Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.
It’s hard to believe that Sarah Nurse made her debut with Canada’s women’s hockey team just six years ago, as she has ingrained herself within the squad and with Canadian fans.
Of course, athleticism is synonymous with the Nurse family. Sarah’s cousin, Kia, is a WNBA all-star and was a two-time NCAA champion with the University of Connecticut Huskies. Kia’s brother, Darnell, is coming off his sixth season with the Edmonton Oilers.
Sarah’s uncle, Richard, played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and her father, Roger, was a high-level lacrosse player in Canada.
Her aunt, Raquel, played basketball for Syracuse University. Raquel’s husband is Donovan McNabb, who played quarterback for 13 seasons in the NFL and was a six-time Pro Bowler.
Nurse played for the Stoney Creek Jr. Sabres near her hometown of Hamilton in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) from 2010 to 2013. In the 2010-11 season, she led Stoney Creek in scoring and was named to the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association all-star team. She recorded 35 goals in her final year, breaking the PWHL record for most in a season.
Nurse also won gold with Canada at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in 2013, picking up a shorthanded goal in a 7-0 win against Germany in the preliminary round. She also spent time with Canada’s development team, winning gold at the 2015 Nations Cup, where she had nine points in six games.
After her time in junior, Nurse spent four seasons at Wisconsin, reaching the Final Four every year. In her junior season, she was named WCHA Final Faceoff MVP, and a year later, she led the Badgers in scoring with 25 goals.
As a senior, she was an alternate captain for Wisconsin and became the 22nd player in program history to record 100 career points. She is 15th in Badgers’ all-time scoring with 42 goals and 130 points.
Nurse made her debut with the Canadian national team at the 2015 Four Nations Cup but didn’t record any points during the tournament. She spent parts of the next two years with the Canadian development team before returning to the senior squad in the fall of 2017 for a series against the United States. On Dec. 15, Nurse scored her first goal for Canada in a 3-1 win against the Americans.
Despite not having any experience at a world championship, Nurse was named to Canada’s roster for the 2018 Olympics.
“Her hockey sense is very good, her skating is excellent,” then-head coach Laura Schuler told the Toronto Star. “When you combine those two things, quickness and hockey sense, you can excel defensively on the penalty kill or offensively on the power play.”
Nurse scored the game-winner in Canada’s 2-1 victory over the Americans in the preliminary round at the PyeongChang Games. She and her Canadian teammates would go on to take home silver after losing 3-2 to the Americans in a shootout of the gold-medal game.
Following the Olympics, Nurse was drafted second overall by the Toronto Furies in the CWHL. She would finish second in both Toronto scoring and league rookie scoring and was named a finalist for CWHL Rookie of the Year. It would be her only season with the Furies as the CWHL ceased operations in 2019.
Nurse made her women’s worlds debut at the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship. She finished sixth in tournament scoring with two goals and eight points in seven games, including three points in the knockout stage. Canada would take home bronze after being upset by Finland in the semifinal.
After the CWHL folded, Nurse joined the PWHPA in an effort to help form a viable professional women’s hockey league in North America. She currently plays for Team Sonnet in the Toronto region.
In the Calgary leg of this year’s Dream Gap Tour, she picked up a goal and an assist in the championship game and recorded six points in five games.
In 2020, Nurse also participated in the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, helping Canada to a 2-1 win.
Last year, as a member of the PWHPA, Nurse was frustrated by the lack of support in women’s hockey for the Black Lives Matter movement. She reached out to the PWHPA and specifically to board member Liz Knox. In response, Knox resigned from her position on the board to allow Nurse to take her place.
"It's a blind spot we've had in women's hockey," Knox told ESPN. "Resources are important. Education is important. But I feel like we were missing a piece. If we want to set the standard for inclusion, there's a logical next step."
"What she did was a great act of allyship," Nurse told the Canadian Press. "I think she looked at the board and said, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity for us to make a change, have representation, bring in different experiences and ultimately diversify our board’ because it was a blind spot that we acknowledged.”
Nurse, who is biracial, spoke to ESPN about her experiences in hockey and how she hopes to change the landscape.
“There were many times I'd walk in with my family, and all eyes were on us and talk going around because 'the Black family is coming in,'" she said.
"If you walk into a hockey arena, it's always all white. I always joke, I can always find my parents in the stands because my dad is the only Black man in the entire arena. And that's something that I want to change. I want the arena to be a multicultural space and representative of what our society is now. In Canada, we call hockey our national sport. But it can't be our national sport if it's excluding a ton of our population."