CIS 50th Anniversary Success Stories (Week 1): Cheryl Pounder
Cheryl Pounder developed her skills at Laurier before excelling on hockey’s biggest stage
By Kevin Campbell
Cheryl Pounder is a firm believer of passing the torch from one
generation to another.
The two-time women’s hockey Olympic gold-medalist and Wilfrid Laurier graduate is all about soaking up memories, sharing her experiences with others, and moving forward.
“I’m a firm believer that the journey is what it’s all about,” said the ex-Team Canada defenceman.
Not surprising, since Pounder’s journey has taken her everywhere from hockey-mad Montreal (her birthplace) to Mississauga, where she first laced them up, to Waterloo where she developed into the leader she is today, and beyond.
Just as hockey is engrained in the Canadian consciousness, so too did it plant itself in the Pounder family. Cheryl’s grandfather reigned as the General Manager of the Montreal Junior Canadiens for a time, and her brothers got into it early on.
“I got taken to all the rinks [when my brothers played] and one day I turned to my parents and said I wanted to play,” said the 1998 WLU President’s Award winner.
Pounder started with ringette. It wasn’t the same.
“I didn’t like that quite as much as what my brothers played,” she said.
So after a year, Pounder switched to hockey and got her start in the Mississauga girls’ league at around the age of eight.
And just like the many romantic commercials of Tim Hortons’ might have you believe, Pounder’s backyard rink was very much a fixture in her early years.
“I basically learned to skate there,” she said. “My parents were very supportive.”
Then, Wilfrid Laurier University came calling.
They touted their unique kinesiology program. They showcased their small, intimate campus. They hinted at the prospects of a women’s hockey program on the rise.
Pounder was convinced.
“The program that was being offered was fantastic, and I had a few of my friends going to Laurier from my club team [in Mississauga]. I loved that it was a smaller school and I loved the family atmosphere,” said Pounder.
“I had four fabulous years there and I wouldn’t have
changed it for the world.”
Laurier Director of Athletics and Recreation Peter Baxter can thank the Golden Hawk Hall of Fame inductee for the athletes he may now be enjoying because of the veteran.
“People ask me now what school to go to, and I say I’ve had outstanding experiences at Laurier... [The program] has grown so much with so many people helping, and of course [head coach] Rick Osborne has done a fantastic job getting it to where it is today.”
The program pioneer caught Hockey Canada’s eye right out of university and since graduation the defenceman has done nothing but mine for gold.
Pounder may need to browse IKEA for a larger display cabinet.
The mother of two young girls has racked up five world championships, two Olympic golds and eight Nations Cup medals, seven of them golden.
Still, the motivational speaker says the drive to succeed comes before an impressive resumé.
“Whether it be adversity or success,” she tells her listeners, “preparation and sacrifice are necessary, and the main underlying theme would be passion.”
So any advice for aspiring student-athletes?
“First of all, enjoy the moment, enjoy where you are,” she says. “Being at school for four years of your life; those are years you’ll never get back... Always be prepared and never doubt yourself...When you come to a crossroads, the one question that needs to be answered is, are you prepared? And if you’re prepared, whether you succeed or you don’t, you’ll have no regrets.”
“Walking down the hallways, being at Wilf’s – you miss those times... You blink and it’s gone,” said Pounder.
Pounder has managed to stay in the game through her work on the TSN panel, both as an analyst and a colour commentator for the women’s championships in Switzerland.
“It’s not as easy as people on television make it look, and a lot of practice needs to go in to be good at it but I learned a lot... it keeps me in touch with the girls in the game,” said the blueliner.
Pounder now resides in Mississauga. She and fellow gold-medalist Becky Kellar run a yearly summer hockey camp called Strictly Hockey.
Pounder’s two girls, Jamie, 3, and Lauren, 1, are discovering what life in a hockey family is all about – Lauren recently accompanied her mother to the camp for the first time.
“I’m hoping she loves it enough to attend in a year or two,” said Pounder, “but I want them to find their own passions. I think that’s very important.”
“When they’re young you throw skates on them and a stick in their hand and they love it.”
And the torch is passed again.