It’s not everyday a player goes from one team to their greatest rival. Names that come to mind are Carlos Tevez, Mark Recchi and Terrell Owens. Now, Olivia Atkinson joins that list along with her teammate Erica Starnino.
The fourth year player began her U-Sports career with the McGill Martlets in the 2015-16 season. She transferred to Concordia last year but was unable to play because of U-Sports eligibility rules. The season did not go to waste by any means for Atkinson, playing 17 games for Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
“It was a learning experience,” Atkinson said. “The pace of the game is much faster. Decisions need to be quicker. The physicality was the thing that showed me what my play lacked, I tried to focus on [improving] that aspect of my game.”
Atkinson joins a talented Stingers team with expectations sky high. She says to be a better, more impactful player for the team, she’s been focusing on her defensive play.
“Offensive [play] was something that I focused a lot on in the past,” said Atkinson. “Coming here with the knowledge of the coaches, I want to learn how to be a better defensive player.”
Nobody can dispute Atkinson’s offensive abilities, having been a top scoring RSEQ player during her time with McGill. Head coach Julie Chu had nothing but high praise for Atkinson when talking about her willingness to improve.
“She works hard all the time, wants to learn and wants to get better,” said Chu. “Even as someone who coached against her for three years, I saw that on the ice through her intensity and compete level.”
Atkinson, enrolled in psychology, says that she made the switch from McGill to Concordia because Concordia offered more specialized courses of behavioural neuroscience that she’s interested in.
It also helps that the Stingers women’s hockey program is year after year regarded as one of the top in the country.
It can be tough coming on to a new team, especially when playing for that team’s greatest rival. However Atkinson says that her new teammates have been nothing short of spectacular in helping her adjust to life with a new team and school.
“In the first couple of games, she had to get back into the swing of playing at the U-Sports level,” Chu said. “The truth is when you’re playing for Les Canadiennes, [Atkinson] probably wasn’t given the same amount of ice time and opportunities that she’s been getting at our level. From day one she’s been such a hard worker and teammate. It’s been great to watch.”
Chu was excited when Atkinson approached her about joining the team but she says she didn’t make any promises to her when it came to her role on the team.
“We don’t talk about roles, it’s about our culture,” said Chu. “What we promise here is that you’ll be loved and supported. You’ll get every resource possible to be successful on and off the ice. We don’t promise anyone a certain role or position on our team. That’s not who we are and it’s not reality of life. We promise opportunities if you work hard and execute.”
Offensive execution is what Atkinson is known for. As a second year player in 2016-17, Atkinson was second in goal scoring and in points, lighting the lamp 12 times that season and finishing with 25 points. In her last year of university hockey in the 2017-18 season, before making the jump to the CWHL, she finished eighth in the RSEQ in points with 16 on the season.
Adding Atkinson and a number of other recruits, along with the team’s returning players makes this squad an incredibly talented one. They started the season ranked as the fourth best team in the country, and after going undefeated in the opening weekend of the season, have shot up to the top ranked team in the country.
“Polls are always a funny thing. It’s so early on in the season and no one really knows how they stack up [against other teams],” said Chu. “It’s a nice compliment, we know we’ve been playing great hockey but we also know that where we stand at the end of the season is what really counts.”
Atkinson shares the same sentiment when it comes to the ranking and says that the teams approach along with her own hasn’t changed.
“Every day we’re coming to the rink and putting in the work,” Atkinson said. “We haven’t been taking our success [for granted]. We’re in a really competitive league and anyone of the teams can win on any given night. We have a target on our back and we need to be prepared for every game that way.”
Atkinson and the Stingers will take on the second nationally ranked Carabins on November 1 at 7 p.m. at the CEPSUM
Feature Photo by Laurence B-D