We caught up with Ottawa native and Brampton Thunder forward Jamie Lee Rattray ahead of her CWHL playoffs series this weekend in Montreal where she's vying for the chance to play for the Clarkson Cup in her home town on March 5th at Canadian Tire Centre.
On her minor hockey experiences in Ottawa:
I grew up playing for the Kanata Blazers in the QGHA. When I was about fifteen or sixteen, I moved over to - I guess it's the Kanata Rangers now -but the Ottawa Senators PWHL. I grew up in Kanata so there's a rink almost on every corner. It's a pretty great hockey town and minor hockey was always a focal point there so it was always a lot of fun.
On growing up close to an NHL rink:
It was awesome. It was nice being so close, especially when my Dad and I would go to the games. It was an easy drive or we could even walk. It was about a half an hour walk but it was definitely worth it because on the nights that it was nice out, it was a nice walk. I actually trained there in high school at the gym downstairs in the basement so I always rode my bike down there. It was a good atmosphere to be in - you could always tell when there was a Sens game on because there was lots of traffic around the area but it was nice being so close. I got to go to a lot of games as a kid and I absolutely loved it.
A lot of the times, my Dad had tickets from his company and they were actually way high up in the 400 boxes. That was actually the coolest thing. I think as a kid learning the game, I liked it a lot because I could see the plays develop and things like that from up high and I really enjoyed that kind of view. I'm kind of a hockey nerd myself so watching the guys develop those plays at a high level was always a lot of fun. Seeing the game close up I really liked also because the skill level was always there, the speed of the game I always liked. Those are the memories that I always had - I loved it.
On having extra motivation with having the championship game in Ottawa again:
I think it's always nice to go home and to be able to play a championship game in front of my family and friends would be amazing. I think there's always an incentive to beat Montreal anywhere. We've developed a good rivalry with almost every team in the league, but it's always nice to beat those guys because they're such a good team and they play so well together. I think that's always the best part about when we do beat them… they're such a good team that when we do come together and get that win it's always really satisfying. I think there's always added motivation going home because there's nothing like playing in front of your hometown, in the rink that you grew up going to, maybe going to watch games and stuff like that so that's definitely the incentive there.
My parents and a lot of the people that I grew up with are still there. I love Ottawa and always love going back - it's home. The city of Ottawa is still a city, but it's not crazy big and too chaotic as maybe like Toronto or Montreal - that's the best thing about it. I think when you go home, you feel a little bit more relaxed and calm there. The crowd should be amazing; I hope they're doing a really good job at promoting it there. I really, really hope people get around it, whether we're in it or not, I hope the CWHL gets a lot of exposure there.
On bringing her experience from last year's playoffs to this year's:
My first year in the CWHL, we didn't make the playoffs and last year we did. It gives you a lot of experience on how to handle it - you got to bring it in every minute and every shift in the playoffs. You got to get two wins no matter what so I think you have to play 120 minutes hard and good hockey to be able to come out with the win. So I think the experience does help. I'm a little bit calmer in those big situations. I mean, every team in this league is good. It doesn't matter who you're playing so you got to bring your A-game no matter what. I think being there now for a second time is definitely going to help.
On seeing the CWHL grow first-hand:
It's huge. Even talking to the girls in the league before I was and hearing their stories and what they had to go through just to get to this point is huge. You look at some of the games we play on the road or even at home - the crowds are getting bigger, more fans are around and more people coming up to us saying 'Hey! We watched you guys on TV' or 'How's the league doing?' - stuff like that. Seeing some of the games now maybe in an NHL arena is definitely helping because of the exposure. It's awesome for us as players to feel like that. We're professionals playing in a big rink and getting those fans, it's really, really big.
The Clarkson Cup is set to be played on March 5th at Canadian Tire Centre and you can find out more details and get tickets to attend here.