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Sarah Nurse Was Canada's Breakout Star of Beijing

With an Olympic-record 18 points in Beijing, Sarah Nurse showed why she has become one of the biggest faces in women's hockey. In a way, the sky's the limit for the 27-year-old.
Sarah Nurse

Sarah Nurse was inescapable over the past two weeks. It seemed like every other commercial on Canadian television featured her in some way.

And for good reason. She was one of the best players in Beijing. 

When it was all said and done, Nurse skated away with her first Olympic gold medal and the all-time record for points in an Olympic tournament with 18, breaking the longstanding record from the legendary Hayley Wickenheiser set back in 2006.

It's incredible when you look at how it all started. Nurse began the tournament on Canada's third line, recording just an assist in a 12-1 win over Switzerland. An injury to Mélodie Daoust allowed for Nurse to get more playing time and by the third game against Russia, finally earning a spot on the top line full-time with Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianne Jenner against USA in the final game of the round robin. The trio worked so well that coach Troy Ryan couldn't dare to split them up, even with Daoust eventually returning back to the lineup.

Statistically, Nurse's performance was the best of her short international career. But the potential for her to be a difference-making was always there. 

Nurse was more of an energy player in Pyeongchang, recording a single goal in five games en route to a silver medal - not a huge output, but quite the time to make your senior national team debut. Nurse had a strong 2019 World Championship with eight points in seven games in a bronze medal effort, with Canada naming her as one of the top three players on the team.

She had a quieter performance in Calgary at the World Championship last summer, but for the first time in her women's national team career, she grabbed the coveted golden hardware. Through that, centralization and all the games in between, though, it was clear that if Canada was going to win gold in Beijing, the depth needed to be there. That meant Nurse was going to need to step it up. 

It's safe to say she did just that.

Nurse spent four years with the University of Wisconsin before joining Canada's centralization program as a depth player for 2017. She played a year with the Toronto Furies in 2018-19 before the league dissolved and joined the PWHPA for 2019-20, only for that to get shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurse hasn't played as much in her post-college days as one would have hoped for circumstances way outside of her control.

So in a way, the 27-year-old is only just getting started. And there are still many more great years to come.

There's no reason for Nurse to slow down just yet. For the first time ever, the IIHF will host the World Championship in an Olympic year, so Nurse and Co. could carry the momentum and try and double-dip this year. It's not entirely clear how Canada will approach this tournament - they could elect to focus on the youth to give the veterans a break after a challenging (perhaps more challenging than usual) four-year run. But if Nurse is there, momentum will certainly be on her side moving forward.

Nurse comes from an incredible sporting background. Her cousin, Kia Nurse, is a star with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. Another cousin, Darnell Nurse, plays with the Edmonton Oilers. Her uncle, Donovan McNabb, was a six-time Pro Bowler and played in the Super Bowl, among a host of other incredible NFL achievements.

But none of them can say they're an Olympic champion. Sarah Nurse is the only one. And if she can have it her way, she's got many more coming on the way.

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