Four-time Olympian, three-time Olympic gold medallist, Harvard grad and NHL hockey analyst Jennifer Botterill joins Sami Jo to share insights on high-performing individuals and teams.
Botterill shares her insights from her experience with the Canadian National Team, her time at Harvard University and how she finds balance with an incredibly demanding schedule. She talks about what makes a great coach, the positive role her family played in her life and how to create a supportive nurturing environment in order to find success.
Below is a full transcription of the podcast.
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Sami Jo’s Podcast: Episode 3 – Jennifer Botterill
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.
Sami Jo: Welcome to episode #3 of Sami Jo’s podcast where I interview perhaps one of the all time greatest hockey players, and a great friend, Jennifer Botterill.
She is a 4 time Olympian, a 3 time Olympic gold medallist who assisted on the winning goal at her final Olympics on home soil in Vancouver.
She’s been the MVP of the World Championship and Incredibly she tallied a point in every single college game she played but one winning the Patty Kazmier trophy as top college player of the year twice.
This lead her into a remarkable professional career where she led her Toronto Area teams in both the old NWHL and CWHL to 3 National Championships winning the Angela James league scoring championship and MVP’s numerous times.
So accomplished on the ice, she has used her athletic lessons to build a successful business called Excel in Life, which includes a professional speaking career, an NHL broadcaster career and an owner of, Journey to Excel, an Elite athlete training centre.
In this Podcast, she shares insights on how, despite being a busy professional, to be present and how important “moments of appreciation”, as she calls them, have helped her bring her best in big moments.
Very respected in the hockey world and beyond, her positive attitude has helped her perform and her intensity to succeed have lifted her teams to greater heights bringing out the best in those around her. I’ve been fortunate to share so many incredible moments alongside Jen, but the best moments are the one on one moments where she makes you feel like the most important person in the room. I hope you enjoy my interview with Jennifer Botterill.
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 and Jennifer on Screen
Sami Jo: Hey Jen, because you're such a good friend, I often forget how accomplished you are. We'll get to that later but I just wish everybody could have a Jennifer Botterill in their lives. I just feel so fortunate and I really want everybody to know you. So I couldn't be more thrilled to have you on my show. So thanks for coming on Sami Jo’s podcast.
Jennifer: Oh, well, my pleasure. Thank you for having me. It's always fun to visit.
Sami Jo: Oh, so fun. Well, I think you're probably the busiest person that I really, that I know. You're professional speaker, hockey broadcaster, which is really exciting. We can talk a little bit about that. But you and your husband also own a gym. On top of that, you have three girls five and under. I know that if I was to ask you what the hardest part of it you'd simply say, oh, we're just so grateful. But really, when we get into the nuts and bolts of it all like how, I guess, how do you manage? How do you manage with all of that going on? And do you try to keep your routine? Do you ever have time to yourself? Tell us a little bit about that?
Jennifer: Yes. Well, I would say yes, life is busy absolutely but I think that is an approach that I've always embraced, right? And I think from when I was young to being a university student athlete to playing on the National Team to life now as a Mom, and as a professional, I think that I've always tried to take the approach of pursuing excellence in everything that I do. So there's no question, it's busy. But time management, I think has always been an important skill that I learned. And I think I apply that today as well that to manage my time when it's time to do a keynote, or to prepare for, you know, the broadcasting show, or if it's time to focus on being the best Mom that I can be, I think I always try to stay present in those moments. And in terms of I don't know, if I have an excess amount of time on my own right now. But I think that's right now, it's the greatest gift right with the little kids, and they grew up so fast, that it's also nice to have the time with them. So I think that's just something I learned from my parents right to, to be your best, I think in every capacity is really important. And it's busy. But I think also just, you know, taking one step at a time and being fully engaged and fully present with everything that you're doing, has been a helpful approach for me.
Sami Jo: If you could have maybe five or 10 minutes to yourself, what, maybe even 30 minutes, pretend like you got a full hour where it's just like nobody around. What would you actually do? Like, what would your thing you would like to do?
Jennifer: I don't go to as many or do as my yoga classes as I used to. So yoga might be at the top of the list. But I still get my small windows of recovery. I mean, that's, that's still important. But I think Yoga is when I haven't had exactly the luxury sometimes its five minutes of stretching with the kids in the morning.
Sami Jo: Not quite the same as actually following along with class. They’re climbing on top of you now, right? That's a little bit different.
Jennifer: So my resistance training and but it's more fun. Instead of going on a jog on my own. I'm pushing the stroller and they're enjoying the outdoors too.
Sami Jo: So I went downstairs the other day, and both girls were on top of Billy and he was doing I don't know, arm curls? Yes. Both girls on top of them. So that's probably your life right now.
Jennifer: Yeah. And Adrian does more of the kids on top of them. I try to set them next to me for the workouts. But yes, Adrian enjoys the full the full body workouts with the kids on top.
Sami Jo: Amazing. You talked a little bit about being a broadcaster now, which is very exciting. I know, you know, being so close to you that you have done this for a long time from hometown hockey to with the New York Islanders. But with the pandemic that obviously got put on a bit of a hiatus, but you're back with Sportsnet now, tell us a little bit about that, and what it's like being in that industry again. Yes, I've really enjoyed having staying connected to hockey. You know, I think since our days of playing together with so many great memories, this has been a nice way to stay connected to the sport of hockey in a different capacity. You know, and I've really enjoyed the various roles that I've had from, you know, covering women's hockey to having the chance to work and cover the Islanders of the past couple of seasons, where it was great experience for me, in terms of I was between the benches most of the time in the game. So right in on the action.
Sami Jo: Getting hit with pucks?
Jennifer: Hopefully not, that's where you had to be focused, there were real moments that you could sort of not pay attention. But yeah, so for me, it's a privilege to be back with Sportsnet. And, you know, in this analyst role is one that I really love where, you know, we can watch the game and provide our insight and our perspective. And, you know, there's, you know, Cassie has been, I think, one who's, you know, in ground breaking for females in the broadcasting role. And I think we're all hopeful that there may not be many females in the analyst role for the NHL yet, but I think we're all hopeful for that, that is just if people want to do it down the road, that choice should be theirs. So it's been a lot of fun. I'm happy hockey's back. So it's been fun to cover the action.
Sami Jo: Well, you certainly, I mean, you know, the game so well, it makes total sense that you can comment on it in the moment. You know, I think what Cassie does that’s so remarkable is that she has to know each of the guys and know so much about their story and their background to make comments. I mean, from what I've seen, you get to comment on the hockey part of it, which is what you know, so well, and I just, I love the analytical take that every time that I hear you speak about hockey, it seems like I'm watching you play like I always said, whenever I watched you play I was I couldn't believe that nobody took the puck off you like it just it seemed like you just had the puck in open space? Like why aren't you just taking it off Jen? Like, it looks like it would be so easy. But you just had this way of creating space and, and seeing it in slow motion, which is what I see now as a broadcaster? Do you see that? That kind of translates a little bit?
Jennifer: Absolutely and I think that's the natural tendency in terms of my style of play, or how I like to play the game, that that's what you see in terms of the play developing. But I guess that's why I've enjoyed it so much in terms of watching the game that I often find myself, you know, jotting down a number of notes, in terms of how the play develops, or, you know, what is going well, or what teams or specific players could do to be more effective. But I think you can't help as an athlete, I think that we always have that as competitors as athletes, that you see the game in that way that potentially if you were on the ice, or what would you do in that situation. So I think that sort of made the transition pretty smooth into this role in terms of sharing that with other people with the viewers to hopefully make them feel more connected with the action to understand, you know, the player side, the technical side, you know, the approach of each team that's playing?
Sami Jo: Well, I'm really what made you so great. I think that when I watch a game with Billy, Billy, whose a goal scorer and I'm a goalie, I am solely really watching the goalie from the goalie out, and Billy will say, oh, great shot, or narrowly missed. And, to me, it's a great save. And I didn't even see where the puck came from, you know, so we all see it in such different ways. But I love that you have a different take than most of the guys, which is really great and shows the best of our game. So I think you're doing a marvelous job. From my perspective, I might be a little biased.
Jennifer: But I remember that we were playing we'd watch games, it was the same I was commenting often on the offensive side of the game, it was happening. And you would always make the comment about what the goalie was doing.
Sami Jo: Not so many people are thinking about what the goal is actually doing. Right? Well, let's get into some of your earlier playing career. I know you talk so highly about your time at Harvard, and specifically about your coach Katey Stone, I know you had some incredible teammates, I have these vivid memories of the World Championships where your teammates would load like 10-15 girls into what an RV and drive to the World Championships to cheer on Canada, the US, which was what amazing. So you had some incredible teammates but I think really what tied it all together was likely Katey Stone, you talk so highly about her. And I guess I want to know from your perspective, really what made the Harvard experience so memorable, you'd already been to one Olympic Games at that point. So this was sort of a unique challenge. But what really made Katey so great in her ability to create these superstars really.
Jennifer: Yes but it's a fun memory. Because I knew when we were chatting in this professional setting, I thought there would be a focus of teamwork, since you are the teamwork specialist. And that was certainly one of the things that came to my mind. First off was, you know, along with some great experiences with Team Canada was a few of those years at Harvard, and, you know, those specific World Championships when, literally my teammates and Harvard they'd have half their face painted in Canada, half the face paint in the US to support the Harvard players out there. But I've always said yes, I think Katey deserves a lot of credit. And I, you know, I think as a leader and as a coach, she really recognized that, you know, every person was different. So she always did, I think what she needed to do bring out the best in each individual. And I think that's something I've always respected and admired. And it takes time to learn what you know, how to bring out the full potential and all of your players and you know, I think in hockey, right and everything, we're gonna have ups and downs and nothing's gonna
be perfect, but I think she really helps people find this high level of performance on a really consistent basis.
Sami Jo: You think that her treating everybody as individuals, because I've always thought those are the best kind of coaches did it lead to contention within the team like was there or did she come in and say to you guys, this is the way I'm going to do it. And, you know, don't ask questions about so and so because this it's all individual or how did that work?
Jennifer: Yeah, what I mean, I, the team really bought in right. And I'm sure you know, looking back, yes, some players didn't get as much ice time as they wanted or didn't play the role that they wanted. But I somehow she's still got everybody to be a cohesive group. You know, I still remember playing in, you know, NCAA championship games, and having those in the third and fourth line that were the first ones to come over and give us a pat on the back. And, you know, Katey was a coach who played her top two lines a tonne. And as a player, we love that I loved getting in the game and playing a tonne of minutes, but also tough for your third and fourth line players. But somehow everybody was so excited to be a part of that team and to embrace the role if you were only going to play a few minutes that period, what were you gonna do to support your teammates? Right? And I think much like you, you did, whether you were the MVP of the game, or playing a supporting role, right, you just you bought in and I look back at my years at Harvard, and that's what we had and to have made the Final Four, you know, so often and, and been in those national championship games. I think it's a credit to Katey's approach on, you know, what can I do to bring out the best in this player and she knew I was going to be a different player than, you know, A.J. Mleczko, was or Angela Ruggiero or Tammy Shewchuk. Or, you know, Sarah Vaillencourt, who played there later, or you know, your fourth liners who are Sally Duval are, you know, Kim McManama and these different players. So I think she just said, okay, you're different. Let's, let's talk about it. And she knew how to bring on the best.
Sami Jo: Yes, I can remember us playing some big games, Canada, US games, not championship games. But games were maybe one of you would be there. And the other one, so maybe Ruggiero was playing and you were back at Harvard, or Mleczko was playing or you were playing? Like just did she allow you guys to have that conversation with her? Was there that discussion of because you really came into hockey Canada? I mean, not only early, but were U22 and U18 first started, so there was so much expectation in terms of games. Yeah, conversation with Katey, like, and with the National Team coaches as to what you're going to play and then also how to still have a good team, because you still had to move forward. It was always playoff time. And I guess there was no thought about let's make National Team stuff at a different time, which is now how it is for, for the girls playing.
Jennifer: Right. And I think it was still it was navigating, I don't know if I call it new. But it was a relatively new landscape, right? Where there was some members of Team Canada that had gone down to play in the US.
Sami Jo: Yeah, you were one of the very first ones right? Like I remember Vicky, Becky Kellar, those guys, but you were at part of the first wave.
Jennifer: Yeah, let's say the wave. So it was sort of figuring it out. And that was they were sometimes tough conversations to have because as an athlete, yes, you had loyalty to both teams so strongly, right. I mean, my heart was, you know, absolutely, with Team Canada, but still with Harvard. And, and that was something where I think Katey wanted to make sure that each player just had a communication level high level of communication level with her in terms of those decisions, because you would miss a lot of time if you went to all the junior camps and senior camps and World Championships. So she just wanted to figure out that schedule in terms of what would make the most sense for each athlete, right, and still builds you up as a player. And so I look back, at my time at Harvard, I think it was hugely important for my development, as you know, a hockey player as person. And I give her a lot of credit in terms of us discussing together in terms of the approach to make sure yes, I was committed to being part of Team Canada and being there whenever I possibly could, but still being a great leader and having the impact on the Harvard team and growing and developing as a player there as well. So it was tough, because you want to make everybody happy. But you can't be in two places at once. And I think looking back it
Sami Jo: It was something simply is learning to make those decisions. Yes. To make those. Yes. An amazing thing that she allowed you guys to be part of the process. Yes. I don't know if you remember Jayna Hefford, this memory just popped into my mind. But Jayna Hefford and I came to visit you. Yes. At Harvard out randomly and we just wandered around the campus. I mean, being there was pretty gorgeous for us. So I couldn’t imagine what it was like for you.
Jennifer: Okay, Stanford. Okay. Stanford, right.
Sami Jo: But I just feel like Harvard’s the one you see in the movies? Yes. I mean, I went to Stanford, I'm not going to downgrade my education, but to get to see you in that environment was pretty special. I think it really, for those of us that, you know, hadn't really understood the NCAA experience because we were before that, I would obviously feel but we were before that poll and gets you alongside some of those. Well, Tammy Lee Shewchuk played there with you and Ruggiero and Mleczko, and those guys. And Vaillantcourt, it was pretty impressive. Needless to say, from our perspective, so I'm glad you gave us a tour. So thank you.
Jennifer: Well, I love that you're I said many days, right, I talked about moments of appreciation. I think that's that, for me started at Harvard when it was so busy and so demanding. But when I would walk from class, and we would have to walk over the bridge to go to the athletic facilities. And it was super demanding, right with classes and papers and projects, and Team Canada and Harvard. But I would always try to when I walk over that bridge in the middle of a busy day to go to practice or training, or I always try to take a little moment of appreciation, because it was a pretty special place to be.
Sami Jo: I can still picture you doing that I can remember together and you just having to go outside for five minutes to just have this moment of appreciation wandering around and just feeling the cool air. And me a moment of appreciation was like sitting down on the couch with nothing to do. And last thing I would want to do is go outside. But it wasn't really until I became a Mom and things just spiraled and just getting outside for 10 minutes, how wonderful. It really does make you feel. And I think you were able to capture that much earlier in your life than most real adults. So I can just picture you on that bridge, looking at what was the river there,
Jennifer: The Charles River.
Sami Jo: The Charles River and seeing the boats coming through and just having this moment of appreciation. That's what Jen Botterill is all about.
Jennifer: Which even though it was crazy and busy, and I might have been exhausted, I would still try to take small little…
Sami Jo: Take 30 seconds and yes made everything feel better. Yes. Well, let's back-track a little bit more than even before Harvard. So you, um, I've listened to you speak so many times, I could probably recite a lot of your stories, but I just love them. And you tell the story about your Dad having a heart to heart with you when you were What 15? Is that? Yes. And the importance of belief and saying “Why? Why not? You? Why can't you be on this first women's Olympic hockey team”. So anybody that wants to hear more about that story, definitely hire Jennifer Botterill, she’s incredible. Um, but I just I love that moment. And belief and actually making it happen are really two different things. You know, you're sitting in that, you're listening to your dad tell you this, but you actually had to pack up and leave and move to a new city to make all this happen. Leave your school, St. John's Ravenscourt leave your friends. I don't think your family moved right away if I'm not correct. And I guess my question is, what was it like leaving home so young? And how did you navigate that, that pursuit of that dream? When you're just a kid still?
Jennifer: Yes. And you know, it was a big decision for me. I mean, leaving for my grade 12 year of high school. And, you know, my brother had had left for high school and left in grade nine. But I could never have left that early. You know, I was really close with my parents. But I was a pretty driven athlete as at a young age. And I knew that for me, this was really the option if I wanted to have any chance of making that Olympic team. And I knew that I was a long shot. But when you look back at that conversation, and that's a story I often share right when I was 15 years old. And that was the advice that my Dad gave me was saying, “Well, why not you?” And there was another coach that I thought about and it was my coach with the Canada games. And his you know, we decided our theme for the year was to never have to say I wish I would have.
Sami Jo: In ringette Let's just say that. Yes, it was remarkable in and of itself. And you're at the Wagon Wheel.
Jennifer: You know what? That is often where I had many chats with my dad, but this one was 15 was at the Wildwood Club because I was still at school. But yes, okay, many further conversations at the wagon wheel. But that was just an approach. And I felt like I was so long shot to make that National Team. You know, I'd never made the I hadn't even made the under 18 team, right the year before the Olympic year, but it was just that idea that maybe I'm a long shot, but I want to do everything that I can to try to make that team and I can look back and feel proud of myself. So it was a big step for me to move out on my
own, you know, at 17 and go to the National Sports school in Calgary, but that was the best option for me to play with great players. There were a number of National Team players that were training there full time so I could live that year.
Sami Jo: Where did you live that year?
Jennifer: Yes, I lived in a house was but there was another grad student that my dad had known who was kind of also renting house so we had shared a place and It just gave me the chance to get to be around great players and learn. I think my development, you know, escalated tremendously that year. And I, that was a big step for me. And it gave me the chance to make the Olympic team but tough for me because I wasn't. I like I said, I loved home. I had a great network of friends in Winnipeg great school. But it was…
Sami Jo: Did you have to cook and clean for yourself all sudden?
Jennifer: Yes? Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes. Yes.
Sami Jo: I guess you went through all of that before centralization, which I find that for a lot of young players, when they first centralize that they, with the National Team in the women's hockey program, you have to learn how to navigate the world by yourself. And you basically got to maybe do that in obscurity a little bit right before it really mattered.
Jennifer: Right, in terms of the pressure or the intensity and the attention of the Olympic year. So yes, looking back, it probably set me up nicely, since I had the opportunity that I was selected to be part of that training group, you know, in ‘98, and, and was there you know, maybe a few weeks before you came along and join the crew.
Sami Jo: That's right, you know, in a roundabout way suddenly is at Thanksgiving at your host, your parents for inviting me over that. You were really the first person that I knew in Calgary, and we didn't even know each other. I knew your brother. Jason, who I kindly or nicely referred to as Jazz, because just for the listeners one day, Jason Botterill called your phone and you had him listed as Jas, I think written J-A-S is yes. I just said, Oh, Jazz calling, so forever, and always to always be Jazz to me. Pretty remarkable. Your family actually ended up moving the next year, right. During the centralised year. Your dad ended up working out there. Is that correct?
Jennifer: Yes. So he took a position. He took a leave of absence from the University of Winnipeg, and did some work in consulting in Calgary at the University of Calgary for a few years, which the timing was just amazing with how it worked out. So I was spoiled and got to live at home, for my first experience with the National Team.
Sami Jo: Right, which and to have that family support, and that network and the end, I mean, to people that had gone through it, too. So yeah, like they were, you know, the ups and the downs that we were all living that were so monumentous in our in our brains, they had been through it all. So it was two remarkable people, we'll talk about them in a little bit. But before we get to your family, I want to know a little bit more about the National Team. And you obviously having been to four Olympics is incredible.
And I know that when you're speaking and when you get asked in the media, you often talk about your favorite moment being on standing on the blue line of the home Olympics in Vancouver, and seeing your teammates, your friends have their dreams come true right in front of you and taking in that moment. And I know for every athlete, that's pretty special. However, I guess I want to know, more than just that game in Vancouver, more than the Olympics more than any of those big moments that I think the crowd assumes, or the listeners assume that you're going to say are your favorite game? So what really are your… what were your favorite games to plan that could be at any level, the games that you just felt like nothing could go wrong? Like you just felt like you were on your game? What were some of those games?
Jennifer: I mean, there's I think there's a couple that come to mind, you know, and I mean, one is, is the Gold medal game in Vancouver, and maybe people expect you to say that. But in terms of an individual athlete, I look back and I feel, you know, really happy with, with how I played under, I guess it was it was the biggest moment of my athletic career at that, you know, at that point.
Sami Jo: It was different circumstances, because you were in a different role than you had been used to. So perhaps limited ice time. But every time you stepped on the ice, you made something happen, which was incredible. I wanted it to be more often I wanted you to be out there more often, like most people, but when you did you made things happen. So that was remarkable.
Jennifer: And I think that's why I you know, I feel proud of that. And that was one of my parents said after that game, right? That was the thing that they said after they said you should be proud of yourself. Right. And I think that's for every athlete, you know, you're doing it for your country. And that's the ultimate reward, but then sort of looking back and feel like you did everything you could to reach, you know, that pinnacle, and to do it for Canada. And so I think, yeah, when I look back and I see footage or you know, or I see pictures from that game, it brings back a really, I think good feeling and a positive feeling to think that. You know, people asked after that, obviously, what was your favorite goal that you scored? Right. And I said, Well, it wasn't a goal, right, it was assist and getting the chance to pass to Marie-Philip Poulin who scored that first goal in Vancouver and it was the gold medal winning goal. And that I think, was potentially the most rewarding play I ever could have made as a hockey player that, you know, helped our team to win a gold medal on home soil. So that was one but it's just a feeling as an athlete, right that you strive for that to be I felt like when I hit the ice, that idea of whether it's in the zone or your ideal performance state, I felt that way that day, that no matter what I wanted to be my best, and millions of people were watching, you know, thousands of people in the stands. But there was just this relaxed intensity to my game in terms of being able to read the play anticipate to feel great when I was on the ice. And I think that's why it just brings back so many positive emotions, because that's what you strive for is to peak under these big moments. And that was one of them.
Sami Jo: What was another one, we're just monumentous I guess, in your career?
Jennifer: Well, one, you know, one was, didn't have the outcome that I wanted, but is it as a player in terms of having that feeling of performing really well, it was my senior year at Harvard. And we were in the NCAA championship game. And again, on the ice a tonne and just feeling like when I went to
overtime, that we could still have the impact and win. And then we lost in double overtime. But I still look back. And, you know, it would have been a pretty nice storybook finish to my university career to win. But it was a great game, I feel it was a packed rink, you know, both teams had their bands playing just the atmosphere was amazing. And as an athlete to feel like, you know, I, I don't think I could have done anything any differently to help my team or, and so it was still so much fun to play. Yeah, it was heartbreaking that we didn't have the result that we wanted. But it was still a really fun hockey game to be a part of. And I think back to those minutes and playing that game that that was also a lot of fun.
Sami Jo: I think there's one to me with the National team that really stands out. Just having done so much research for my book, I had to re-watch so much game tape. And there's so many games I'd forgotten about. But this one was the World Championship final in 2001 in Minnesota, yes. And we had been missing Hayley Wickenheiser. That year, she injured herself prior, you were the starting centre, essentially, top line center had had an amazing tournament. Kim St-Pierre, that final game really stood on her head for us. But every time you touch the puck, I mean, I think we had eight total shots or something crazy like it was, I'm exaggerating, I want to say that the Americans had like 40 to 20 shots, but every time you touch the puck, it just seem to create a ricochet here and then a bounce here. And then all sudden, Jennifer has the puck in front of the net by herself, you know, it just seemed like you could do no wrong in that game. Those are some of my favorite celebrations was in those games. But so that's maybe my favorite game watching you play. And the times when you played with the Aeros when I felt almost like we were playing minor hockey that it was like, you know, we're down 3-1, and it's kind of like coach says, okay, Jen, can you go out and score and you do like, you just, you had this ability to come back and just, I don't know, carry it, put the team on your shoulders when it mattered most, you know. And I think you were always very good at sharing the puck and sharing the accolades. But when it really came down to it, and it mattered most you could take the team on your shoulders, get up by goal and be like, okay, we're winning now. So all right, I've done my job. And in, in what was the top league in the world at the time, you sort of you were just light-years ahead of the rest of us. So watching you play in that league was remarkable, because your speed, your agility was even that much higher than with a National Team. So I'm just building. I just like to tell you all the fun games that I got to watch you play.
Jennifer: Oh, they're all great memories, right? I'd like to get emotional reflecting on them. Because they were all so important and so much fun. Right? And I, I guess is for all of us, right? As elite athletes, that's when you hope that you can try to bring your best in big moments.
Sami Jo: And yeah, well you certainly have. I mean, you played for the National Team for so long. And the team was so successful really in the in that time that you were on it. You were on the team during its heyday, with the national team, winning three straight gold medals after a silver medal. What do you what do you really think, made our team so successful? Because we had so many different coaches in that timeframe, right. We had players coming in and out of what would be the program. I mean, we basically a group of about 30-40 people, but they're just in the big games. It always we always seem to win. And why do you think that is?
Jennifer: You know, I have a few reasons. I think they I think we had great teammates. Right. And I, I don't know if you'd agree with that first assessment, but I think we did the people bought
Sami Jo: I liked the people too.
Jennifer: Yeah, you know, I think they were a great group of people that we were all really dedicated. And the same idea, like we were different types of players, different personalities. But we all came together and agreed, okay, we may not all be the best of friends every single day. But let's do this together. And for the right reasons, right, because we love the game and wanted to do it for Canada and for our country. And I think it was just a great combination of, you know, from leadership positions to young talented players, we had such depth on our teams. But I, if I had to pick one thing, it would probably be the character of the players that not only did we have talent and dedication, and we pushed ourselves in a lot of different ways, you know, physically, you know, mentally, emotionally, I think we pushed ourselves a lot of different ways to, to be our best, but I probably give the most credit to the people, the personalities and the character for everybody that that played with such heart, right. And we loved the game and played, I think, for the right reasons. And I think that helped us to come together and to be successful in those short term competitions and win in those in those big moments when it was on the line. That makes sense?
Sami Jo: I love what you said about that we didn't have to be best friends. You know, I think that sometimes is a fallacy about elite teams. But we did have this incredible respect for each other and I think that, you know, I talked a lot about in the book about coaches and how they didn't always play me. So they perhaps aren't in the best of light. But what I will give accolades to the various different coaches that we had throughout our career is that they, they built that team by generating that respect within the dressing room. And I you know, that a lot of it had to do with the characters for sure. But they gave us the space, they gave us the space to, you know, some people wanted to go out to a restaurant and others wanted to just chill in the room, they could, you know, like, I never felt pressured to build team. I felt like every time we got to build team, it was fun. And it was in a, you know, a caring, respectful environment where you never felt like it was going outside of the dressing room. You're right, that we have some incredible leadership from, you know, stoic Cassie, who was able to sort of bring everybody together and be the gel to Hayley who was foaming at the mouth, as she's like working so hard. And then Vicky, who's always bringing jokes to the dressing room, it's just, I felt like we were really lucky and privileged to have been amongst greatness before we even knew it. Right?
Jennifer: Yes, definitely.
Sami Jo: Well, I think you were around greatness from a young age. So we're going to end with talking a little bit about your family without bringing any tears. But you come from an incredibly accomplished family. So I'm just going to talk a little bit about your parents for a second because I first met your dad, I think, he was helping with one of my minor hockey teams, when I was playing with Jason, in what was like a spring hockey, we got to play on the same team. And he was helping with a sport psychology, which I kind of knew nothing about. I didn't know that he worked with NHL clubs or Olympians that we had this famous sports psychologist working with us. But he was just so down to earth. And the first person I think, that
ice. So that was incredible. Your Mom is a well, first she's a two time Olympian in speed skating, incredibly made her first Olympics at 16. But she became an elementary school teacher has she taught elementary school? Yes. And maybe one of the nicest humans that I've ever ever met. And your older brother, who I played against, won three straight World Junior titles, played in the NHL and won some Stanley Cups with the Penguins. As an assistant, GM became the GM of Buffalo and now with Seattle, so you don't have to tell me how great they are. I already know how incredible they are. You can definitely talk about their accolades and what they brought to you. But I wanted to kind of have a little bit of twist on the question because you come from a very accomplished family and we talk about accomplished families within Canada, a lot the Nurses. And it is it is not easy. It is not often easy to bring up children in an environment. Billy and I are both Olympians. Where it is still a supportive environment. Yeah, I always felt your parents were so supportive, which was so incredible, a testament to them. But I guess what I want to know is what do you think about each of their personalities? So those three people in your life and what do you think made them successful? And how more importantly, do you think that you are different than each one of them?
Jennifer: Hmm, interesting of the first thing you did say that was the one that was sort of on that I was thinking of most of all that support, right? And I yes, I mean, my family, they've all been so accomplished and in their lives and their careers. But looking back to when Jason and I were growing up, there was never any pressure that we had to do this or we had to go to the Olympics or play for Team Canada had to play this sport or go to this university. It was always a supportive environment. And I think that's where my parents deserve a lot of credit, that they wanted us to be healthy, active children and be dedicated to everything that we were involved with. But it was always very supportive. And it wasn't the pressure and I think that allowed us to, to find that internal drive for success. But if you look at the four of us, I do think we all have different personalities and different strengths. You know, I think my Mum, you know, I think she probably deserves a lot of credit, perhaps the most credit of all that she's just always that rock. I think that you know, my Dad's the first one to say that, you know, sometimes you know, she's a two time Olympian and sometimes doesn't get enough credit for the personality and what she did for the family. And I think for her, she was just there for me and in every situation and easy to talk to and supportive.
Sami Jo: Well, we both know that now that you become a mom, the fact that you're an Olympian to your kid is your chopped liver. So let's be honest, I'm sure it was quite a treat.
Jennifer: It's like, no, she's just my Mom, She went to the Olympics at 16... But yeah, and I think I just continue to admire my Mom for that reason, too. And with three young kids, my mom, just in terms of you mentioned her kindness and her patients. And, you know, my oldest Maya, when she talks about my Mom and my Dad, you know, their grandparents said, Oh, you guys are just so playful, you know, is what she says. And that's like the ultimate compliment to the grandparents that they are that playful. So my Mom just, I think her kind soul and just was always there for me, you know, my dad is, has been very influential. I mean, obviously, his life and career in sports psychology and performance psychology. He just has such a, I think educational presence. And it was not as though I needed to have formal sit down sessions with my dad. But it was just an environment that I was in from a young age, right about learning
about the choices that you make a positive attitude or being grateful or reflecting or usually using imagery. I mean, these were part of the conversation at a young age and are really tools.
Sami Jo: That most of us where not having, right are privy to Yes, yes.
Jennifer: And that became a cornerstone for really my approach to everything in my life in my career, right hockey player professional beyond. So he's, I think, just always, I've learned so much from him, right, I think at every stage of my career. And then Jason, I think I've just always admired you know, I think he was a huge inspiration for me. And he's always been driven ready to leave home at in grade nine to pursue your dreams as a student and as a hockey player. I mean, that was amazing. You're young, at grade nine, and to leave home and go to a different country and go to school away. I just I continue to admire Jason, I think he just carries himself so well. And you know, I think the one story I often share with Jason is that, you know, he won his Third World Junior gold medal. Right? They asked the media asked him on the ice, what it feels like this was the record, right? He's the only Canadian to have done so. And his response was, well, I you know, I'm just, I'm just happy to see the rookies that are winning their first gold medal. Right. And that's what he said, and exactly
Sami Jo: What as a 19 year old? Yes. Remarkable.
Jennifer: Right, to be more excited for your teammates who's accomplishing this for the first time. So I think Jason's just been driven. And I think he's just been an inspiration for me, you know, for his whole life and continues to be absolutely to this day.
Sami Jo: So how do you think you're different than the three of them?
Jennifer: So me personally, how I'm different from their personalities. I know, I like to think that I've learned from all of them.
Sami Jo: I know you've learned from them what makes you different. I mean, yeah,
Jennifer: What makes me different from them? I don't know maybe the ability to, to have fun with it along the way that I think that's been something that has helped me and if I remember, I guess my remember the joy of why I started playing I think, you know, when I look at my career as an athlete, or what I'm doing now in my life and my career, hopefully I've been able to bring that element of enjoying it on a regular basis, if that makes sense.
Sami Jo: So I know I think the understanding that this moment is fleeting and to really be there in that moment. You know, I would say that your Dad and your brother for me personally seem more similar in their personalities a little bit more serious. And, you know, I think that the joy, I see that in your Mom, I just thought that I don't see them. But I say that in your mom when she gets to play with the grandkids. You know, I see that joy that she just is there. She's present and she is with them. But I think there's also a level of grace. And I don't say grace lightly, I really mean just a, you have an air about yourself. That is, maybe because you did ballet when you're a little, I don't know. But that is just, um, I don't even know how to say it. But everything that you seem to have accomplished, comes with a humility to it in a way that I, I just I picture you, I mean, all of it almost like being a Battle the Blades where it just, everything
just looks easy with a big smile on your face. And inside, the engines are turning so quick. And I just feel like you are that we see the top of the iceberg and there's so much more layers to you underneath it. Whereas I feel like with your Dad and your brother, we see what we get, you know, you see it and but you just make everything looks so pleasant and so easy. Is that, do you mean to do that? Or is that something that you've had to? Or was it through ballet?
Jennifer: You're right, when I was a gymnast at 6 years old, my short lived gymnastic career but I think that is a very good description but I think it's the goal to get to that result where whether you are a hockey player playing at the Olympics and it feels easy, that moment where the game feels easy and you can feel and see everything or from recent experience on Battle of the Blades. Where you try with all of your heart and might to do this stuff, you know foreign movements and make it look half decent but behind that I think is the personality of someone who is super driven and wants to be their best and at times I do feel like I am hard on myself and that was probably my biggest challenge throughout our years on the National Team. You have such high standards for yourself and just sort of recognizing, okay everyday might not be perfect. I think it's hard as a high achiever that sometimes you can be self critical or tough on yourself but I think that comes from a good place that I always wanted to be my best in every situation and I think it helped me along the way to try to remember those moments of joy or to enjoy every step along the way and so that's something. I don't know if it came with the snap of a finger that was always super easy for me but something I always tried to remind myself of and it was, I think you know when I played at my best the way I described it, I played with a free mind and an unburdened heart and that was sort of a good description for to try to get there as often as possible because as intense or exciting or competitive as the moment might be if I had that element of a free mind and unburdened heart - that helped me to perform at my best and I think it's the same now if I'm broadcasting or speaking or playing hockey or on Battle of the Blades show or whatever it might be to show joy within the intensity of the moment so that's something I've tried to accomplish and take a lot of pride in.
Sami Jo: Well I think that's a wonderful way to end it. I feel like it's a great synopsis of you so thank you for sharing and thank you for sharing with the listeners really what I guess makes you tick. I have been so fortunate to know you for so long and I just feel like there are so many wonderful aspects about you and I wish that, like I said off the top. I wish everyone could have a Jennifer Botterill in their life because I just feel calmer and in a warmer state every time I talk to you so I feel like everybody can see our big smiles that we have on our face but it really is such a wonderful... you've been such a wonderful friend so thank you and thank you for being on my podcast. I really appreciate it.
Jennifer: Well thank you for having me and thank you for the trip down memory lane and I also hope you know how instrumental you were for the majority of all those great memories in my career so you played a huge part.
Sami Jo: I made sure that all the grapes were cut in half!
Jennifer: Thanks Sami
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