Feb. 2, 2022

Olympics veteran Brianne Jenner helps lead young, energetic women’s hockey team to Beijing

UCalgary alumna draws on years of experience building her physical and mental stamina for another shot at gold for Canada
 Brianne Jenner returns to the Winter Olympics in her role as alternate captain for the Canadian women's hockey team.
Brianne Jenner returns to the Winter Olympics in her role as alternate captain for the Canadian women's hockey team. Dave Holland, Hockey Canada Images

At 22, she competed in her first Olympics. She was at it again four years later, suiting up for the 2018 Winter Games.

Now ice hockey star Brianne Jenner, who has skated past her 30th birthday, is bound for Beijing, China, for her third appearance at the Olympics.

But don’t dare to assume this is the same forward who has been a Team Canada stalwart for the better part of a decade. Because she isn't.

This version of No. 19 is even stronger.

“Every year you have in your hockey career you learn a lot, you evolve — that’s the only way you can stay on the national team, really,” says Jenner, MPP’17. “You continue to add to your game, continue to build, not just your physical skills, but your mental skills. I certainly feel like I’m a more mature player than I was at my first Olympics.

“That’s the way you have to be in order to keep your spot. It's so competitive and there are so many young players trying to come up and take that spot.”

Jenner: “I remember thinking before my first Olympics, ‘Wow, how am I ever going to sleep the night before a game?’

Matthew Murnaghan, Hockey Canada Images

Mix of leadership and young energy

Indeed, there is jostling from the cast of understudies. Jenner — who, as usual, will serve as an alternate captain for the team — points out the 23-player roster includes 10 newcomers to the Olympic scene.

As the rookies push for bigger slices of ice time, their verve is unmistakable and well-appreciated.

“We’ve got a lot of players the Canadian public won't have seen a lot of yet, but we have the utmost confidence in them,” says Jenner, a native of Oakville, Ont. “We have a lot of talent and great decision-making from those young players. We have a great mix of veteran leadership and young energy, as well.”

The Canadians are perennial contenders. In a half-dozen Olympic appearances, they've collected six medals — four of them gold and nothing worse than silver.

'Sheer excitement' being named to the team

As a teenager, Jenner came close to cracking the lineup for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. She continued to push and was named to the 2014 Olympic roster. Jenner still recalls the “sheer excitement” of the moment.

And what about the privilege of performing on the grandest of stages? “I was just taking it all in, watching and observing the veterans a lot, trying to mimic what they were doing and be the best I could be for the team,” says Jenner, who appeared in all five games en route to the podium’s top perch that year.

Her experience means Jenner now serves as an invaluable resource to her fellow athletes.

After all, during her years at Cornell University, before attending UCalgary, she was four times a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the NCAA’s top female hockey player (while, at the same time, being named one of Cornell’s 19 Most Impressive Students by Business Insider).

Advice will be valuable 

As captain, Jenner guided the Calgary Inferno to the 2016 Clarkson Cup, top prize of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Plus, she’s skated in multiple world championships, wearing an “A” for most of them.

So, for the wide-eyed youngsters making their Olympic bow, this is someone worth listening to. She knows what they are about to experience.

“There’ll be some added nerves, there’ll be some added excitement,” says Jenner. “I remember thinking before my first Olympics, ‘Wow, how am I ever going to sleep the night before a game?’ Then you realize when you get there that everything you’ve done to that point has really, honestly, prepared you. It’s something you’ve trained for your whole life.

I would tell all those young players that they’re ready, they’re prepared — just go out and enjoy and play free. I’m confident they’re going to do that.

Team Canada, whose games will be carried live by the CBC, opens the tournament Feb. 2 against Switzerland at the National Indoor Stadium. Check out the CBC's events schedule and results.

Matthew Murnaghan, Hockey Canada Images