Kanata-born Jamie Lee Rattray has joined an exclusive list of Ottawans who have come home with an Olympic gold medal. After being cut from Canada’s 2018 roster, Jamie preserved to not only make, but become an integral part of, the 2020 team. All of Rattray’s hard work paid off with back-to-back gold medals in the span of six months at the 2021 Women’s World Hockey Championships and 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The decorated hockey star chatted with us about her journey to the Team Canada, her Ottawa roots, and her favourite off-ice activities.
You grew up in Kanata. What are some of your favourite childhood memories?
It’s crazy to think how big it is now compared to when I was growing up. When I’m home to visit my parents I’ll drive around Centrum, which used to be all fields, or Stittsville, and I can’t believe how it’s changed.
I played a lot of hockey growing up in Kanata, obviously. I can think of at least 8 pads within 5 minutes of my house. It was there that I discovered a love for hockey, on all of the little ponds and outdoor rinks I used to go to with my friends.
You mentioned your parents. How influential were they in choosing your path and becoming both the person and player you are today?
They have been a huge part of this journey. I’m an only child, so I was spoiled in the sense that I got their full attention and support in my hockey career. We used to drive everywhere. Not just in Ottawa, but all over Ontario. They were really influential in my career and I can’t thank them enough. As an adult, I realize now all of the time, effort, and money that they put into my hockey career. I really can’t thank them enough. Sharing my gold medal with them was the most special and full-circle moment for me.
You have an Aboriginal background on your mom’s side. How do you connect with your community as an Olympian?
I’ve recently done a tour in Saskatchewan where we visited a couple of communities, there were a couple other Olympians and hockey players there. It was really cool to connect with those communities and to also share my heritage with them. I grew up in the city, but as one of few people with Aborignal heritage to play for Team Canada, it was really special. I think it’s important for young kids to have role models with similar backgrounds. It means a lot to me to be a part of that, and was a really cool experience.
You were named the oldest first-time Olympian to play for Team Canada since the ‘98 Olympics. What has your journey taught you in terms of perseverance? What can you share with others?
I think it’s a cool title. If I had had it my way I would’ve been on the team earlier (laughs). But honestly, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s ok to go through adversity, sometimes it’s an opportunity for you to learn how to handle challenges. It teaches you who you are. I was cut in 2018… even though I worked really hard to make it into that roster, I wasn’t selected. It showed me what I needed to work on and most importantly, I had to choose how I was going to respond. Honestly, it taught me to love hockey again. It had become a job, I put so much pressure on myself that I wasn’t loving it anymore… and I think it was a big lesson that I had to learn. Whether it’s your sport or your job, it’s ok to go through adversity, because it’s your greatest teacher. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Take us to that moment when you saw the rings for the first time, what was that like for you?
It was surreal. It’s funny, people always ask me how I felt, and it’s weird and hard to explain. You feel out of your body for a bit… you’re like “am I really here?” “what is going on?”. The buzz in the village is like no other. Everyone is excited, all wearing different colours and from different countries. It’s really cool to be a part of. For me, it was at our first practice when everything really set in. I remember I took a couple of minutes to stretch before practice, and I was noticing all of the rings and the blue theme they had, and that’s when it became real for me.
What was the energy like within the actual team leading up to that gold medal game?
Honestly, it was amazing. Our energy didn’t change much all year. Unless you’re a part of it it’s hard to explain. There are 28 of us that go and try to make the team. To be honest we were such a close group and we all knew we were a part of that journey no matter what and that didn’t change at the Olympics. The work that we put in all year didn’t change either, as soon as we got there we knew exactly that we had done enough work both on and off the ice. We really created this culture where everyone could be authentically themselves, and everyone knew their role. It didn’t matter what game it was, we all had the same mentality. There was never a doubt in my mind that we were gonna win.
What has been your favourite part of the aftermath of your win?
Honestly, just showing people the medal has been the coolest thing. I actually keep it in a mitt, and when I pull it out people are really surprised at how heavy it is. I love sharing it with the younger generation. I do a lot of coaching here and I think that sharing it with them has been the coolest thing. I remember how it sparked my dream when I got to meet some of the older girls who had medals.
It’s been said by one scout that you have a bulldog mentality. Do you agree with that?
I think that would probably be right (laughs). I’ve been taught to work hard and put your head down sometimes. I think I’ve always had that mentality on the ice and that’s what has carried me through each level that I’ve been in. I like to think that no one could outwork me and hopefully I do have some skill to back that up. But I think that’s a good mentality and I’ll take that rep. I’ve always been the type of person to work hard no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s cooking or coaching, or anything.
Off the ice, besides hockey, what would be your second favourite pastime?
I have a cottage I grew up at just north of Napanee, just two hours from Ottawa, and home for me is on the water with my family. I feel most at ease when I’m on the boat… and every summer when I have the chance I go every weekend if I can. As soon as I get there I put the boat in the water and go for a drive. It’s my saving grace. You can ask all my family and friends, I spend more time on that thing than anything. I’m not sure if that’s a pastime or a hobby. I learned to drive a boat when I was three or four years old and its something I really enjoy.
What is your favourite movie?
The Shawshank Redemption is my all-time favourite.
When you are in Ottawa or Kanata, what are 1 or 2 places you stop for food?
I used to always go to Mucho Burrito in Centrum. It was always my spot.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love clothes. I’m obsessed with shoes. I probably have over 60 pairs of shoes, mostly Nike… it’s bad. I probably spend too much money on clothes and shoes.
What are your plans now? Where do you see yourself in 5 years and what are you focussing on now?
I’m going to continue playing. The team and the culture we’ve built with Team Canada has been pretty special, and makes it easy to be a part of and go to work every day when you have a culture like that. And when you win like we did, it’s pretty addicting and you want to feel that feeling again. I’m going to continue training and working hard and try to make the team again. Hopefully, I can and I will also continue to coach, but my main focus is to still train and play.
What is the best piece of advice that you can give to young female aspiring hockey players?
Don’t be afraid to dream big. There will be a lot of people around you who will support you but also people that won’t. It’s important to surround yourself with good people and people who will support your dream. Growing up, I had the Olympic Team to look up to. Hopefully soon there’s a women’s league where there are more role models available. So don’t be afraid to dream. In the end, I was in the same shoes and my dream ended up coming true. And be consistent. I’ve been very consistent throughout the years and I don’t think anyone can take that away from me.