Dave Holland/Hockey Canada Images
Feb. 9, 2018
UCalgary alumna guns for repeat hockey gold at Pyeongchang
A creaky-kneed teenager, Brianne Jenner listened to the prognosis. There was good news. Yes, troublesome meniscus in both legs could be repaired.
Bad news? "Your knees might not be great at 30 or 40 (years of age)," the surgeon informed the youngster. But for someone like Jenner, MPP'17, a blossoming hockey player with hopes of performing on sport's grandest stage, the warning was nearly meaningless.
"My dream was to go to the Olympics," Jenner, 26, was saying the other day. "Everyone makes some sacrifices to be at this level. There was no question for me there." So under the knife she went — three times — before graduating from high school. She didn't flinch. Not only did she go on to star at Cornell University, the Oakville, Ont., native was an integral part of Canada's squad at the 2014 Winter Games.
"It was formative for me to go through something like that," Jenner says of the surgery-recovery grind. "To learn how to deal with what most athletes would agree is one of the most frustrating setbacks you can go through … because it's out of your control. I've had my share of injuries, but I've been lucky enough to rehab them and persevere."
Dave Holland/Hockey Canada Images
In the championship match in Sochi, the Canadians trailed 2-0 before Jenner scored to jump-start a comeback, which was capped by a thrilling overtime triumph over the Americans.
"The way we won was a fairy-tale story — it's hard to top that," says Jenner. "The highlight is me celebrating with my parents (Dave and Brenda) who were there. All the sacrifices when I was growing up, they were my biggest supporters. And to have them there in that moment? Pretty special."
That gold medal is safely stowed away on a shelf, tucked into a wool sock. Now, of course, she'd love to fill the other sock.
"Because you're not really satisfied," says Jenner. "It's a dream come true, but for so many Olympic athletes, once you have a taste of gold, you're like, 'I want to do that again.' So that's where the focus is for us." In the anticipation-filled days leading up to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the high-scoring forward settled nicely into the role of sage veteran.
"We want to get back to that position where we can fight for gold," says Jenner, one of the squad's three alternate captains. "I want my teammates to have that same experience."
Her own hockey career has been framed by the Olympic pursuit, starting in 2002 when, as a little girl, she was mesmerized by the gold-medal action in Salt Lake City. "I remember being about this far from the television" — holding her hands a foot apart — "watching with my mom in the living room," says Jenner. "I remember screaming because of all the penalties that were going against Canada. You're always way less calm as a fan than you are as a player.
Mike Ridewood, Canadian Olympic Committee
I remember all the coverage. It was so exciting to watch female hockey on TV."
Now she's the one in the spotlight. In the prime of her playing career, Jenner is nevertheless well-prepared for life after hockey. From Cornell, she earned a bachelor's degree, with a major in government and a minor in law and society. From the University of Calgary in November, she received a master's degree. Studying at the School of Public Policy, at the downtown campus, she completed it in two years.
"I wanted to use this time to build towards my career after hockey and build my resume," she explains. "I wanted to make sure I was doing something with my time outside the rink that would help me post-retirement."
She points out that both of her parents are educators, and her older brother is a criminal defence lawyer. Right now, though, Jenner is focused on being an elite athlete.
"I'll be honest — my number-one passion is to be a hockey player," she says. "I'm really quite lucky I can live that first career. I'll do that as long as I can."