Marie-Philip Poulin isn’t biting.
When it was suggested to her that she is already a lock to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame — having scored the gold medal-winning goal in each of the past two Winter Olympic Games — Poulin simply smiles.
“I never think about that,” said the captain of the Canadians women’s Olympic hockey team. “Sometimes people send me pictures online of my jersey at the Hall of Fame and that is pretty cool. But, no, I do not think about being inducted.”
What Poulin does think about is how she can help Canada win a third consecutive Olympic gold medal. Currently, it is an uphill battle for Team Canada, which has lost to the United States in each of the past three world championships and three Four Nations Cup finals.
Canada will send a younger team to Pyeongchang, South Korea than the one that captured gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, so Poulin’s leadership is more important than ever. She’s not big in the rah-rah department, choosing instead to lead by example.
“To me leadership is about bringing people together,” Poulin told CBC Sports. “You don’t do that always by talking. You have to know when to talk; when you might need those courageous speeches. But being a genuine, caring person also can be very helpful as a leader.”
Just 26 years old, Poulin’s career has been a storybook tale. In 2010 at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada beat the United States 2-0 in the final game. Poulin scored both goals. Then in 2014 in Sochi, Canada overcame a 2-0 deficit with less than four minutes remaining to win 3-2 in overtime. Poulin forced the extra period with a goal at 19:05 of the third period, and then scored the winner at 8:10 in overtime.
In 10 Olympic Games, Poulin has eight goals and 12 points. She was a three-time finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award presented annually to the NCAA’s top female hockey player as a member of Boston University.
“Poulin has been a great leader for us,” said Team Canada coach Laura Schuler. “Her work ethic speaks for itself. She doesn’t take a day off in terms of everything she does off the ice. Her fitness is excellent. She plays with heart and soul.”
Schuler said Poulin’s teammates adore her.
“She’s a great person,” Schuler said. “She truly cares about her teammates and I think she shows that in so many ways.”
Ask Poulin’s teammates about her and you’d think they are talking about Mother Teresa.
Meghan Agosta: “She’s not only an amazing hockey player, she’s a great person. She has done an amazing job leading this team and she’ll continue to lead this team to victory.”
Jillian Saulnier: “As wonderful as she is on the ice, she is even more tremendous off the ice. She is humble; such an amazing leader. We’re so proud of what she has done, but she never lets it go to her head.”
Laura Fortino: “My goodness, there is so much you can say about that girl. She is a natural leader for this country and for this team.”
You get the picture?
Much like Hall of Famer Mark Messier, often regarded as the greatest leader in professional sports during his prime, Poulin said she learned about leadership from her parents, and later, from her veteran teammates when she joined the senior team.
“My parents taught me about hard work and dedication,” Poulin said. “Getting better by pushing myself is my motivation and I hope it rubs off on the other players on the team. I want to get better every day and you don’t do that by taking anything for granted. If you want to reach your dreams and goals, you cannot just rely on your skills. It takes a lot of heart and hard work.”
Poulin credits veterans such as Jayna Hefford, Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette with teaching her about leadership, too.
Poulin’s success on the ice has led to many calling her the Sidney Crosby of women’s hockey. That’s quite a compliment.
“I get shy when I hear that, but it is an honor because I don’t think I am at that stage to be honest,” Poulin admitted. “I take it as motivation and I want to be better.”
Poulin said she is grateful for the way her career has unfolded and she wonders what the future holds.
“Back in 2010 I had no expectations,” Poulin said. “I was 18 years old and just happy to make the team. Scoring the two goals in the gold-medal game was a bit like a fairytale. I had to pinch myself to make sure it was true.
“Four years later it becomes even more surreal. If I wanted to write a story I would have written down we were losing 2-0 and we came back to win with me scoring the tying and overtime goals. Never in a million years would I have believed it, though. When I think about it, I get shivers and emotional.”
Stay tuned for Chapter 3.