Elite Amateur Sport Hockey

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Versatile Jamie Lee Rattray achieves elusive Olympic goal


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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

JAMIE LEE RATTRAY
Sport: Women’s Hockey
Age: 29
Hometown: Kanata
Residence: Toronto/Calgary
Local Club: Kanata Blazers/Ottawa Lady Sens
First Olympics
Instagram: @ratt26

HIGH ACHIEVERS BOUND FOR BEIJING SERIES (Part 1 of 5): Jamie Lee Rattray has finally received the last, elusive piece of the puzzle.

At 29, this patient, understanding and determined hockey player from Kanata, ON., has now snapped that segment proudly into place and can call herself a first-time Canadian Olympian.

Next stop, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

It took some time for the three-time Earl of March Secondary School athlete of the year, Clarkson University’s greatest female hockey player and one of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s best to reach the Olympic plateau, but she was good with the long journey.

Eight years ago, she was focused on university and the Olympics weren’t really on her radar. But her accomplishments as a Clarkson Golden Knights’ winger certainly should have put her in the coaches’ conversation for the team.

After a stellar and unprecedented career at Clarkson and helping Canada win silver medals at the world women’s hockey championships in 2015 and 2016, Rattray’s chances for an Olympic team berth appeared much better. But it never happened. A disappointed Rattray looked to the positives, kept playing hard and worked at improving her all-around game.


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“I’m not sure the reason, but it obviously was best for me. I figured out what worked for me as an athlete. It was heartbreaking. But in the end, I learned to love the game more and changed things to adapt,” she explained.

For the past four years, Rattray’s hockey career has followed a fractured path. She played the second of two CWHL seasons with the Markham Thunder before women’s pro hockey faded because of financial instability. And then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived to shut down many women’s hockey opportunities.

After a three-year absence, Rattray returned to the Canadian team for the world women’s hockey championships in 2019 and 2021, winning bronze and gold medals respectively. The 2020 world championship was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Rattray’s Olympic journey took another positive step last year, when she was invited to the national team centralization program in Calgary for the top 29 players. Canada could take only 23 players and, in the end, Rattray made the grade for the first time.

Jamie Lee Rattray. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“It started to sink in the other day when the team was announced,” Rattray said in a recent phone interview. “I saw the jersey with my name on it. That was definitely a cool day to come to the rink.”

The team has practised hard leading up to the Olympics and played well, when they took on the United States in the Rivalry Series or against boys’ junior teams. For every practice and every game, Rattray put out her best performance and let the coaching staff make the decisions about team selection.

“To be honest, I took it day by day, year by year,” she said about her approach to striving to make her Olympic debut. “The biggest thing for me was to put everything into it until they told me not to. Day by day, I did what I could under my control. I’ve learned over the years you can’t control much. Just control your attitude and effort.

“The stress was there for everyone. It weighed on everyone. It’s still a trial and you all want to be on the team. We did a good job and checked with each other and stayed focused. Definitely going into December, it was stressful. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that. Being older, I took it day by day. It also was important to check on the younger players. I’d check in with some of the girls, even if it was a regular conversation.”

Rattray joined the Olympic centralization program with an impressive resume and work ethic that finally proved to be enough to become an Olympian.

She played four seasons in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (2006-10) for the Ottawa Lady Senators, recording 64 goals and 47 assists for 111 points in 100 regular-season games, plus a league championship in 2009. Her performances were noticed by many top university scouts, including Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Lawrence, Wisconsin and Clarkson, the ultimate winner.

At Clarkson, she led the Golden Knights to their first-ever NCAA division 1 women’s hockey championship in 2014. The 2013-14 season was a golden time for Rattray, who was the NCAA scoring leader, the ECAC Player of the Year and the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in American college hockey. She had personal-best numbers in goals (29), assists (37) and points (66) in her final year and finished with a Clarkson career record 77 goals, 104 assists and 181 points in 147 games.

During her five seasons in the CWHL (2014-19) with the Brampton Thunder and Markham Thunder, she helped the latter team win the playoff championship in 2018 and was voted the regular-season MVP by the players.

Kanata’s Jamie Lee Rattray played for Team Canada against the U.S. in a possible Olympic gold medal preview at TD Place in Ottawa on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Dan Plouffe

When Rattray steps onto the ice to play the Olympic preliminary matches against Switzerland, Finland, Russia and the United States, she’ll be ready to accept any team role.

“For me, it’s my versatility. I was fortunate at the worlds last August to play anywhere they needed me. Being versatile, I can play anywhere. I’m proud of myself for that,” she added.

For every Olympic Games or world championships, the Canadian or U.S. women’s hockey teams are favoured to win the gold medal, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are no different. (Canada has won four gold and two silver medals at the Olympics, and 11 gold, eight silver and one bronze medals at the world championships).

“To be successful, we have to come up with a good plan. You saw it at worlds (2021),” Rattray said. “We have to support each other, be gritty and energetic. We have to stay connected all over the ice. If we stick with it, there are not a lot of teams that can beat us.”

COMPETITION SCHEDULE:

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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