Westville native returns home after winning gold in Sochi
WESTVILLE – It might take some explaining and she sometimes gets some confused looks, but Lisa (Jordan) Haley always makes it clear that she is from Westville.
Haley, who helped coach the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team to gold in Sochi, was welcomed home yesterday by the town where she was born and raised with a public event at the Westville Civic Building.
“This is where I’m from and just because people don’t know where you’re from doesn’t mean you’re not from there,” she said. “I’ve grown up in Westville and have no problem explaining where it is. I’m not from New Glasgow (or another town). I guess I am from Pictou County and I love to say that as well, but this is the town that I’m from. It’s where I cut my teeth and gained a lot of my experience.”
Since being selected as one of the national team coaches she hasn’t been able to visit her family, making it just under two years since she has stepped foot in Nova Scotia, let alone Westville.
Things have changed in her hometown in that time, but said it feels like it was just yesterday that she was driving down North Main Street.
“As soon you come back home you feel like you never left,” said Haley. “It’s funny when you get here and you drive through the town, everything comes flooding back. There is just so much familiarity about it.
“It will be hard to leave again too because I know I don’t get too many opportunities to come back.”
Tuesday she arrived in Halifax where she spent some time before travelling home to Westville. Yesterday morning she visited Redcliff Middle School in Truro before stopping at her former school, Walter Duggan Consolidated.
At both schools she spoke about how she reached her goal of going to the Olympics. Haley admits that kids get told they need to set goals all the time, but she wanted to take that one step further and tell them to start working towards them while they’re still young.
“I wanted them to understand that it’s about the journey to reaching their goal,” she said. “We make a 1,000 decisions every day and every one of them are important. My hope is that they’re making the ones that get them one step closer to their goal.”
As a kid her goal was to make the Olympics. First it was as a hockey player, but when she hit bantam there wasn’t much of an opportunity to play.
“In my middle high school years (Grade 10 and 11) when I was supposed to be playing bantam hockey, I wasn’t keen on playing with boys at that point and it wasn’t encouraged at all, so I had to give it up.”
Her focus then switched to basketball where both Lisa and her sister Lesley helped Westville High School win multiple provincial championships.
Unfortunately for her, she realized height wasn’t on her side around the same time women’s hockey was introduced at the Canada Winter Games. With her and her sister being a few of the most talented female hockey players before they stepped away from the sport, they were both recruited to play on the first Nova Scotia team in 1991 at the Charlottetown Games.
“I think timing has been a big part of my success,” she said. “Being at the right place at the right time with the Canada Winter Games and then getting recruited to go to university from there. I’m sure had I not played university hockey, I probably wouldn’t be a university hockey coach, so it’s kind of ironic how everything fits together and how it all starts.”
From there she played for the Concordia Stingers for five seasons before being named the head coach of the Saint Mary’s Huskies women’s team. It was that coaching job and helping with multiple Nova Scotia teams at the Atlantic Challenge Cup that helped her make a connection with Hockey Canada.
Since joining the Hockey Canada national program in 2003 she has served as an assistant coach five times at the world women’s championship, twice with the U-22 team during the 2003-2005 seasons and once with the U-18 team, winning gold at the 2010 world women’s U-18 championship. Obviously after this year she can pad her resumé with the fact she helped coach the Olympic women’s hockey team to gold.
Looking ahead to next season, Haley will resume her duties with the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team as head coach. After taking a leave of absence to join the national team, she said she’s looking forward to getting back to her full-time job with the university team and looks forward to seeing what opportunities come her way with Hockey Canada.
“With Hockey Canada we’ll have discussions on the future by the end of May or early June, but right now we’re still wrapping up the Olympic season,” she said. “I’m interested to talk to see where I fit into the puzzle over the next few years. I would love to stay a part of Hockey Canada. It’s always a really special opportunity. Winning a gold medal helps your opportunities in the future I think, so I don’t know what the future holds, but I hope it’s promising.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris