THUNDER BAY - Local hockey player, Haley Irwin, said coming home with an Olympic silver medal doesn’t necessarily feel like a win.
“In order to win a silver medal, you have to lose a hockey game and that is a lot to handle in that moment so it can be very emotional,” she said.
But despite the emotions and the heartbreak on the ice, cheers from family and friends greeted the three-time Olympic medalist when she returned to Thunder Bay on Saturday.
“It feels good,” Irwin said. “I haven’t been home in a very long time and I’m excited to be back in the city and hopefully share the medal with a few people.”
Irwin and Team Canada earned silver during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, losing the gold medal to the United States 3-2 in a shootout.
Irwin kept Team Canada going during the final game with their rivals from the United States, scoring the tying goal to make it 1-1 early in the second period.
“That’s what we needed and we needed that next goal,” Irwin said. “After that our mission was to get the second one. We were kind of playing it shift by shift.”
Team Canada was unable to break away and lost the game and its third gold medal in a row in a shootout.
Standing on the ice and watching members of Team USA receive the gold medal was a heartbreaking experience for her and her teammates, Irwin said.
“We went there to win a gold medal, there’s no secret behind that, that’s the honest truth,” she continued. “We didn’t accomplish that. In the final game, when you are standing there, there is a lot of emotion.”
This being Irwin’s third Olympic Games, the 29-year-old's future with Team Canada is still up in the air and she said she intends on taking some time to decide what her future will be with the team.
“I’m getting older now and I’ve been through a lot of injuries in the last few years and my body has taken a toll,” she said. “I will take some time now to reflect and think about that and make that decision when the time is right.”
But now that she is back home for a brief visit, before returning again later this spring, Irwin plans on sharing her experiences with family, friends, and young aspiring hockey players in her home community.
“I think each journey is different on how I got there and how we got there as a team,” she said. “Those experiences have changed and it’s a different story every time, whether it’s Vancouver, Sochi, or now in PyeongChang. It’s just sharing those experiences so hopefully it can inspire others.”
Part of that inspiration will involve hosting a hockey school this summer for young women hockey players who aspire to be on the Olympic stage, just as she did as a young player growing up in Thunder Bay.
Irwin said the school will be held from July 16 to 20 at the Tournament Centre for players in atom, bantam, and peewee.
“It will really give me a chance to work in the community and with the youth and for the girls here who play hockey and aspire to one day play for Team Canada,” she said. “I hope I get that interaction with them and hopefully help them in that direction.”