end of the ice.

"There is no one you'd rather beat then the Americans. They're the best team outside of us. That's the team you want to play in any final," says Hefford.

Although the Canadians were down a pair of goals, that first tally gave them a lifeline. The second goal tied the game, creating emotions for even the veteran players that thought they had seen it all.

"When (Marie-Philip) Poulin got the tying goal, that's the most excited I've ever been for any moment of a game in any moment of my career," Hefford says. "But in the third period and overtime, you try to contain your emotions a little bit."

The team could let their emotions lose eight minutes into overtime when Poulin, who was the hero in Vancouver in 2010, scored again to give Canada yet another gold.

"It still feels very surreal how that game dramatically turned. It's such a great feeling and it's still hard to believe," says Hefford.

There's very little Hefford has not accomplished in her career but after a fourth gold medal, it would be tempting to go for a fifth in 2018.

"After Vancouver I didn't know if I was going to keep playing. I felt really good and I thought I had four more years. But now it's time for me to look at my options. Going out after a game like that would be perfect."

There is nothing more perfect than going out on top of the hockey world.

Jayna Hefford (Photo: Christopher Pike/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Christopher Pike/Getty Images)
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