When Ann-Sophie Bettez was named to her first senior national team, the first people she told were her parents.
“They’ve been such great supporters of my entire career,” Bettez said. “I have everything to give back to them, for paying for us — me and my brother — playing hockey, all the travel.... Living in a small town, my parents had to drive two and a half hours to get to one game so they are the most important people to give back to and they’ve helped me so it’s just a matter of saying thank you.”
The road Bettez took from star at Dawson College and then McGill University to the Team Canada roster for the three-game Canada-USA Rivalry Series was so long and winding that it would take much more than two and a half hours. There were so many road blocks, detours, and speed bumps it looked like Montreal in the summer... or winter.
Bettez says that Hockey Canada first reached out before the new year.
“They approached me saying that they’d like to get me back in the program,” Bettez said. “They said, ‘there’s a chance you may get to the senior team but we don’t know yet’. Nothing was really sure so I was just doing what I had been doing this whole time: playing hockey because I love it and this is what happened.”
Players who are 31 years old just don’t re-enter the national program. Other than Shannon Szabados (32), Bettez is the oldest player on Canada’s 23-player roster. If you remove Olympians, 26-year-old Jamie Lee Rattray is the closest in age to Bettez.
It’s nothing new for Bettez to be dominant at the CWHL level (she’s third in league scoring, which would extend a streak that saw her finish top-five in league scoring every year she has played), so the news caught her a bit off guard..
“I was surprised,” she admitted. “I had put it away and to me I never expected to be back in the program so I was really excited and surprised at the same time.”
“It’s always gratifying to be on their radar with the best players in the country, so to me it was just an honour to get back on it because I never expected to have that chance. I’m really thankful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to the next month.”
The three-game series takes place February 12-17 with a game in London, Ontario before stops in Toronto and Detroit. No NCAA players were named to the roster because of the timing relative to their season.
Bettez didn’t even hesitate when asked what she’s most excited for.
“Having the chance to wear the jersey and play with the best players in the world,” she said. “If you look at the Canada-USA series, you’re looking at the two best teams in women’s hockey. So I’m definitely excited to be taking part in that, being on the ice with them wearing the jersey again.... All of those things and playing at the best level in hockey.”
Unlike many of her national team teammates, Bettez has a job outside of hockey, as a financial advisor. She had been splitting duties between that job and playing in the CWHL, but now she is shifting her focus.
“You can’t make a career out of playing hockey forever,” Bettez said. “You’ll need to find a job at some point. I’ve been fortunate to have a job that I love and that I’ve been establishing for five years where I work so I’ve built enough to say that I’ll spend less time doing my full-time job and train a little bit more because if I want to be able to compete I have to make sure I put the right training in. In terms of priorities, this is my chance, so I need to put all the chances on my side to be the best that I can be.”
The Rivalry Series is Bettez’s first appearance in the national program since the 2010 MLP Cup as a member of the Under-22 development program.
“What brought me to Team Canada is what I’ve been doing for all of these years. It’s not like all of a sudden now that I’m on Team Canada I’m going to change everything,” she said. “What led to my success is all the things that I’ve done not knowing that this was going to happen. For me what will change is more training because you have to make choices. I have to work and I have to make sure I have money to pay for things but now I’m willing to cut down that work thing that I have to put my training in priority. Make sure that I take care of my body, that I get physio or a massage and just make sure that my body is at the best state that it can be. So there’s a bit of a change in that standpoint, but on the ice I’m just going to keep going because that’s what brought me to this point.”
There was a time when Les Canadiennes had two national team members: Marie-Philip Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau. Now, there are eight players in Montreal who are part of the Canadian program, plus Bettez and American Hilary Knight.
“They bring experience that other players don’t have,” Bettez said. “They’ve been at the international level. They know what it takes to get there and they also know what to bring back not only on the ice but as people. So it’s really fun to be around them and learning from the best.”