What occurred on March 2 in Red Deer, Alta., was so special that it called for a commemorative photo.

Carla MacLeod, Noémie Marin and Delaney Collins – all of whom have extensive experience as players and coaches in Canada’s National Women’s Program – posed outside Servus Arena to celebrate leading their respective provinces to medals at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

MacLeod’s Team Alberta won gold on home ice with a 2-1 win over Marin’s Team Quebec. Earlier in the day, Collins led Team British Columbia to a 5-4 win over Team Ontario to capture bronze. It marked the first time at the Canada Games or National Women’s Under-18 Championship that all three medal-winning coaches were female.

Sharing the ice with MacLeod and Marin during the medal ceremony is a memory Collins will cherish for a long time.

”I believe we all value each other so much that it was a proud moment for me to have the three medals – gold, silver and bronze – be [awarded to] female head coaches who have worked for Hockey Canada.”

The ties run deep between the three: Collins and MacLeod played together at the IIHF World Women’s Championship; MacLeod and Marin shared the bench with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in 2017-18; and Collins and Marin were assistant coaches for Canada at the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.

All hired about a year before the puck dropped, Collins, MacLeod and Marin had a clear conviction on what it would take to win in Red Deer. The biggest task for each of them was compiling a cohesive 20-player team that would realize the golden goal.

MacLeod and her coaching staff knew Alberta needed to be the hardest working team.

“We adopted that sort of approach and mentality to everything we did,” says the two-time Olympic gold medallist, who also leads the female Midget prep team at the Edge School in Calgary. “We had a slogan that said, ‘Team culture is hard work and hard work is team culture.’”

The disciplined style of play was evident during the whole tournament. Composure was another element to Alberta’s success. The players did not allow losing two of their first three games to rattle them. They just kept perfecting their process, and that work paid off with playoff wins over B.C. (2-1 in overtime in the semifinals) and Quebec.

Quebec cruised to a 5-0 record to reach the gold medal game. Marin, who coaches the women’s team at John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., emphasized filling the roster with resilient players. Her decision-making paid off with rallies in the first two games.

“When you’re down 2-0 seven minutes into a game, it is tough to have the resiliency to stand up and fight, and I thought our girls showed great character by coming back in those games after tough early starts,” she says.

Quebec passed its biggest test by withstanding 38 shots from Team Ontario to earn a 1-0 semifinal win.

Collins, head coach of the Fraser Valley Rush, a female Midget AAA side in B.C., put a premium on identifying players with self-compassion, which is the ability to not let mistakes keep you down.

“We definitely want girls that are hard-working and mentally are able to show a lot of compassion for themselves,” Collins says. “At the end of the day, it is a game of mistakes. So, how do you respond after making a mistake? We are looking for athletes who are open to learning and are not too critical about the mistakes in the game.”

This approach inspired her squad to play an exciting style of hockey dictated by speed and creativity, which earned the province its first women’s hockey medal at the Canada Games since 1991.

The weeks following the Games have afforded MacLeod with time to think about the significance of three female head coaches sweeping the podium. She says a moment like this could be impactful.

“Hopefully, if we are doing our job correctly, the players we are working with today may, in 10-15 years from now, want to coach that team.”

The three award-winning bench bosses all credit Hockey Canada for empowering them to believe they can be successful coaches, and to provide different opportunities along the way.

“It helps us as a coach and even just as a person in the world,” Marin says. “I think Hockey Canada is doing a tremendous job.”

MacLeod says this support is particularly instrumental in helping women in their early years of coaching.

“I have been fortunate in my career to have tremendous mentorship from all sorts of people, and I think building that up will encourage it to continue to occur, and hopefully then if young coaches face a little bit of adversity early in their career, they can manage it and grow from it.”

Hockey Canada is passionate about creating more opportunities for women through its We are Coaches all-female coaching certification events. The initiative strives to provide women with the resources, mentorship and network to succeed. The program also seeks to remove the barriers preventing women from pursuing the coaching profession.

Anyone interested in participating in or hosting an all-female coaching clinic can reach out to the coaching contact who works for their Hockey Canada member branch.