The Role I Played
Canada’s Greatest Olympic Hockey Team
by Sami Jo Small
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Pub Date 29 Sep 2020 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2020
Three-time Olympic medalist shares behind-the-scenes insight into the beloved Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team
Men’s hockey in Canada may hog the limelight, but interest in women’s hockey has never been higher. The Role I Played is a memoir of Sami Jo Small’s ten years with Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team. Beginning with her experience as a rookie at the first-ever women’s Olympic hockey tournament in Nagano in 1998 and culminating with Canada’s third straight Olympic gold medal in Vancouver in 2010, the veteran goaltender gives the reader behind-the-scenes insight into one of the most successful teams in sports history.
Small offers insider access, writing with unflinching honesty about the triumphs of her greatest games and the anguish of difficult times. This book honors the individuals who sacrificed so much of their lives to represent Canada on a world stage and celebrates their individual contributions to the team’s glory. While bringing the personalities of her teammates to life, Small takes the reader into the dressing rooms and onto the ice for an up-close glimpse into the ups and downs of athletes pursuing a sport’s highest achievement.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
I received The Role I Played through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and I am so glad I did!
The Role I Played is Sami Jo Small’s story and takes the reader through her experiences as a Canadian hockey goalie. She takes you on a ride from her first National team appearance through three Olympics and onto her life post Olympics.
Before I read The Role I Played, I had never heard of Sami Jo Small, but now I feel like I’ve known her all along. I really enjoyed seeing her insider insights on Team Canada and the struggles of professional women’s hockey. She was around during the most formative years of the sport and made a huge impact. Reading about her dedication to the sport and her life in a professional sport that for years had only been seen as a male sport is very empowering.
I am a huge hockey fan and I have to say this is a must read for any female hockey fan out there who wants to see the behind the scenes of women in the sport. I am so glad I got the chance to read an ARC of The Role I Played! Sami Jo Small’s story is empowering and her dedication is inspirational. She even had me rooting for Team Canada along the way even though I am Team USA all the way!
Women’s hockey has grown exponentially in the past 25 years, thanks in no small part to the sport being part of the Winter Olympics in that time frame. The two most dominant teams during that time have been the United States and Canada. One player who was part of the first three Canadian teams, goaltender Sami Jo Small, has written a memoir sharing her experiences at those three Olympics and brings the reader inside the life of a hockey player.
The format of the book is not the typical memoir in that Small will often take the reader back to her youth when a moment during practice with Team Canada or a break in one of the games at the Olympics will connect with something that happened during her formative years. One such occurrence was when she was handling her goalie equipment while on the bench. The next chapter starts when she mentions her equipment when playing hockey with the boys as a young girl. The transition there is fine but the reading of the book seems to be interrupted in these parts, especially when the flashback is done and the narrative returns to the game or practice with Team Canada. There are also some sentences thrown into a paragraph that don’t feel like they belong. One example – when talking about teammate Sari Fisk during a game against Finland, Sari takes a pass from the defense. The next sentence talks about her young daughter running around the rink waiting for Mommy to finish practice. Then in the next sentence Fisk makes a pass to a teammate. How does the sentence about the daughter fit into a nice hockey play? This was the only quibble I had with this book that is otherwise filled with great stories.
It should be noted that while Small was a part of the first three Canadian teams at the Olympics in 1998, 2002, and 2006, she saw playing time in only 2002 as she was listed as the third goalie the other two times and therefore was not officially on the roster for playing nor were third goalies allowed to be on the medal stand should the team win a medal. Canada did win a medal in all three years – silver in 1998 with a heartbreaking loss to the United States in the gold medal game, and gold in 2002 and 2006. Despite the relatively little playing time, Small writes about her time with the national teams with an upbeat, positive vibe and the reader will learn much about the inner workings of a hockey locker room and the routines of a backup goaltender.
Playing with goaltenders such as Kim St. Pierre, Manon Rheaume and Charlene Lebonte, Small writes with a roller coaster of emotions as she works hard to compete for playing time against her teammates but at the same time will support them when they are playing. The two Olympics in which Small doesn’t play shows the gamut of emotions. As a rookie with the 1998 team, Small is thrilled to simply be a part of history as the first women’s Olympic tournament is played. After seeing playing time and having a gold medal draped around her neck in 2002, she is devastated to learn that she had to serve as the third goaltender once again in 2006. Credit should be given to her for fulfilling that role admirably and being the biggest cheerleader for Team Canada as they defended their gold medal.
However, this book is not just about Small’s experiences with the Olympic teams. Small played hockey with men in both Canada and at Stanford University where she graduated with an engineering degree. She also played in the women’s professional leagues that were operating in Canada and even helped ensure the survival of one by doing administrative work for one as well after her Olympic career was finished. Small also talks about her personal life in just the right amount of text and emotion. The reader will feel like he or she knows about Small, but without getting too much information to make it feel intrusive.
While many hockey fans will recognize the contributions to the women’s game by American and Canadian stars such as Cammi Granato, Katie King, Haley Wickenheiser and Danielle Goyette, the contributions of players like Sami Jo Small should be recognized as well and this book will bring a lot of information and enjoyment to hockey fans everywhere.
I wish to thank ECW Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction (Adult), Sports