This was always the plan.
When Canadian forward Natalie Spooner gave birth to son Rory in December, she had the World Cup on her calendar.
And four weeks after Rory’s birth, Spooner was back on the ice training. Before long, she was playing in the Professional Women’s Hockey Association.
Not only did Spooner suit up for Team Canada at the world championships on Wednesday, he scored the game’s opening goal and had an assist in a 4-0 win over Switzerland at the CAA Center in Brampton, Ont.
After taking three straight penalties in the first period, Canada was driving back into the Switzerland zone when an opposing defenseman deflected the shot, accidentally landing on Spooner’s stick. Ont. The 32-year-old resident of Scarborough, N.Y., made no mistake in burying the ice pick.
WATCH |: Spooner, Nurse score in round 1 against Switzerland.
Spooner said he blacked out when he found the threads.
“Oh my god, did he really come in? I was like, ‘Wow,’” Spooner recalled after the game. “Obviously, I came into this tournament just hoping to make an impact and help my team, and to get the first one was pretty special.”
Sarah Nurse and Rebecca Johnston added power-play goals and Sarah Fillier closed out the scoring in the third for Canada, who entered the tournament as two-time world champions and reigning Olympic gold medalists.
Anne-Rene Desbiens made 11 saves to record the shutout. Her biggest stops came in the first period, first with a five-on-three kill by Canada to keep the game tied, and then in the frame when she stoned Switzerland’s Alina Mart on a breakaway.
Earlier, Finland (1-0) routed France (0-1) 14-1, while USA (1-0) allowed Japan (0-1) to open but rebounded to win 7-1.
On Thursday, Rory, who turns four months old, was around the team to worlds. Nurse said he was strapped to Spooner’s chest at the pregame lunch, and head coach Troy Ryan said he was fun to be around.
“It’s amazing how supportive my teammates and Hockey Canada are, and obviously it’s a lot for me to juggle, but he has so many aunts that they hold him at lunch and make sure he’s happy so I I can eat.” Spooner said:
“My mum is helping out here too so it’s been great and she’s been quite happy around the girls.”
Spooner missed just eight weeks of hockey during her pregnancy, four before and four after.
While he was well aware of his goals, he also knew there were potential complications that could delay his schedule. He ended up playing six PWHPA Dream Gap Tour games before worlds.
“When I was finally able to come back, I said, “Wow, I feel like myself again!” Looks like I really missed this stuff. It was awesome,” Spooner told CBC Sports in late March.
“And then just being back with the girls, just missing that and having fun and even the excitement of the big games, even when I was playing [PWHPA] it felt good, I missed this feeling.”
Johnston, who played with Spooner on PWHPA’s Scotiabank team, said he was “so happy” for his teammate.
“Obviously it’s not easy for him to come back from the baby, but he’s really taking his time and really working hard to come back,” Johnston said.
Spooner is certainly not new to high-level international hockey. He is a three-time Olympian and two-time gold medalist. At Beijing 2022, he was Canada’s third-leading scorer with three goals and 11 points.
He said he relied on that experience to inform his preparation for this tournament.
“It’s definitely a little bit of a different process that I’ve gone through, but at the same time, I’ve just been following my recovery and all the amazing people that I have that I’ve been able to work with to come back so quickly. ,” he said.
However, he wasn’t sure he would be able to reach his former heights. He scored 66 goals for Canada entering these worlds.
“I have no idea what my role will be on the team or what it will look like,” he said in March. “But I’m just going to do what I can for the team.”
Those goals now total 67, and one as a mother.
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