There’s nothing as quintessentially Canadian as hockey. Sure, it’s a trope, a stereotype – a humble winter nation outfitted in plaid and skates. But the truth is, our affection for the sport is inescapable. Our love for it is our birthright, and nearly every kid from Oakville, Hamilton, or Burlington dreams of donning the maple leaf on the world’s biggest rinks. But dreams are just that – fantasy. And most of us settle for the sidelines and live vicariously through those who wear the red and white for us.
“When you’re a kid, and you’re watching the Olympic opening ceremonies – it’s so grand,” says Renata Fast, an Olympian, collegiate champ, and Canadian Women’s Hockey League star. “It’s so amazing. And growing up I remember sitting on my parents’ bed with my older brother when they announced Canada was coming into the stadium.”
Just a few years later, Fast herself was walking into the stadium, some other hopeful child in a bedroom in Hamilton aspiring to the dream Fast had realized.
Fast, (has there ever been a better surname for hockey?), epitomizes the fantasy born on rinks in Oakville, Milton, and the GTA – Ontarians who grew up on the sport, committed to participating in its lore. Born in Hamilton in the same hospital as her whole family, the youngest of four siblings, Fast lived the atypical Canadian childhood. Her parents gave her every opportunity to try every sport she wanted to, but while her friends and family engaged with sport recreationally, Fast found a more competitive spirit.
“I just fell in love with it,” she says of hockey. “[And] I just played because I loved it. I like having fun… I’m competitive. I didn’t really think that much of it [beyond fun] until High School and then things got a little more serious when I realized that I could get a scholarship, and then once I got a scholarship I was like okay, maybe I can make the national team.”
And that’s what she did. Fast starred at Clarkson University, and in her second year helped the Golden Knights win the school’s first NCAA Championship. From there she went on to compete for the Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Development Team and the Women’s National Team. In 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Fast realized every Canadian’s dream of representing their country in the Winter Olympics, winning the Silver medal in a hard-fought shootout with archrival Team USA.
Sport affords the unique privilege of being able to see the world while representing a nation. But to Fast, Ontario is home. And bringing the sport home, to provide the resources that built her career to a new generation, is a responsibility she takes very seriously.
“When I was a young girl,” she explains, “Becky Keller and Cheryl Pounder [Canadian Olympians] would put on a camp. My mom enrolled me and my sister and one of my good friends. I remember going out on the ice with them just learning from that. I need to do something to give back because there was so much support when I was at the Olympics and specifically, from [the hockey community.] That’s how I started my camp.”
The Renata Fast Hockey Camp celebrates its second summer this year in Burlington, with Fast in the Keller and Pounder role, returning home to foster dreams.