Feb. 18, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Former Badger Carla MacLeod helped Japan qualify for its first-ever winter Olympics after defeating Denmark 5-0 in the qualifier in Slovakia on Feb. 10. The two-time Olympic gold medalist with Canada's National Women's Ice Hockey Team has been helping out Team Japan since February 2012 as an assistant coach.
"I think I've been pretty lucky, it's been a fairly smooth transition," said MacLeod. "It was a natural progression for me, even as a player I always thought and hoped that I would coach at one point."
At Wisconsin, the defenseman was a two-time team captain, becoming the third Badger to be a two-time All-American. She ranked ninth among the nation's defenders in points per game and was selected as the USCHO National Defensive Player in 2005.
Japan started women's hockey in 1998 and MacLeod is excited for the team's success as she has been able to watch them grow together. Team Japan's hardworking ethic was evident from day one, but they just needed a little self-confidence boost.
"I think here in North America we take that a bit for granted that when we walk out onto the ice, we believe we can win, we don't know if we will or not all the time, but we believe we can," said MacLeod. "We spent a lot of time, we hired a mental coach and just worked on instilling that confidence from within and realizing that they deserve to go just as much as the next team."
MacLeod has also been concentrating on increasing the hockey IQ of Team Japan's players, because the speed on their skates was already present. Seeing the progress they have been able to make in the 10 months she has been with them is rewarding for MacLeod as a coach.
"I'm pretty excited here for the next year too," said MacLeod. "We've got a year here to take another step and prepare for Sochi."
MacLeod retired as a player after the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and didn't picture herself being in Sochi in 2014. She's ready to see the Olympics from the other side of the bench, as she will sit with Team Japan as assistant coach.
"I can't stop smiling, it's just so exciting," said MacLeod. "The biggest thing for me is just to see these girls have that opportunity. It's been their dream, just like it was mine growing up, to make the Olympics. So the fact that they're going is huge."