After being named to the Order of Canada, Cassie Campbell-Pascall went on a whirlwind press tour talking about the honour. She was kind enough to take the time to speak with me a few weeks after the announcement, and after she took a well-deserved vacation. We talked about what this means for the growth of women's hockey, her advice to young Olympians competing in Rio and how her career in hockey has influenced her work in broadcasting.
Check out the full interview:
Michaela: I know it's been a few weeks, but I'd love to get your thoughts on being named to the Order of Canada and what that means to you.
Cassie: It was a bit of a shock to the system. It's an overwhelming feeling, and it gives you a chance to reflect. For me, I had a lot of teammates and coaches reach out, and you have a chance to reconnect with people. It just really reflects on how far the sport of women's hockey has come. And now that I'm in broadcasting, it's nice to see females in broadcasting get recognition. So it was definitely a little overwhelming and surreal. It's a special honour.
M: You bring up a good point about this signifying the growth of the game. With you and Hayley (Wickenheiser) now both named to the Order of Canada, how important do you think things like this are to the growth of women's hockey at all levels?
C: To me, if you're the first of something it's important that there's a second (and third, and fourth). I think you're rarely going to see players play for as along as Hayley and I did because the talent pool is just so big and so good. These awards are nice from an individual perspective, but I think they really signify where our sport has been, and where it's come from. It's really too bad that Hayley and I are the only ones. There are just so many pioneers. So in that sense you reflect on there being only two, and it's a little sad. Especially when you play a team sport. I really feel that the day I got the call, the rest of my teammates should have got the call too. It's just a ball of emotions when you sit back and reflect on it, to think of how far our sport has come. It's pretty neat.
M: Speaking of the growth of the sport, the Olympics are here. What are some of your favourite Olympic memories from the games you competed in?
C: Oh man! Going into the opening ceremonies of my first Olympics in 1998. I had this out of body experience where I was this little girl watching from home. And yet I was actually there! [laughs] I remember that very vividly. Getting a chance to meet the other athletes, and just seeing the level of competition. You know, it's the ultimate competition and it involves taking your body and your mind to the next level. It's something you train for, then you have a chance to put it all out there. It's that competitive feeling. You don't ever get it again. It's a neat thing; you're just so focused on one goal for so long and then you're finally there. To be at that competitive level and under that pressure, it's just an exhilarating feeling. There aren't too many instances in your life where you're taken to that height. So it's very special. It's a thrill!
M: So on that note, what advice would you have for the athletes who are in their first Olympics?
C: I spoke to the women's rugby team in July, and one of the things I told them is: Believe that you belong. If you're going there not thinking you can win a Gold medal, then why are you going? Go for Gold. With so many sports (besides hockey) they set these expectations of just medaling, and maybe you'll get the Bronze. But why not have that goal of winning a Gold medal? And for the (rugby) team, I told them it has to be about business. With your first Olympics, you get a chance to see everything; the village, the other athletes, and it can be a lot of fun. But you're there for business. You're there to perform. Don't waste your training and preparation on things that can be done after your event.
M: Switching gears to your move into broadcasting. How has that changed your perspective on the game, if at all?
C: You know, I watch a lot of hockey, so I've learned more and more about the game. I didn't watch as much hockey while I was a player, as I do now. You get a chance to watch certain players' tendencies, whether it's the NHL or women's hockey. From a leadership perspective, you're always looking to be a better leader and a better person. And my broadcasting has helped me there. I'm around a lot of great coaches and players, and I get to pick their brains, for free! I love going to practices and learning what the players are working on. So for me, I just continue to learn more about the game. Hopefully I can put it to good use, and continue to learn.
M: How did your experience playing the game shape the way you approached your broadcasting career?
C: When I ask questions, I try to put myself in the player's shoes. A lot of time, in broadcasting, we focus on the negative. Yes, it's a tough game, and it's a game of mistakes. So I try to see things from their perspective. And this generation of players, they know that I've played. They probably watched me play. So I feel that I garner a little bit of respect. It's nice to sit down and have those conversations with the players, because they know I've been in their shoes. They open up to me; they talk to me about things. And it goes both ways: I learn from them and sometimes they get a chance to learn from me.
M: You've been at the forefront of breaking down a few barriers, both in playing the sport and in covering it. How do you view the state of women in sports broadcasting?
C: I think it's come a long way. If you're a man and you played in the NHL, you get put in different roles than I would. Playing female hockey, I get put into a reporter's role. But a male in the same position gets put into roles of doing colour commentary or being an analyst. I'd like to see that wall broken down. I've had a few opportunities to do colour or be an analyst, but those opportunities aren't coming fast enough for women. You know, you hope that changes in the future. Whether it's me, or Tessa Bonhomme, or Meaghan Mikkelson, if she decides to get into broadcasting. You hope that people see that a female hockey player is just as knowledgeable as a male hockey player. Despite the fact that they haven't played in the NHL, they've played at the highest level that they can.
M: Finally, how are you spending the NHL offseason?
C: Well, I'm a mom, and I travel a lot in the winter. So I try to keep my travel to a minimum in the summer. So I'm just looking forward to being home with my daughter. We've been doing a lot of hiking. I try to make family my number one priority in the summer, because that's hard to come by in the winter.
Thank you to Cassie for taking the time to speak with me!