Calling it a Team Canada career Amy Clarkson retires from national ringette team

Amy Clarkson was only four years old when she stood in net for the first time.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/03/2021 (563 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Amy Clarkson was only four years old when she stood in net for the first time.

Her brother Chuck, who is six years older, and his friends would play street hockey and they needed a netminder to fire shots at. With no volunteers, the little sister was thrown between the pipes.

Despite the age difference, they didn’t take it easy on Clarkson, but in the long run, it ended up being for the best.

Amy Clarkson played in four world ringette championships with Team Canada between 2013 and 2019. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

“That was probably a good thing. It’s probably what made me better,” said Clarkson, who grew up in St. Andrews, with a laugh.

It certainly did, as Clarkson, now 33, went on to play for the Canadian senior women’s ringette team and represent the red and white at four world championships between 2013 and 2019. Last week, Ringette Canada announced Clarkson has retired from the national program. Clarkson contemplated retirement prior to the 2019 world championships, but with the tournament being held on Canadian soil in Burnaby, B.C., she figured it’d be the perfect sendoff to her career.

“Being able to represent your country and knowing that you’re at the highest level you can be and that it was your biggest goal, to achieve it, it felt great,” said Clarkson.

“When you’re experiencing that with the other athletes you’re with, it’s just such a great competitive environment… It’s a very fun experience and I say to anyone that wants to try out to do it because you don’t even know what you might be missing out on because it’s definitely a great experience.”

Kitchener, Ont.’s Keely Brown is a hall of famer who backstopped Team Canada from 1998-2012 before becoming the team’s goalie coach. Brown, who now lives in Edmonton and works for the Oilers, coached Clarkson for the Manitoban’s entire tenure on the Canadian team.

“She’s just been such an integral part of the team,” Brown said. “Her personality, her style, her easygoing nature, but also, her ability to power down when it matters most has been so valuable when we’ve been training and planning for the biggest games.”

Clarkson was the lone Manitoban on the senior women's team for the majority of her Team Canada run. (Andre Vandal / Ringette Canada)

Unfortunately, Finland seemed to always have Canada’s number in the biggest games. In Clarkson’s four world championship appearances, Canada left with silver medals after losing to powerhouse Finland in the final each time. But for Clarkson, that doesn’t put a damper on her career one bit.

“You always want to win the gold medal. That’s obviously your goal and that’s what you want to do, but it doesn’t change my experience and it wouldn’t stop me from joining (Team Canada) again,” said Clarkson, who also represented Canada in bandy at seven world championships.

“I would do it all over again even knowing I’d get the silver medal. It still represents the fact that I was a part of a great team and I represented Canada.”

Clarkson was the lone Manitoban on the senior women’s team for the majority of her Team Canada run. She got her start with the program after an incredible 2013 National Ringette League (NRL) season with the Prairie Fire where she boasted a 14-1-0-2 record.

To play for Canada, players must play in the NRL, but that wasn’t so easy for Clarkson between 2014-16 as there were no Manitoba teams in the league. She had to suit up for the B.C. Thunder for two seasons and fly out west on weekends when they had games. There was some help from sponsors, but there were some large expenses to keep Clarkson’s career going. Luckily in 2016, the Manitoba Intact was born. The club, which is sponsored by Intact Insurance, is where Clarkson spent the past four seasons. The league currently isn’t operating owing to the pandemic.

“There’s been so many ups and downs. We started with two teams in Manitoba and then we went down to one and then we went down to none. So, Manitoba has kind of struggled with some ups and downs but thankfully, with Intact we were able to come back,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson got the chance to play in her province when the Manitoba Intacts team started in 2016. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“I’m hoping that Manitoba doesn’t have to lose out on that moving forward because it was a bit of a struggle to get a team back in just because the cost to play has definitely gone up which is hard for the athletes to manage… In the western division (featuring teams in Richmond, B.C., Edmonton, and Calgary) the prices have definitely gone up which is making it difficult.”

Clarkson hopes her retirement doesn’t mean Manitoba won’t be represented on the national team. Brown said that shouldn’t be the case as the program has some players from the Keystone Province on the radar.

“Oh yeah, I definitely do. I definitely feel that Manitoba is making another surge in providing a lot of elite players at the national team level,” Brown said.

“At the triple-A and the NRL level as well, they have a lot of strong skaters and young up and comers in their pipeline. It’s exciting to see what’s coming from Manitoba.”

Clarkson now lives in Selkirk and is a physical education teacher and counsellor at Walter Whyte School in Grand Beach. She doesn’t plan on hanging up the pads for good as she’d still like to play recreationally and hopefully, get into coaching. She’ll also keep a close eye on her eight-year-old niece who’s starting to play ringette.

“I’m sure I’ll always stay involved,” she said. “It’s always going to be a part of my life.”

Clarkson is now a physical education teacher and counsellor at Walter Whyte School in Grand Beach. (Ringette Canada)

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31 

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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