Kelowna player follows dad's Team Canada footsteps
Based on his own experiences more than three decades ago, Don Spring has a pretty good idea how his daughter must be feeling these days.
Lauren Spring was named last week to Canada's national women's under-18 hockey team which will compete at the world championship later this month in Budapest, Hungary.
In 1979-80, Don spent a season wearing his country's colours as a member of Canada's national men's team, all culminating with an appearance at the Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The elder Spring is, not surprisingly, thrilled that his daughter is getting a chance to represent her country.
"It's pretty exciting for her," said Don Spring, who also played four seasons in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets. "You don't get too many opportunities to do something like this, to play for your country, so hopefully she will just enjoy it and make the most of the experience. I know it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me."
Lauren Spring has been on Hockey Canada's radar since last year, and had her first taste of international competition when a roster of Canadian U18 hopefuls played in an exhibition mini-series in August against Team USA. The players were also evaluated on their play at the national U18 championship last November in Calgary.
When all was said and done, Spring was one of four players from Kelowna's Pursuit of Excellence program to make the grade for Canada's final 22-player roster. Also named to the team from POE was Kelowna product Sam Fieseler, along with Sarah Potomak and Karly Heffernan.
For Spring, the captain of POE's U18 girls team, there are many people along the way who have played key roles in helping her realize a childhood dream.
"Obviously it's a huge honour," Lauren Spring said. "When I heard I made it, it was a proud moment and really have to thank family, friends and coaches who pushed me and helped get me there.
"Growing up knowing my dad played for Team Canada," she added, "it's always been a huge dream of mine to do the same, to follow in his footsteps."
As for Fieseler, the 17-year-old Kelowna product can't wait to pull on the Canadian jersey in Hungary.
"I've been working towards this for a long time, so to make the team is pretty exciting," Fieseler said. "To wear the Canadian jersey and actually get out there on the ice is going to be amazing. I'm looking forward to it."
Like Fieseler, Lauren Spring hopes her first experience with Hockey Canada will one day lead to other opportunities, such as the Canadian under-22 team and, ultimately, the national senior women's program.
But for the immediate future, the 18-year-old forward from Kelowna is firmly focused on helping Canada achieve its goals in Hungary.
"The opportunity to do this, with a chance to move up in the future is obviously an exciting thought," said Spring. "But for right now, this is one step, I need to enjoy the moment with the U18s, and do my part to help them win."
Spring and Fieseler will travel with Team Canada to Toronto on Friday, where they will spend the weekend practising and preparing for the world championship.
The team will leave for Budapest next Tuesday, followed by the start of the eight-nation tournament on March 23 with a game against Japan.
Canada will be looking to win its third consecutive gold medal at the world championship. Canada and the United States have dominated since the tournament's inception, winning three titles each since 2008.