Natalie Spooner is one of the top female hockey players in the world and has represented Canada at two Winter Olympic Games. She is currently the captain of the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The Scarborough, Ontario native also played NCAA hockey at Ohio State University. She was on season 2 of Amazing Race Canada with her national teammate, Meaghan Mikkelson. I had the opportunity to interview Natalie as part of my women in sports series of interviews here on Affinity Magazine, about women’s hockey, her experiences and life lessons.
How old were you when you started playing hockey? Did you start your minor hockey career in a boys association or did you always play with girls?
I started playing hockey when I was 4 years old. I played one year of boys hockey before switching to girls and played with Durham West Lightning.
Did you play other sports as a kid? Would you say that this helped you in hockey?
I played lots of sports as a kid. I always played competitive hockey and soccer, but at school I did any sport I could. Swimming, cross country, track, field hockey, badminton.
Were you ever bullied about playing a predominantly male sport? Did people make body image based comments? Around what age did this happen?
I was never bullied about playing hockey, I think playing on a girls team helped that. I also have three older brothers who always included me. I think I didn’t hear any comments about my body until I started developing muscles and was a bit older. I embrace my muscles because they help me perform my best!
What would you tell someone who’s never seen a female hockey game? What is a common misconception about female hockey?
I would tell them to come out to a game! When people see the speed and talent level they want to come back and watch more.
You are currently playing for the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. How has the league grown in size and popularity? Do you see the league merging one day with the NWHL?
The league over the years I have been in it has already grown a lot and continues to grow. We are getting more fans and the level of play is the best it’s ever been. I think all the players hope one day we can have one league. I think it would take women’s hockey to the next level and have all the best players in one league.
You’ve been able to represent Canada at various levels and tournaments. Does the feeling of putting on the maple leaf on ever change?
No, its a pretty amazing feeling getting to represent your country any time you pull the Canadian sweater on. Playing for all the players that came before us, all the little girls that will come after, all the Canadian fans, our families and Canada is always an honour.
Following the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014, you and teammate, Meaghan Mikkelson competed in the Amazing Race Canada. What was that experience like?
It was a really amazing experience. Getting to travel around the world and Canada, doing activities we would have never done on our own! It also really tested our ability to take things as they came at us. Getting up every morning and not knowing where you’re going or what challenges you might face really tested our nerves.
What was different about going into PyeongChang in 2018 versus Sochi in 2014?
Sochi was my first Olympics so everything was new and exciting. The way the venues were set up were also very different. Sochi was all in one secure bubble, like a Disneyland of sorts. PyeongChang was more spread out, but we got to experience more of the Korean culture.
What are the biggest lessons that sports have taught you? How do these convert into life outside hockey?
Sports has taught me a lot that I use in my everyday life now. It taught me
As Affinity Magazine is a publication written by teens, for teens, what advice would you give to yourself as a teenager?
Own your goals and personal journey. If you have a dream or goal, keep working hard to get there, it won’t be easy but it will be worth it in the end!
**Interview has been edited or condensed for clarity and length.