Becky Kellar is a four-time Olympian medalist with Canada’s national team. She chats with host Becky Kellar about how to adapt and change to stay relevant at the highest level.
Kellar also talks about coming back twice after the birth of her sons, how she helped make this process easier for other women, and how teammates and coaches made the journey more memorable.
A full transcription of the podcast can be found below.
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Music/Man’s Voice: Welcome to Sami Jo’s Podcast. The show that is all about gaining insights from top performers as they share what made their teams successful and translate those ideas into your everyday lives and businesses.
Here is your host, 3 time Olympian, professional speaker, author and entrepreneur ...Sami Jo Small.
Welcome to episode #7 of Sami Jo’s podcast where I interview 4 time Olympian and 3 time Olympic gold medallist, Becky Kellar.
From Hagersville, ON, Becky began her Olympic journey playing in the first ever women’s Olympic Hockey tournament in Nagano and ended it 4 Olympics later, in Vancouver, sharing in her gold medal victory with her two sons on the ice along side her in front of the home crowd.
One of the smartest defencemen I played alongside, her hockey iq allowed her to be consistent and make good decisions while she logged a ton of ice time. She was always the first person back in the defensive zone, someone you could rely on in all situations and someone who epitomized being a great teammate.
A graduate of Brown University, she was always a calming presence, funny, humble and always wiling to sit down for a chat, she never sought the limelight but was the unheralded backbone of Canada’s Olympic dominance on the world stage for a couple decades.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Becky Kellar.
Sami Jo: Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional indigenous owners of country throughout Canada and pay my respect to them, their culture and their elders past, present and future.
Sami Jo: Welcome Becky.
Becky: Thank you.
Sami Jo: I really appreciate you making the time. You're really that one of the first people that I got to know when I joined the National Team and I feel like not really much has changed. We could chat for hours.
Becky: Yeah, we definitely could. And I feel like you, Jen Botterill I being the three, you know, three rookies together that year definitely had lots of time together and it's been a long time now.
Sami Jo: I remember actually writing I think we met because we rode the train. Do you remember riding the train into practice every day in Calgary, and then we had to walk across to McMahon stadium. I feel like that's really the first time that I got to know, I saw you and Tammy Shewchuck on that train. I think I train with them.
Becky: Yes, you did. And you know what? It's funny because, I mean, I have some funny memories of riding on that C train, which was never a big deal. And we were only a 10 minute walk to the rink, except when you got to those bitter cold days. In Calgary, which there was a couple I hadn't anticipated and that 10 minute walk by the time I got to the arena.
Sami Jo: It was so cold and it was so open and the wind just came right through. I also remember you telling me after about me riding the train for about two weeks saying I think the ticket master came through. I didn't know you had to buy tickets. There was there was like no turn-gate to get into. And you're like, no, you need a ticket, Sami.
Becky: Well, you know, the funny story behind this was I rode every day with Tammy. And there is a free corridor there was at the time a free corridor on that train. We just weren't in it. We weren't on in free zone. So and we knew that Tammy and I but we decided Tammy says to me, you know what we're going to get on the train. We're going to ride for free. And if ever we get pulled over, we'll just play dumb. So I'm not so good at doing that stuff on my feet. But sure enough...
Sami Jo: She's really good at it though.
Becky: Yeah, it was fantastic. So sure enough, one day the guy comes by, where's your ticket? And you know, Tammy, who is his English as you and a ticket. You need a ticket. And she totally makes this French accent. Oh, I do not we are not from here. Well, of course he is from Montreal. So when she pulls out her ID because the guy asked for ID shirt off. She's from Montreal. So the guy buys the fake accent. I don't say a word because I'm just dying inside. Like we're breaking the law. So I hand him my Ontario driver's license and I don't say a thing and the guy lets us off. Now you're not in the free zone you have to pay. So we probably got through at least half the season before we paid for a ticket. So then of course we meet you and we're like, you gotta pay Sami, I mean, what are you doing?
Sami Jo: As if you guys totally had this down pat, right.
Becky: Yeah, luckily, we did. But I'm telling you that day Tammy was so cool as a cucumber. And when she pulled out that fake French accent, I was pretty amazed.
Sami Jo: That really is her superpower is her ability to think quickly on her feet. And that just showed right there.
Becky: Yeah, I was like, Ah, yeah. She got us out of it.
Sami Jo: My face would have gone so red. I would have been the same as you I would have been so embarrassed. And yeah, probably overpaid, paid for everybody on the train.
Sami Jo: I feel like we're really similar that that way. I think I always gravitated towards your humour. I think your quirkiness; I think it was something that probably is very similar to mine. But you’re also so kind, and really your humility, you never really wanted to be the star of the show. But yet you had this incredible talent. And I'm curious if that kind of came from your parents growing up, or how that how that was instilled in you, and how you, where you got these incredible traits from? I mean, your Dad's gonna say that to jokes came from him. I know it, but.
Becky: Jokes definitely, definitely came from my Dad. But no, I think we all get that from our parents, right. And our parents keep us grounded. And you know, if there ever there's a time where you're getting a little too big for your britches, I'm pretty sure your parents are the ones to bring you back down to earth. And, and by the same token, they're the ones to pump you up. Right, I feel like they always kind of kept you in that middle ground where it's like, if you're not feeling so great about yourself, they help give you that confidence. But if you start to get a little too big, like I said too big for your britches, they bring you back down to earth pretty quickly. So yeah, I would say that was sort of how I was brought up and you know, when you start to think maybe you're the greatest hockey player of all time, the’ll let you know.
Sami Jo: I can just imagine your Dad would letting you know.
Becky: Well, I remember the first time I tried out for Team Ontario and we really had no idea what was out there, especially at the time. And I remember my dad was just kind of like, Alright, well, you know, you're gonna see a lot more hockey players than you've ever seen in your little small world. So, you know, like, Don't get too overly excited that not to say that he wasn't giving me confidence, but also giving me a bit of reality check of you know, we don't know what's out there and yeah, so you don't know there's always somebody out there that's better, right?
Sami Jo: Well, and it's, you know, I feel like you are probably grounded because they both seem like very grounded people with a great sense of humour. So, obviously growing up in Hagersville from a small town, how did you find hockey? Or did hockey find you? And what was sort of the path from there to Brown eventually?
Becky: Yeah. So I mean, again, back when we started the path to hockey was a little different than I think it is for the kids now.
Sami Jo: I mean this is just a couple years ago, right? We're still super young, you and I.
Becky: Super young. This wouldn't have been in the 80s. So ringette started in Hagersville. And so my parents signed me up and largely because they put me in sort of the traditional girls sports they put me in gymnastics and figure skating and I just, it wasn't for me, and I wasn't happy and they could see that so ringette came and they put me in and I loved it. But the funny story is my brother was playing hockey, I was playing ringette they were under the same minor Hockey Association umbrella. But my dad was doing a lot of work helping me and bring up and my brother got mad at one point, he said, Oh, you never do anything for me. You know you're always doing it's like a sibling, a sibling. You're always doing stuff for her. Never for me. So my dad decided to become convener of minor hockey in Hagersville. So he'd be working on behalf of both of us. Well, the funny thing is as convener we were in Glenbrook, which is just outside of Hamilton, my brother was playing. So my dad's talking to the convener of their minor hockey, who says, Oh, you have a daughter, we have girls hockey. So the funny story is that my Dad trying to do more for my brother wound up getting me involved in hockey, which was a lot more for me.
Sami Jo: It was the Becky show for your brother, probably all the way through right
Becky: A little bit where I'm sure he just like what just happened here. But that's sort of how I got connected with hockey. So I played hockey and growing up until I went away to Brown. And with Brown, my parents were just looking for, you know, something to do in the summer and they saw this hockey camp that I could go to in Michigan. So I thought, well, this would be fun. It'll be different. And, you know, we'll make it a little vacation. And we'll go to this hockey camp. And the kind of long story short, the guy who ran it, his daughter was at Brown and so he brought in the scouts from Brown, Princeton and Cornell to that camp, a couple of the coaches were helping with the camp. And so they kind of scouted me there. And that's sort of how the ball got rolling and how I wound up at Brown. So it was kind of fluky, because again, it was different, like our tournaments weren't scouted like they are now. And so I think, had I not had that opportunity, it probably would have wound up on a different path.
Sami Jo: But you would have been the first person that I would have known. I mean, I guess Vicky and Schuler from the National Team had gone down to the States prior to you. But you were really the next person, I would say you're kind of part of that first wave when it was the unknown. Nobody really knew what school is like down there. Brown obviously had a very strong team. Who else did you play with and you played under Digit Murphy? Right? Yeah. What was it like playing under Digit and who were the other strong players, or maybe players that we would know that you played with?
Becky: So first of all, I loved it. Like she, she's a personality, and she just, she loves it. And she had a passion for it. And so we had a lot of fun. And she but she was hard on us, right? She held us accountable. And I mean, I've never had a coach get mad and skate us like her, no male coach ever note like she would be...
Sami Jo: I could only imagine her just losing it,
Becky: Just losing it and the funny story is, after we graduated the one night, she'd come back from a road trip with the next sort of group of girls and they had a horrible road trip. And the NCAA rule was you couldn't skate more than twice in a day. And they'd already had a pregame skate in the game. So she brought them back from this road trip, made them sit in the go back into the dressing room, put their gear back on all wet and cold. It had been under the bus and sit there and wait for one minute past midnight, and then she bag skated them and sent them home. So she never did that to us. But that's sort of...
Sami Jo: You knew that was looming that could have been, well, I don't think I've ever met anybody as passionate about coaching as Digit. I can just imagine that she would have, you know, probably got to know each player really well and really got the most from each player at Brown, I'm sure.
Becky: Yeah, yeah and yeah, and it was just, you know, it was a fun environment to be in and you could feel that passion. I mean, there was times where she come into the dressing room still pumped up for a game we actually kicked her out of the room. Once we're like did you can actually make us nervous. You're so like, she was jumping. He was so excited. We're like Dig, get out. But yeah, she was awesome. I played a Brown with Katie King. So and as you would know, because Katie played from ‘97 to 2006 to three Olympics with Team USA and Tara Mounsey. was a freshman when I was a senior and she was on the ‘98 & ‘02 Olympic team until her knees she had some other knee injury issues that I think pretty much forced her out of the game because she was an amazing hockey players. So those would have been the two sort of big names that went on to play. In my four years there nobody else that was that made the Canadian National Team but yeah, those two from the US.
Sami Jo: Mounsey I think even scored in the ‘98 Olympic final, if I'm not mistaken. I'm not sure if she did or not. But she was an incredible player. I remember playing against her. And Katie King, I get asked all the time, who is the player that you're most scared of? And she just came down, barrelling down the wing, and we just skate wide around the defenseman and bring herself and the defenseman into me every time. And she had this ability to go high or go low, you never knew. And she just, she scared me every time she was coming down the ice, she was a really good player. But I knew you're friends with her off the ice. So you know I always had some respect for her.
Becky: Oh, listen, I mean, I went harder against her because I knew what she could bring. And she and I had some battles. And I remember one game in particular, like I'm going hard against her, I'm trying to shut her down. And I'm pretty sure she told me to F off. And while we were still great friends off the ice, like nothing ever changed off the ice. But it's funny because back in that era, like you said, I was one of the only ones that went to school in the States. So there was no familiarity, as you may remember, Americans, and to a point where I actually feel like we didn't want to be caught saying hi to each other, like in the lobby of the hotel or so we would like I remember being on the elevator once with her and it's like, full of some of her teammates, some of my teammates, and we're both like, Hey, hey, like we're, we don't want we didn't want we didn't want our teammates to see us saying hi, like, Hey, buddy, like, I wouldn't give her a hug. I wouldn't act friendly with her. So it was it was kind of funny, right?
Sami Jo: Well and I think that really changed the landscape for Canada, U.S. hockey, the rivalry as you probably get asked all about all about in the media all the time. It was different back then, because we didn't know them. They didn't play on our club teams. You know, some had some familiarity, but I would say you're the really the only one that knew anybody. And if I remember correctly, at that time, sort of ‘98 to 2002, they got in more trouble for saying hi or, you know, being caught with us. And then I think the tides reversed a little bit on that. But I can remember walking down the hallway and seeing an American not knowing really who they were just thinking they're with another person in that in the hotel and saying hi. And some of them like powering away thinking like who's looking at me right now. And yeah, it was it was strange environment because you couldn't even look up online to see who these people were you couldn't follow them. You couldn't. You couldn't be friends with them, despite the fact that they had the exact same lives as us. That's what was strange to me about the whole thing.
Becky: It was and when I was pregnant and going to have Owen, and I remember my family doctor was like, Do you know any other women who have done this? And you know, because I was planning my comeback? And I said, Well, yeah, there's a girl on the US team that she's, you know, Jenny Potter, she's had a baby and come back and he was all over me. You need to reach out to her. You should reach out to her. I'm like, no way. I am not talking to her about this.
Sami Jo: I do not know her, not that way.
Becky: Oh, yeah. So which was which is kind of funny, because in all reality, I mean, I'm closely watching what she's done and how she's handled this and the stories I hear about how she trains and but yeah, I wasn't gonna reach out to her.
That's funny. Had it been in today's era, that would have been the first person you probably would have looked to. But yeah, I mean, for all I know, she could have been on the team I play on, you know outside of the Olympic team. So yeah, so it's changed lives of a lot of people. It's much more what you would think of when you think back to like the ‘72 Summit Series.
Sami Jo: Which were so different and so strange. They really were they strange entities.
Becky: Yeah. Like, we don't know them. They don't know us and that's just how it is. And so you build this hatred, because there's nothing to balance it out. There's no well, I kind of know them. So they're actually pretty good person. They didn’t want to know that right? And they didn't want to know that it was more fun to just hate each other.
Sami Jo: So certainly did make it fun back then. That's for sure. You talked about earlier about your first team Ontario camp. And you if I'm correct, you didn't make it right that first time. No. So how did you go from there? That would have been prior to your Brown experience. How do you go from there to getting scouted for the National Team?
Becky: Well to start with I was a forward then so I became a defenseman. And that was actually Digit who did that who made sure you didn't become a D until university? Yeah, and it was actually halfway through my third year. She had troops who had fallen through and so she wound up in a real shortage of D and I was always more defensively minded forward, which I would attribute to my very brief stint of time on Team Ontario, the next time through, I did make it playing with Ken Dufton often and he was the first coach, it really taught us sort of the defensive responsibility as a forward. And I really took that to heart because I mean, he had a real impact on me, too, in that brief period of time because he knew hockey so well, right. So you're all of a sudden you get this coach where you're like, Man, this guy knows everything. And so I became much more defensivly oriented. And I think she saw that and she saw that I could, I had the like, the transitional skating, some forwards don't necessarily have the backwards skating and right so I had that I was defensive minded. And so she asked me to go back and play D to help fill this gap. And the funny thing is, I remember thinking, this is going to kill my opportunity for Team Canada, I'm not a defenseman but wound up doing it largely because of the whole math in the equation, which is I have three lines, and I have 3d. So I'm like, Oh, that's a lot of ice time. So that's sort of how I wound up wound up back there in the first Team Canada camp I ever went to, funny because again, it was different. You just submitted a form saying, hey, I want to come to this camp for the ‘98 Olympic team.
Sami Jo: You guys had regional camps, right? Is that right?
Becky: We have regional camps. And so I had submitted a form to go to this regional camp, she had submitted one on my behalf as well, I put down for myself as a forward and she put down for me as a D. And when I got to camp, they have the D. I honestly, look back and I think I didn't ever have the skill set, I think to make it as a forward meaning. I don't think I had the speed, the straight ahead speed. I had the backwards and the agility and whatever to be a D but I don't think I had this. So you know, again, looking back, I think sometimes coaches see stuff in you that you don't necessarily see in yourself. Right. So probably the best thing that ever happened for me.
Sami Jo: What's so interesting about that is most defenseman that were forwards at some point in their lives are the ones that join the play are sort of the rushing offensive defenseman, whereas I would have never assumed that about you because you were sort of a goalies best friend type of defenseman the stay at home defenseman. The one that is the last one out of the zone and that's why it was interesting that you know, you didn't see that in yourself prior to Ken seeing that.
Becky: Actually the funny the funny thing with that is I think, you know, when I was first converted to D, I was more like that and you should see me play men's like now Sami, like I'm up ice all the time.
Sami Jo: It’s only because you don't like back-checking now.
Becky: I played one of those NHL alumni games. Paul Coffey was my D partner. And I'm like, you're staying back. I rushed in every time I got the puck and he stayed back, which is pretty funny. But no. And the reason that I kind of took to that role was the ‘97 World Championships was in Kitchener. So I wasn't on that team. I was still at school, but close enough for my parents to go, drive down and watch. And so my parents went to a couple games and Katie King was on that team and my parents become very good friends with the Kings. So they went to a bunch of those games. And I remember my Dad calling me and saying, you can make that team like you're good enough to make that team. But he said, here's where I see they have a gap right now. He said they have a lot of offensive defenseman. He said, I really think that there's room on that team for someone who's willing to stay back and play that role. That's and so I kind of took that to heart and went Yeah, and I got into my first camp and I realized, you know, Cassie and Heaney and Diduck and Thérèse Brisson, I mean, that's the core of their DNA. They're all very offensive. So I thought, yeah, you know what, there's something to this if I can make the team and if I play this role, see “the role I played”, there you go.
Sami Jo: The role I play I love it. You got it right in there. And I'm sure how in men’s league your fitness would be so much higher than most of the guys you're playing with. So they're probably like yeah, Becky, you take it you go.
Becky: I don't know if it is anymore, but and you know what, it's not even men's league. It's more shinny that I play so it's just like the gonna end 10-9, then who cares? Give up a goal. So yeah, goalies maybe they don't love me as much because I cut in front of the net with the plaque like all sorts of crazy stuff.
Sami Jo: You're that person. You're that person now.
Becky: Yeah, it's fun. Not to be safe anymore. I just go in and play and have fun but yeah, you know what, and he was right. And it worked. And as it turned out, there was a need at the time for some defensive defenseman and which made paved the way for me and Pounder and Sostorics and some of some of us to come in and play that style that allowed some of the other ones like Heaney and to do what they do best.
Sami Jo: Mm hmm. Yeah, you. I feel like in the era of sort of 2000 to 2006. We did have a lot of defensive defenseman, but I think it combated really well the Americans potent offense because it was noticeable in ‘98. Their power play was so incredible and without you guys being in that role, we would have never been so successful because we needed that because they were so good in that area. But I'm going to backtrack a little bit. You talked a little bit about Ken, with Team Ontario, when you came out of Brown after the ‘98 Olympics, is that the first time you joined the Aeros at that point?
Becky: Yeah, it is. So Ken had actually kept in touch through my four years. And it's funny because he made a comment once about I don't do any recruiting. And I'm like, Can you call me for four years when I was at Brown? What do you call that? Just keeping in touch?
Sami Jo: Just being in touch just being friendly?
Becky: Well, and as you may know, Ken had started the first junior team, right. So that year after we all played for him on the Team Ontario, he had a whole core load of cohort of girls on that team that stayed to play on his junior Aeros team. And then he also had his senior Aeros team. So that kind of started the whole Junior thing, too. And I was one of the few that didn't stick around for that, because I had already made my commitment to go to Brown. So he kept in touch. And so my intention was that as soon as I was done, my four years, I was going to come back and play for him. So changed a little because I came back and meet the ’98 Olympic teams. So I did that. And then came back, and certainly wasn't what I had thought of as my plan. I figured I needed to be back in Canada and playing for two or three years. And then I would make my way into the National Team system. So it happened a little sooner than I had thought.
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Sami Jo: A little quicker than you anticipated. But you did get to play under Ken with the Toronto Aeros and playing in that system. I know for me, when I joined the team, it was really the first real what I would say professional at the time where the expectations were really high. What do you think about that team made the Toronto Aeros organization so successful?
Becky: Well, Ken for a start, I mean, you start with a coach of that calibre, and it brings in players of a high calibre, right? Like, I remember people used to get upset about the fact that you know, the word was on the street, if you want to make Team Canada, you need to play for Ken. And not that that was necessarily true, but you really did increase your chances. Because he turned you into a player, right and teach you how to play the game. So I think, you know, that's a start. And then he had surrounded himself, I think with some really good people, big guy, Colin Mackenzie being one. So that you know, and then the players, the players that he had, I mean, it really was a huge chunk of Team Canada at one point in time, right. And I think while there was myself and Pounder and Heaney so you have half team Canada's defense on one team, and then you came over now we got one of the goalies and, you know, we've got a bunch of the forwards. And so I think, you know, it really would be a professional environment when you've got that many players who are treating it professionally because it was it was our job. So yeah, and then you just start to learn how to win and you set the expectation that you win. And, you know, winning can be a learned and learned thing. And I think we really, we knew how to do it. And we expected to do it.
Sami Jo: It was certainly a dynasty, you know, a different environment, I think than some of the other teams that I played on where girls came from so far to play that we didn't really hang out that much. I mean, there girls were traveling for an hour and a half to be there. It was it was an exciting time to be on the ice with the girls and I loved my teammates, but it really was a different team that, to me just garnered respect amongst the players. Everybody was working so hard and sacrificing so much to be there. But it was you know, it was a different team. And we had a dynasty we were very successful. But you made the choice of when you're playing in the CWHL to go from the Toronto Aeros, one of the top teams in women's hockey at the time, to the Burlington Barracudas. So I guess I want to know how your role changed. And what you learned about yourself in that whole process of going to this now suddenly the underdog team?
Becky: Yeah, so well, to start when I left the Aeros actually went to Oakville because it was still the NWHL.
Sami Jo: Oh, right. Yes. So Oakville became Burlington, is that correct?
Becky: And Oakville became basically became Burlington when it when it came back, from the CWHL who and the decision was solely based on I live in Burlington, and I'm just about to have my first child. So do I really want to be traveling all the way out to North York four or five times a week, leaving a baby at home. And so that was largely the decision otherwise, I probably would have just stayed where I was. I mean, winning is fun. It's tough. It's a little bit different going to a team where you're most likely going to lose every night. And you know what, we had some successes, but definitely we were outmatched on paper for sure. And that makes it a struggle. But we have Pat Conklin as a coach and he was fantastic. Stick to and really built a team around what our skill level was. So it was a much different system, it was more of a chip it out, dump it in and play for your limited chances, right? If you're going to get only five chances in a game, let's try to make them good ones. And so it was a little bit different in terms of the way we played, but we had to. And the funny thing with Pat is he, I had known him, he came on board to coach us because our coach had quit and it we were a little bit up in the air. And so he came on board to coach us, and then has since coached for many years as my assistant coach coaching my kid’s teams.
Sami Jo: Oh, no way. That's interesting.
Becky: Yeah. And it's been awesome, because I mean, it's great for the kids, but really, for me, starting out coaching, and I've got this mentor who I can throw things off of, or he can take over practice every once in a while and I can go Okay, like, let's learn from how he does things.
Sami Jo: So, did he have high expectations for you as a leader in that situation? You know, did it help you grow as a player being there?
Becky: Um, yeah, I mean, it did because a lot you go from the Aeros where, Hey, you got three National Team defenseman, like you can spread things out and to that team where I was the only player on the entire team that was even in this Team Canada program. So I mean, totally different expectations. And as you are well aware, when the CWHL first had come back up and started, it was it was tough. Like we didn't have many players on our team. And at one point in time, I think we only had me and maybe one other person that were actual defenseman we had forwards coming back to help with whatever. So I remember coming off a shift at the end of the game, the one game there's about six minutes left on the clock, and I'm coming off and Pat said to me, are you okay to stay on? And I go, Yeah, and I turned to go back out for the face off and he yells out for the rest of the game. I did a six minute shift. And it's funny because I'm watching the NHL and when guys shifts get long they start to put the counter up now and it's like disguise how to two minutes off. Oh my god, I'm like, Yeah, I took a six minute shift. I was in good shape that year.
Sami Jo: I do remember playing against you and you're rushing the puck more than I would have ever seen with Team Canada. And you know, coming down the wing and like two defenseman hanging off you a forward hanging off you, you trying to get around them just kind of backhand shovelling the puck towards me, us, you know, probably getting a good shot, good opportunity way of starting the breakout. And then having two three passes, and you're the first person back on defense back on the other side, which is like where did Becky even come from? How did she get there? And you probably never just went off. You probably just kept going and going and going.
Becky: Yeah, there's some adrenaline. Well, I learned pretty quickly when you go into a game that's 20 minute periods, stop time floods in between like a real game and you only have three D. That's when you don't rush the puck. When you have four D you do. We played Montreal to one night and we had three D and in the first period I took off a bunch of times up ice and I was like halfway through the first and I'm like I'm done. Like I don't know if I can finish this game like that.
Sami Jo: Who did they have for defenseman. Did you guys have Kim McCulloch was she a defenseman at the time
Becky: We had Kim in the first year.
Sami Jo: Moulson, Shannon Moulson?
Becky: We didn't have her the first year. Okay, we did. But that was like the third year I think. Okay, yeah. Oh, yeah. And I'd have to go back and actually look at the there wasn't there wasn't many people just even bodies to go around. There just wasn't many bodies. Yeah, that first year which is funny, because that's the growing pains of it. And yet it was so fun. Right? Nobody ever complains about getting too much ice time really great.
Sami Jo: I think one of the best things that happened to me in the Team Canada program was getting to play at Stanford where we nobody goes to California to play hockey, let's be honest, and it was just fun. It was just you know, there's no scouts in the stands. Some days we won some days we lost and I think it kind of made me allowed me to grow in obscurity and that's probably what it was like for you got to be put in all these different roles that it was like alright, you know, I can't care what the scouts in the stands are doing because I got to play D I got to pay forward. I got to play power play penalty kill.
Becky: Yeah and for someone like me, it's like you're quarterbacking the power play which I mean, again with the Aeros I would have gotten lots of power play time, but he would have been Heaney the quarterback of the power play the first unit and whatever. So and with Team Canada, and largely it was penalty kill so to be on a team where it's like, you're gonna be our focal point. You know, on D for the powerplay, was kind of funny.
Sami Jo: The Becky Kellar special I remember coming across the blue line, taking a wrist shot through the man that's blocking the puck, so I couldn't hear it. And every I want to say like 90% of the goals you scored on me. Were these wrister flubbers that came in from the point that I wouldn't have heard and it's like all of a sudden there's a shot and it's in the net and where that even come from but you had this knack of being so quiet about what you're doing.
Becky: Well, when you don't have a blistering shot, you got to find something sneaky. So you just sneak it in there, right? Hope nobody notices. I don't know,
Sami Jo: Sneaky Becky Kellar I guess.
Becky: But you know, the beauty of that team was nobody else was in the Team Canada program. So you didn't have any of the sort of the, you know, sometimes you had a little bit of jealousy with the Aeros or that, you know, a little animosity, because it's like, ultimately, we're gonna go to Team Canada camp, we're going to battle against each other. And I got to the team and Burlington and nobody else was even in the program, nobody else. And so they're all just really excited I found for me and happy for me. And they'd asked me how was camp like, tell us all about it. And so it was really a fun environment to be in just from that side of things, too. And they were just great girls. And the funny thing is, the difference was, I mean, I had two kids, while I was kind of doing all of this, so when hockey ended, I went home, but every time they the team hung out together a lot and had that been 10 years earlier, they would have been right in there with them. But they always invited me even though they knew I was gonna say no, I got to go home. You got the husband, I got kids. Yeah. And but they always did and which I appreciated because, you know, they really were a great group. And
Sami Jo: I think you can appreciate this I lined up the other day in rec hockey in Jana Harrigan's four on four. And I lined up against Lindsey Vine playing forward and me playing. And I was like, wow, this girl is good. Who is this girl? Anyways, former Burlington Barracuda stalwart with your team that I feel like she went to ended up going to some camps and stuff but so good. So many of those players that played in Burlington are still playing four on four hockey, which is awesome.
Becky: They still love it. Yeah. Because I think and yeah, and it's funny, because Lindsey Vine, she was I mean, she was a great feisty player. But I would hear from you guys. I go to camp and people be like, That girl is the worst trash talker in the league. I'd say. No, she can't be.
Sami Jo: She's just so sweet and so nice.
Becky: Oh, petite. And no, it can't be her. As it turns out, oh, yeah. Like she would just be vicious in your game?
Sami Jo: Oh, you seem to have frozen.
Becky: I had no idea. I got to know her as a teammate.
Sami Jo: Funny, that's really funny. But well, you certainly grew as a person in Burlington. And you went on to a four time Olympian, you managed to stay on the National Team for 12-16 years, something like that. Which is which is so unheard of, especially for somebody in your position. Where I feel like the D, we're sort of constantly being rotated in the National Team, but they're you were always they're always making the team. So I guess from your perspective, how did you manage to kind of evolve your game to fit into the different teams? And how did your role change at the various different Olympics?
Becky: Well, I think for the most part, it really was the defensive side of things and the defensive role. And they needed that initially, when I came in, the tough time was in 2010, because Mel was really changing the team, and she was making more into what hockey is now. And so she wanted us to be more composed with the puck, and she wanted us to jump in and be the fourth point in rush in. All the things you see now, right when you watch the NHL, you know, it used to be off the glass and Oh, hey, that's a great play. And all of a sudden, she was changing it in us. And it was tough, especially when you're at the end of your career. And, you know, this has made you successful for this many years. And now you got to change it. So 2010 was tough, because but it was either do it or don't do it and you don't make the team so there was really no choice in the matter. But I remember going into that year, we had a pre-Olympic tournament in Vancouver at GM place. So this is a big one, right? Because you want to you want to play there and you want to be able to play the big game there. And I did not play in the finals of that tournament against the US. And I mean, we had an abundance of players at the time right because we were still in tryout so everyone was rotating through sitting but this time she was sitting me for a reason and she said it's my puck possession has to get better and so she gave me a couple of these reasons and so I go back to the hotel and I get my phone I call my husband and like I'm I'm in tears I’m not playing.
Sami Jo: Well you always read into everything right as a National Team member you're reading into who's playing who's not playing everything? Yeah.
Becky: Well I'm when she gives you a reason that's not a negative reason, then you for sure read into it and I so I said to him, I'm not playing he asked why I said well, because you know, puck management has to get better. He goes, Well what does that mean? I'm like, I have no idea. So and I just forget better. Oh, yeah, the phone goes silent for a minute and he's like, don't you think you need to find out like you need to go to her you need to sit down. You need to make her show you video and show you what it is you're doing wrong, so you can correct it. So he will still say if he was sitting here right now, he'd be like, I'm the reason you made the 2010 Olympic team. And he's probably right. I hope he doesn't watch this. He’s probably right. So I, when we got back to Calgary, I went in and I said, listen Mel, I don't really know, you know what it is? You mean? And so I would meet with her literally every two weeks, every couple weeks touch base, how am I doing? Show me video? How am I doing? Right? So there was sort of that accountability on both sides of it. And just to make myself get better at something that and you know, it's tough again, because I know, this is my last year, like I know, I'm retiring after this year. So to have to make that big of an adjustment at that time in your career is, is a challenge. But I mean, I guess athletes do it all the time, right? Because they have to.
Sami Jo: And I think another big adjustment too was suddenly there is no Cheryl Pounder around, right? You had you had not only played with her for a long time, but she has a really good friend of yours. And she talked about in her interview about really being apart from a lot of the drama because she was around you. And you know, you guys really didn't know what was going on most of the time, you're kind of in your own world doing your own thing. And so that must have been different too, you know, you had had this relationship that was so integral to really to your success as an athlete, and then that's gone. So maybe talk a little bit about playing with Cheryl, what that was like speaking of high and hard off the glass, and then how that changed and how you had to change that relationship.
Becky: Yeah, for sure. So aside from ‘98, which was the only other year that I had not played with Cheryl, she was on that team ’99 and on, we'd come into camp, and at the start of the year, and they put us with different D partner, different D partner, different D partner, but ultimately, every single year that put us back together. And I think because we were such good friends off the ice that we could always talk what went wrong, you know, I didn't hear you What were you thinking like, and always in a really respectful way. And so I feel like we played together really well because of that. And we enjoyed playing together. And so yeah, it was a bit of a pain, and just even off ice. You're right. Like we were blissfully ignorant. So often, it was fantastic. Like 2002, you know, we're losing every game to the US. I don't even think we had any idea the rest of the team was ready to just pack it in, right? Like so many people were so frustrated that year. And we'd go back to our little apartment and we'd watch movies and we'd love it. Like I've never laughed so much as I had laughed that year just hanging out with Pounder all the time, with this little pub around the corner from us, and we just wander over there have a drink? And like yeah, we really were in blissful ignorance. And, and I think because we were also very secure in our position on the team that year, that October and we've since told Mel this, they had one on one meetings with every single person on the team in the program. And they totally missed both of us. So we both just went well it can't be a bad thing right if they want to say something bad that would not have missed us so we told Mel many years after and she couldn't believe that they actually just missed two players in there one on ones.
Sami Jo: And both you guys like both like two best friends that they missed?
Becky: Yeah, the Bobsey twins, right, as they used to call us and that used to be the joke. We looked so much alike on the ice that if one of us made a mistake and skate off really fast and top the other one and say oh, it's okay. Great point. The scouts thought it was her. But yeah, so it was definitely different just from even more from the playing perspective of the other side of it that year in 2010. And, you know, not having Pounder to drive to the rink and, you know, whatever.
Sami Jo: So it really changed probably the feeling. Also, you had two kids at that point. So that was probably very different in 2006. I know that, you know, we never really saw your family. We never really saw what you're going through. And I think looking back at it now, it's one of my biggest regrets is that I wasn't able to support you more than the rest of us weren't able to support you more. But I think the construct at the time, and maybe you felt this, that I just want to do everything everybody else is doing. I don't want anybody to treat me any different. I don't want them to cut me because of this other thing. You know. And so I guess the question is, do you wish any of that would have been different? And now how would you coach athletes that are going through that in the future?
Becky: Well, it it's funny that you say looking back, you wish you had done more because you don't understand what it's like to have kids till you have kids, right?
Sami Jo: Not at all. Yes.
Becky: Nobody can explain it to you. You just do it. So I have to say that you're one of a large number of my former teammates that have been like oh my god Keller, I had no idea because none of us know I wouldn't have known why right like I didn't know What Wick was going through four years previous in 2002 when she had Noah right, because why would I know that? Right? So I just think that's how life is right? You almost have to be in someone's shoes for a bit to understand it. You know, and it was tougher in 2006 because I was out there with a nanny Rosa who was awesome. And she had just flown over from the Philippines. And then I literally just flew over and then I took her to Calgary for the winter. So you can imagine to the winter, yes, welcome. This is winter in Calgary. And she was awesome. But also, I was employing her. So I wasn't going to get to the weekend and say oh, by the way, like I want to go out for dinner. And you know, so you know became a lot because she basically just didn't have much free time. And then there was times where I was taking Owen on road trips with us because it wasn't leave him for the entire weekend with Rosa who was brand new to Canada and drive and right all that stuff. So it was Yeah, so it became a lot that year. Four years later, when I had both kids. My Mom and Dad moved to Calgary with me. And that just made things so much easier. Right like we had a weekend road trip. I did not need to pack the kids onto the bus, right? Take them in, which was tough Mom and Dad.
Sami Jo: Because I can remember in 2006 you flying home early often, and we would meet you at the Toronto airport as we're going overseas. One time you even I think Owen came overseas with us.
Becky: That was for the World Championships a couple years prior but that year no every time we flew over to season I think we were over there three times that year. I would fly Owen home to Toronto and then meet up with the team. And the one time they had me and I just left it to them. And so Margo Paige was our assistant coach and she was awesome. Because every time we traveled I have to go down to the coach's office like Margo and, and I always thinking she's gonna say, you know, you're a real pain in the neck Keller, every time she's like, come on, and let's get this set. So she was made it so easy because I felt bad every time like I didn't want to create more work. For everybody else because they were worked hard enough. But she would always help me get my flights booked so that I would fly on home. And he would be with obviously the Nolan at home. And then I'd fly to wherever to meet the teams. The one time I flew from Calgary to Toronto. And then for whatever reason, they had me fly back to Vancouver to meet up with the team to fly back to Europe. So it was the only time I've ever been on a flight to Europe, where I’ve slept the entire time. But I would say to people, because you know, Owen was little and you would still wake up in the night, whatever at the time. And I would say to people, I will be sleeping now. You do not wake me.. Like this is this is my time
Sami Jo: Never wake up a new Mum, you don't know that until your parent. Right? But so how would how do you think you would now haven't gone through it twice? Help athletes that were maybe in your program, you were coaching, you know, in the future?
Becky: Well, I think the big thing would just be to let them know, you know what my doors open, whatever you need, you know, I understand what it is you're going through and really just thought that message of you're not burdening me I you know, you're not going to get cut because of this as long as you're showing up at the rink and doing your job. And then if you need help, in order to do that, let me know. Because it is a lot and a lot extra. And especially if you're in a position where I mean for me, Nolan, my husband, he was at home running his family business, he could not move to Calgary. So then all of a sudden, you're essentially thrown into the role of a single parent, which is eye opening to right that, you know, you see it all the time, you don't really think about it, but when you have to do it for a little bit. Now it's challenging. So I think that would be the big thing is just to know that click said when Margo was so good with me coming down and you know, rebooking my flights, it meant a lot because then I didn't have that anxiety, right. And the funny thing is in 2010, I bring the kids into the office sometimes and that was a tough year for me and Mel was on me that year. Mel Davidson was on me. I didn't know if I was gonna make the team. So you can imagine that there was times I went home I hate Mel all the time. But every time I brought the kids into the office, she’d give them a lollipop or a candy.
Sami Jo: Right she was so sweet with them.
Becky: I’d take the kids in and Owen’s like I love Mel and I'm like, what are you talking about? She’s making my life hard.
Sami Jo: She knew who to suck up to and it wasn't you, it was the kids. I think he was like worming your way in there. Right?
Becky: Yeah, you can’t hate me too much Kellar. Because like, yeah, so funny.
Sami Jo: But yeah, it was incredible to see you go through it all. Especially now being a mother. I mean, it's you just you made it look so effortless. like pretty much everything else in your career, you may look pretty easy. Pounder said something about you know, on the outside, you have this calmness, but inside the wheels are turning, it's going and you're an iceberg. You know, there's more to you for
Becky: You know what, and I was around Pounder so much she would have seen both sides of it, because I remember the one that was flying with Owen. And I mean, he could be a challenge on flights. And he was great in the car, it would lull him to sleep, but on the airplane, you don't feel that movement. And so as baby, he was not very good on airplanes a lot. And the one night, in particular, we're flying back, excuse me, from Toronto to Calgary. And he was up the whole time. And he was upset and he was crying, arching his back. And he literally cried until he passed out, like just horrible. And I'm in tears because I can't get them to like it was just as horrible flight. I get off the plane and Pounder takes one look at me. And she was like, oh god Keller like, let's go have a beer, like, let's just go relax. And that's a good friend right there. That was a good friend. So she I mean, she saw it a little bit more firsthand and knew, you know, I get to the rink and I wouldn't have with me. So, you know, it seemed different than sometimes it was but yeah it gives you perspective, it's hard to just focus all on hockey and what's going on when you know, you come home, you have other things to focus on.
Sami Jo: And it certainly does give you balance. I know when I had Kensi and was still playing for the Toronto Aeros, it gave you no time to think about practice or the negative or anything you just were. And I almost felt like it was a solace to get out on the ice to have some of my own time, who was like, nice to sort of pursue your own self for a little bit. And to be able to have sort of that balance in life as well that when you came home from a bad game, she didn't care. You know, your kids don't care. They just want you there.
Becky: Yeah, exactly. Well, and when I was playing for Burlington, I took the kids on the road with us. The one time I think we were playing in Ottawa and we're at this rink where stands right behind the penalty box in the penalty box is just glassed in and I took a penalty and I was mad about it. Like I thought it was a horrible call. And I slammed the penalty box door and I'm in there swearing the next thing I know, I hear. And my kids are right behind the penalty box. And I'm like, Oh, God, I’m not swearing at the ref anymore, right? Suddenly, it's not ideal. I know when I could see my Mom kind of smirking behind me like, Whoa, she was mad. She can’t be anymore.
Sami Jo: Well, now if your kids see this, and they're like, 16, 17, 18, they can you know, if they're swearing in the penalty box, you're getting mad at them. So I can say, Mom, you did that back then.
Becky: Yeah, exactly. I'm kind of hoping they don't remember. They were pretty little but yeah. If anything. Oh, and well, because he was probably five or six at the time. Right.
Sami Jo: Well, I have two stories I want to tell you about. I have one last question. So the two funniest stories well I shouldn’t even say funny, most memorable, Becky stories. One was a player of the game that you received in Newfoundland, when you were not on the ice anymore. And that particular game. You were on fire I think you scored. But it was what midway through the third period you got sticked really hard in the leg, we’ll say in the leg area higher leg area.
Becky: Well I have a story to tell you about Sami unless you want me to tell you now.
Sami Jo: No, I want that story. So that to me, that was one of your best games and then you were there to get the MVP and you were nowhere. Nobody knew where you went.
Becky: Okay, so this was our last game before the Christmas break. We were playing the Russians and at the time, they were all still using these big old clunky wooden sticks. So I think one of them kind of stuck me but not that it was bad or anything. But I think a piece of the stick got into my socks and next thing you know, on the bench, it feels like there's a needle going into my leg and I can't get it to go away. Well it turns out the stick had wedged itself in I had a sliver that long, embed itself into my leg. But I had to actually go home and get our team doctor Dr. Young, Orthopedic Surgeon, Orthopedic Surgeon who had to make time for me so I have a giant Russian sliver in my life. We had to cut it out because it was so bad but I couldn't finish the game because every time I took a step or stride I could feel this and it was a crazy.
Sami Jo: I remember us laughing so hard when we got in the dressing room. No guys I have a sliver the game like where are you?
Becky: You know it's funny I forgot about player the game all like, all I can remember of that story is getting this big sliver from this Russian stick.
Sami Jo: Especially a stay at home defenseman who rarely, rarely is ever noticed by player of the game stars, anything like that. And for you to get at that game when you couldn't even accept it. That was hilarious. The other moment that really sticks out my mind is in I think was Medicine Hat when you had your engagement ring stolen from the dressing room. And how tragic that was you had just gotten engaged. You're so excited to tell all of us, though
Becky: It was both it was the wedding ring to I was actually married.
Sami Jo: Oh, you're so you're just getting married that summer, right?
Becky: No, it was further than that because I had Owen there. That was 2006 year. Oh, 05-06. Okay, leading out there.
Sami Jo: So you had both stolen?
Becky: Yeah. Yeah, that was a little bit. That was a little bit tragic. Someone had gotten into the room. And then they had wiped out most of the wallets and a little bit of jewellery. And of course, mine being the biggest ones they got, they got the diamond ring, which I've never gotten back. So these are replacements which I was told in no uncertain terms, you don't get another set.
Sami Jo: So don't lose those. So because of that story, I actually wore my wedding rings on my I made a little pouch on the back of my goalie glove forever After that, because I said that I don't want to ever have to buy more rings. And that dress for two was sort of apart from the rink. You had to kind of go around. And I don't know how anybody got in there. I mean, feel bad for the organizers. Because we're playing one of the boys teams, local boys teams. And anyways, I vividly remember that it's just like, this was real life colliding with what was supposed to be our fun, you know?
Becky: Yeah, yeah, it was for sure. And yeah, I mean, I was pretty stressed out about that, because it's pretty big item to lose. And ultimately, it's, it's just an item. But yeah, it was..
Sami Jo: Not an easy one. Well, last question after I told two stories, one really funny one a little bit more tragic. But what do you ultimately think made Team Canada successful for the three Olympic gold medals that you won? What was so great about that team that you played on? Or the teams I guess.
Becky: You know, what every team each one of those teams was very different to so I don't know if you know if it just came down to believing in ourselves, putting the work in. I mean, it's a tough one right? Because I look at the two now and they struggled a bit not in that final game. And I mean, I'm not in the room to know what the differences but you can't tell me we work any harder than they do. So I don't I don't fully know what those intangibles are, if it's, if it's just a matter of, like I said before, when I was with the Aeros, we just expected to win and you learn to win. And even when we were losing games, we just had this belief that we'll win because we went and that's what we do. And, and so I wonder if there was a little bit of that too, in that group that, you know, it becomes a habit winning. And we just we expected it when we got into those final games, because we almost always did. And so I think, you know, you just need something little to make that shift. And I think you see it with this group of girls. Now if they if that little thing happens, and they can win one, then that habit of winning will start to come. Right.
Sami Jo: And I think you're so you're so spot on to say that. It's not like we trained any harder. It's not like we were any better people. It's not like we were any different or had funnier people. You know, nobody some of those. I mean, we had some funny people, we had Gillian Ferrari on our team, let's be honest. But yeah, they have some great people. And, you know, they work hard. And I think a big difference too, is that hockey in the world is it’s just much stronger to other teams are doing what we did back then, to stay on top. So I think we're pretty fortunate to come around at a time that was, we had a lot of luck on our sides at the right times, too. But probably the strongest team I think I was ever part of was 2016, where I just felt like we just steamrolled over the competition. That was probably one of the
maybe easiest years. But sometimes in the challenge and I'm sure playing in Vancouver was something that was beyond special for you. So maybe end with what it was like to play in Vancouver and win gold on home soil.
Becky: Yeah, you know, it's funny, I had contemplated retiring after 2006. But there was just this feel when we were at the Olympics in Italy, like, you know, in 2002, and a ‘98. When you're at the Olympics, you felt like I'm here, I'm at the pinnacle. But there was something about 2006. And I think it's because we already knew Canada was hosting that felt like we're that it was a stepping stone to 2010 sort of how the Canadian Olympic Committee almost treated it like, this is our stepping stone to 2010. And so I didn't feel like it was you know, the be all and end all that year, and I kind of wanted to, and I wasn’t ready to retire. So wanted to continue and go and we heard a lot of talk about how awesome it will be to have an Olympics at home. But again, it's one of those things I think you have to experience to really get that aha. I see what you mean. I mean, Canada went crazy that year. And you know, it was pretty amazing to just be a part of that. And, and you know to be in Vancouver, I remember walking back into the village one day with Colleen Sostorics and we'd already won and we've got our medals in our backpack and some little kid came running number you athletes got through Can I have an autograph? So we're like, yeah, and this is just what what's happening because you're in Vancouver and I remember I pulled the medal out to show this little girl and she just would like her eyes and her Dad comes running over soon. I got thank you so much for doing that. Like it was just the whole environment. There was amazing. And I think, you know, other Olympic Games you have, you know, maybe your parents come you have one or two people, maybe three people. But I think in Vancouver for the most part, people were averaging like 10. Right? Yeah, that showed up with rate. I mean, I my Mom, my Dad, my husband, my kids, my brother, his wife, my, like, it was crazy. Who was there and everybody had the same story. So to have that support. And yeah, it really goes beyond words really what you know, you can say for so it was a great way to end. For me my career and winning and being at home and having my kids there and my husband, they're a part of it. And I had the kids down on the ice at the end. And you know that one moment where your kids always bring you back to reality. So Owen was five, Zach just turned three. So they're on the ice and we've won in the crowd. It's crazy. And I pulled them in to get this really great picture. I got my metal out, right. And the fireworks go off inside the arena. So Owen, who's five? He's like, this is awesome. I'm like, this is awesome. Zach does this. It's loud. I want to go home. So there's always that moment, ready to pull you back into reality. But you know, it really was pretty special. And I got video of the kids shaking hands with Team Finland and so some of that stuff to look back on where? Yeah, it was. It was pretty awesome.
Sami Jo: Well, a pretty amazing career. And I feel so fortunate to have had you as a teammate, and thank you so much for doing this podcast sharing all these stories. I could laugh with you for hours. So let's do this again sometimes soon hopefully.
Becky: Absolutely. Thanks, Sami
Sami Jo: Okay, thank you.
Becky: Yeah, no problem. Take care.
Music/Man voice: Thank you for listening to Sami Jo’s Podcast. If you have suggestions for guests in the future, would like to book her for your next event, advertise on this podcast or to purchase a her latest book, The Role I Played please go to www.samijosmall.ca