With Canada’s five gold medals in women’s Olympic hockey, it’s a surprise that blue-liner Micah Zandee-Hart of Saanichton is the first B.C.-born player to reach the top of the Olympic podium, which she did late Wednesday night in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
“We see Micah as the tip of the spear,” said B.C. Hockey CEO Cam Hope of Victoria.
A four-year-old Peninsula initiation-level hockey player, whose earliest memories are of watching in 2002 as Canada won gold at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, accomplished the feat herself two decades later.
“It’s at moments like this when you think back to that four-year-old girl and how proud she would be that she stuck it out to reach this goal,” Zandee-Hart said.
It wasn’t easy getting there after it appeared shoulder surgery over the past year might deny her the Olympic dream.
“Last spring when I got hurt I thought it might have been the end of my Olympic dream,” said Zandee-Hart.
“But the medical staff, doctors and coaches were all confident that I could come back. I am grateful for all the support. I took that and ran with it and worked so hard and put in the effort to be healthy and ready.”
In doing so, Zandee-Hart extended the Island’s Winter Olympics gold-medal streak to three consecutive Games following Dallas Stars captain and Central Saanich-product Jamie Benn’s gold in men’s hockey at Sochi 2014 and Comox freestyle-skier Cassie Sharpe’s gold in women’s halfpipe at Pyeongchang 2018.
“Micah Zandee-Hart is an inspiration for all the girls playing hockey in B.C.,” said Hope.
“I believe we are going to see a groundswell of B.C. female players at the highest levels. Our progress the last five years has been exceptional. Our B.C. U-18 team won the Western Canadian championship and our U-18 Triple-A league is growing in excellence and is very strong, as are our academy programs. Micah is a product of her own determination before girls’ hockey was a priority [in B.C.]. Our board has now made it a priority and we are going to see the results of that very soon.”
Zandee-Hart, the youngest of four siblings, said she became a blue-liner because brother Ben Hart played defence for the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. She started playing on Peninsula boys’ rep teams in Atom, Peewee and Bantam up to age 15 before going to the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
She is doing her part in building up girls’ hockey by helping with mentorship, coaching and development with the Capital Region Female Minor Hockey Association.
She now stands as even more of an inspiration. You can get there from here, even in the Winter Games, for an Island better known for Summer Olympics medals.
“I fell in love with the Olympics before I even fell in love with hockey and this is what I have aspired to my entire life,” said Zandee-Hart.
She fell into the right program and added to it.
“This national team has crafted a culture that is really special and where it is expected to bring home a medal,” said Zandee-Hart, among 10 Olympic rookies on the Canadian team.
And that colour is once again gold.
“I am so proud of the work everyone has put in. A lot of times people just see the finished product, they see the gold medal and everyone getting to celebrate. What they might not see is the ups and downs that happen in a season,” Canada head coach Troy Ryan said in a statement.
“Seeing [our athletes] celebrate gave me a chance to reflect on everything that has been thrown at them and what has happened this year. It has been impressive to watch.”