The humour and humility of Gillian Ferrari

GillianShe’s known as the  funniest player in the Team Canada dressing room. But the humble, gracious hockey player I interviewed  takes her hockey career very seriously.

Unlike some of the young girls on Team Canada, the 29-year-old remembers when her parents tried to sign her up for hockey and the Community Centre insisted she take figure skating. The year she finally started hockey was the year after Justine Blainey won a court case allowing girls to play on boys’ hockey teams. And she remembers the verbal abuse she took for playing.

“I can actually remember one time playing in a game and a mother came down from the stands and said ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this, you’re an embarrassment,'” says Ferrari. 

Ferrari remembers watching historical events for women’s hockey such as  the famous 1990 National game in Ottawa, known as the “pink jersey” game and the first Four Nations Cup (then the Three Nations Cup) in 1996. When she watched these early games, she began to think that a future in women’s hockey might be a possibility for her. 

FERRARI_039She remembers idolizing the likes of Angela James and Cheryl Pounder, not knowing that some day she would play on the same team as her hockey heroes. 

“I always wanted to put on the jersey. But I never thought I would go to the Olympics,” says Ferrari. “The more I got to see how good the girls were the less of a chance I thought I had to make the team.” 

But her strengths as a gritty, level-headed, experienced defenceman with a great shot from the point earned her a spot. Her trophy case includes a gold medal from the 2006 Olympics and two golds and two silvers from four world championships. While she’s centralized with the Olympic team this year, she normally plays for the Calgary Oval X-Treme. Still, with all that experience under her belt, she considers herself a “bubble” player. 

“Every skill is a challenge for me,” she laughs. “I’m always working on something. I’m not one of those players that everything comes easy.”

“But I don’t get too nervous. I don’t really panic. I’m sure sometimes [Charline] Labonte thinks I should be panicking more.” Another laugh. “But I don’t usually get us into bad situations. And I’m a good teammate.”

Despite her  lighthearted manner, it’s clear that the day she was picked for her first Olympic team is no joking matter. Telling the story of when coach Melody Davidson called her in to give her the news, she gets choked up and wipes away a few tears. 

It’s also clear she takes the significance of wearing the Team Canada jersey very seriously. Her solemn reflections on the history of women’s hockey reveal the respect she has for the pioneers of the game. 

“I wish more young girls understood how far women’s hockey has come. Through my generation — not through my work — but through the work of people like Geraldine Heaney, Angela James,  Heather Ginzel, France Montour, Vicky Sunohara. All of those people broke down those barriers and now we have women’s hockey at the Olympics. You speak to young girls and they didn’t know it wasn’t an Olympic sport or there wasn’t a world championship.”

“I think it’s important we remember those people and what they did for women’s hockey.”

Interview photo: Bonnie Tice; headshot:


1 Comment

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One response to “The humour and humility of Gillian Ferrari

  1. Bonnie

    Very inspiring piece, Anne. Gillian is a very inspiring player and person. I’m proud to have her wearing our Team Canada jersey. She’s the genuine article. By the way, fantastic photo of the interview! 🙂

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