Becky Kellar played for the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team from 1997 – 2010. Competing at 4 Olympic Games, she won 3 gold, and a silver medal, plus 4 World Championships.Kellar runs a hockey school for girls (Strictly Hockey) with teammate Cheryl Pounder, and she is a keynote motivational speaker.
Married to Nolan Duke, President of G.C. Duke Equipment Ltd., Kellar and Duke live in Burlington with their 2 sons.
Van Hansen: How long have you called Burlington home?
Becky Kellar: I grew up in Hagersville, just outside of Hamilton. I’ve been in Burlington since 1999 so it’s definitely home now. This is where my kids are being raised and going to school and playing sports, and it’s been a great community for me to be a part of.
Van Hansen: What is your first memory of wanting to play hockey?
Becky Kellar: I grew up watching my older brother (Nathan) who is 2 years older, who always played hockey. My Dad was a big hockey fan and we watched Hockey Night in Canada, so it was sort of part of my life before I ever wanted to play. I think that watching hockey, watching other people play kind of made me want to try it myself.
Van Hansen: What is your point of view on the challenges for girls wanting to play hockey?
Becky Kellar: I think it was difficult when I was growing up. There were not a lot of girls playing hockey and I had this passion for something I felt like I really wasn’t supposed to like. That’s changed a lot.
The first world championships were in 1990 and then with women’s hockey included in the Olympics in ‘98 it changed things drastically. The sport has grown so much that I don’t think it’s unusual at all now for girls to want to play and to dream of playing in the Olympics, or playing at a high level which is great.
My advice to any girls that want to pursue a higher level is that it starts with a passion. If you don’t love it then it’s awfully hard to compete at that level.
Van Hansen: Tell me about Strictly Hockey.
Becky Kellar: Cheryl Pounder and I were teammates and defence partners for a number of years with Team Canada, and we decided after the 2002 Olympics that we wanted to start a hockey school. We work with some of the associations, we coach our own kids and then run a couple of weeks of hockey school in the summer which has been a really great experience for us on the ice with some of the local girls that are playing.
Van Hansen: Do you still play on a team at all?
Becky Kellar: No, I have retired from any sort of elite or competitive hockey. I do play a little bit of pickup hockey with my husband, and both my boys play for the Burlington Eagles so I coach my younger one and I help coach my older one. So I’m on the ice a lot, just not playing anymore.
Van Hansen: What is your greatest challenge right now?
Becky Kellar: (laughs) Time management. With two boys playing rep hockey and some of the commitments I have, it can be a bit of a juggle but we usually make it work.
Van Hansen: What was the best and worst experience from your career, and what have you learned from those?
Becky Kellar: I had a lot of really great experiences playing with Team Canada.
Winning the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 was one of the greatest experiences I had. We had lost every game to the US that year and we were 0 and 8 going into that Olympic final and I think a lot of people had written us off. So to be able to actually go into that game and do what we had set out to do and kind of prove a lot of people wrong was an amazing moment.
I don’t know if there’s any that I would consider a worst experience, they are all learning experiences for sure. I know standing out on the ice in Nagano having the silver medal put around our necks definitely fueled the fire for the years after that but it was certainly a moment I’ll remember as being a bit of a disappointment.
Van Hansen: What motivated you to get your MBA?
Becky Kellar: So it’s really difficult to pursue a full-time job or career when you’re training full-time for the Olympics, so I made the decision that I would go back to school.
It sort of fit with my schedule as something I could do that would be productive for me that I could use down the road so I applied to Laurier and got into their MBA program.
Van Hansen: Tell me about your motivational speaking, using your experience in sport to teach business about how to lead a winning team.
Becky Kellar: I do a lot of speaking both on my own, and under contract with RBC.
Cheryl Pounder and I give a joint presentation which has been a lot of fun relaying our stories and what we’ve learned in terms of team building, overcoming obstacles, and the pursuit of excellence.
I have also spoken at a lot of schools throughout the years as well as to every team from Minor Peewee and up for the Burlington Eagles last year.
Van Hansen: With a young family and a demanding career, how did you find your equilibrium?
Becky Kellar: When I had my kids I was still playing on the national team so from the day they were born I was learning how to balance family and work commitments.
Owen was born in October 2004 and I was back on the ice within 6 weeks and went to my first training camp about 6 weeks after that so I learned right away that you have to be able to balance the two things.
And it has been a positive—especially when I was training for the Olympics—to be able to take a step back and not always be focused on hockey but to have family to focus on as well.
Van Hansen: What did it feel like wining gold for Team Canada?
Becky Kellar: You know it was always an unbelievable experience to stand on the ice and have that gold medal placed around our neck.
There is so much work that goes into it and it’s really a 4-year cycle for us coming out of the Nagano Olympics where we had lost. It really started right away, pursuing Salt Lake City.
When you get to the top of the mountain it’s a pretty awesome feeling and then you basically go a month later and start all over again leading up to the next Olympics.
So you don’t spend too much time enjoying the moment, a little bit of time enjoying the moment and then your focus is on the next goal.
Next Episode is The Christmas Light-house Keeper