Natalie Spooner cherishes the moment she met Jennifer Botterill for the first time.
It wasn’t when they were teammates on the Canadian national women’s hockey team at the 2008 Four Nations Cup.
It was at a hockey camp in Peterborough, Ont., when Spooner was just 11. Botterill, a veteran of Team Canada, came to visit the camp and had brought along the silver medal she'd won at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
Before Botterill retired in 2011, with three Olympic gold medals added to her legacy, Spooner got to realize her childhood dream of playing alongside her.
She still has the photo of that first meeting with Botterill and her medal.
Last week, Spooner made a short visit to Corner Brook to attend the PlayPro Hockey Camp. She hopes she and her own gold and silver Olympic medals were able to inspire some of the young players she met there.
“When I was little, it was exciting for me to get to meet someone with an Olympic medal and it was really those moments that sparked me,” Spooner said after meeting with some of the kids. “You never know, the next Olympian might be here.”
Sara Penney, 12, was at the camp and could barely sleep the night before she met Spooner.
“I was nervous and excited because I have never met anyone like that before,” she said. “She’s someone who got where she wanted to be and she won an Olympic medal.”
Penney, who plays centre and considers herself more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, does share Spooner’s dream of one day playing for Team Canada.
She was inspired by the tips she learned from Spooner on the ice and the advice she gave during a motivational talk off the ice. Being able to hold the thick, heavy gold medal Spooner won at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the silver she earned in South Korea last year was also an incentive to get better.
“I learned that you have to give 100 per cent in practice if you want to give 100 per cent in a game,” said Penney. “I feel like I can step it up a little more and will try to do that.”
Spooner, who played in the Olympics on a line with another of her women’s hockey idols – the great Hayley Wickenheiser, said it’s just as exciting for her to motivate kids with aspirations to reach for the stars.
“If your dream is to play in the Olympics or for Team Canada, it’s good to ask questions now about the direction you need to go and what you need to do to get there,” said Spooner.