Volume 91, Issue 73
Friday, February 6, 1998
Nothing will stop Schuler from fulfilling her dreams
By Ian Ross
For the first time in Olympic history, women's hockey will be recognized as a medal event in Nagano, Japan and nothing is going to stop Canadian forward Laura Schuler from enjoying every moment of it.
While having a love for the game further back than she can remember, Schuler's dream nearly became a nightmare on Jan. 23 when she collided with a member of Team USA during an exhibition match in preparation for the Nagano Olympics and tore her left anterior collateral ligament.
"I was devastated," she said. "I did my other knee in the past, so when I felt it open up and pop, the first thing that went through my head was that my Olympic dream was dead."
Immediately seeking the advice of Olympic orthopedic surgeons, she was informed that since there was little swelling, a brace could be constructed and fitted to allow her to compete.
Now able to rejoin her teammates on the ice, Schuler is ready once again to complete a childhood dream.
"When I was younger, I wished I was a guy," she said. "I just wanted to get to the Olympics to compete that bad."
At the age of 27, it has been a long road for Schuler to arrive at this level of play. Joining the competitive Toronto Aeros team at the age of 10, she has allowed her talents to carry her off to Northeastern University in Massachusetts on a fully paid scholarship before landing herself with the powerhouse University of Toronto Blues.
Currently taking her post-graduate studies in exercise physiology at Toronto, Schuler notes that at the Canadian university level there are truly only four strong teams Toronto, York, Concordia and Guelph. However, she still feels the talent in Canada is far superior to the American neighbours'.
"They may have quantity down there, but in Canada the grade of quality is much higher."
Recognizing that although Canada will have a strong shot at the inaugural gold medal for Olympic women's hockey, she notes from personal experience that the United States can not be taken for granted.
"[Northeastern] was a good experience for me," she said. "It allowed me to play against and learn about many of the players on the U.S. team."
Schuler, a native of Scarborough, is extremely pleased the IOC finally recognized women's hockey as an official event claiming that the game has grown leaps and bounds over the 17 years she has competed competitively.
"This sport is definitely booming," she said. "There is even talk of a pro league starting up."
A member of both the provincial university champion Blues and a two-time gold medal winner at the Pacific Rim Championships, Schuler manages to consistently put in high-quality performances for high-quality teams.
"Growing up, I had always been on the dominant team," she said. "I just always wanted to play for the best team to maximize my skills."
The biggest test of Schuler's skills will start tomorrow night (2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), as Canada opens its first-ever Olympic women's hockey game against Japan.
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