hockey

Sarah Nurse Continues to Break Boundaries in Women's Hockey

The women's hockey star discusses her gold medals, her viral goal at NHL All-Star Weekend and her gameday hair style advice

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Sarah Nurse always dreamt of playing hockey but didn’t always think it would become a reality.

“I was just always othered,” said Nurse, a member of Canada’s national women’s hockey team. “I was a girl playing hockey and then I was a biracial Black girl playing hockey, and so, I didn’t really see myself in the sport really ever, at all.”  

Well, she’s become the face of the sport by winning gold medals, participating in NHL All-Star Weekend and appearing on the cover of cereal boxes and video games.  

“That’s why I'm so happy with the growth of women’s hockey and us getting more visibility in the media and the press and being seen as professional hockey players,” Nurse said in a recent interview with NBC while promoting Great Clips “Show Your Flow” campaign to find the best hockey hair. “It's going to be able to obviously inspire young girls but also have young boys be able to look and say, ‘Oh, my gosh. A woman can be a professional hockey player, as well,’ and not put those limitations on little girls.”

The 28-year-old Nurse, an Ontario native, began to defy those limitations after her interest in hockey was sparked in 2002 by the gold-medal winning Canadian women’s national team. It was 20 years later that Nurse led Canada to a gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, setting records for most points (18) and assists (13) at a single Olympics, and at the 2022 World Championship in Denmark.

Sarah Nurse shows off her gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“Those are things from a hockey perspective that I always dreamed of,” Nurse said. “I always wanted to be a part of these incredible teams that were able to win on the biggest stages in the world.”

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She is now stepping onto new stages and helping to take women’s hockey to new heights.

Her success, which had previously landed her on the front of Cheerios boxes, led to increased visibility off the ice. She was selected as the cover athlete for “NHL 23” alongside Anaheim Ducks star Trevor Zegras. Nurse became the first woman to be featured on the EA Sports video game franchise.

“Those are things that I never even thought could happen,” Nurse said. “They were really, really cool opportunities for me. And I’ve just seen a shift in how people have perceived women's hockey since those things have happened.”

Nurse then went viral in February after using a one-handed deke known as “The Forsberg” to score on New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

“I just wanted to do something fun that was going to be a little more engaging,” Nurse said. “I had done that move in practice a couple times and I think it honestly subconsciously just came out and it ended up working out.”

The following day, Nurse was publicly offered a job by Florida Panthers president and CEO Matt Caldwell to run the team’s girls hockey program.

“It seemed very off the cuff, but it actually was very well thought out by the organization,” Nurse said of the job offer. “So, we've definitely been in contact with them to see in what capacity that I can be of assistance. Obviously, I’m still playing, still an active player, and living in Canada still. So, to be able to help grow the game in a market like Florida I think is so crucial and something that I’d be very excited to be a part of.”

She’s also excited to be a judge for Great Clips “Show Your Flow” campaign, which encourages hockey players to submit photos of their hair on social media or at www.greatclips.com/hockeyhair through May 7. Nurse, along with New Jersey Devils star Jack Hughes, will help select six winners to be inducted into the digital Hockey Hair Hall of Fame.

Nurse’s advice for styling hair on gameday?

“I personally always recommend a headband because you gotta protect your edges,” Nurse said. “But there are so many ways that you can style your hair and it's all about what you feel most comfortable in. I personally love a braid on gameday but I know a lot of my teammates love pony tails and buns. And so, there's so many ways to style your hair and it definitely shouldn’t be something that you’re ashamed of or scared of.”

And some advice for little girls looking to follow in her footsteps on the ice?

“I would definitely say be a sponge and ask so many questions,” Nurse said. “Don’t be afraid to figure out ways to continue to push and evolve your game. I obviously get to play at the highest level and I'm so fortunate, but there are still days where I'm getting on the ice and I'm learning things.”

For Nurse, the hope is that the sport continues to grow, but not with the objective of having a woman one day playing in the NHL.

“My hope is that women have our own professional hockey league to play in,” Nurse said. “I think that obviously the NHL is the premiere hockey destination for the men, and I hope that, on the women’s side, we’re able to develop something as the equivalent.”

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