Sami Jo Small grew up on the outdoor hockey rinks of Winnipeg, MB. Her passion for the game was honed in the boys minor hockey system. As the only girl she was forced each and every day to prove that she belonged through hard work and determination. She dreamt, like her teammates, of someday playing in the NHL, but also dreamt of someday stepping on to the podium at the Olympic Games.
She accepted a scholarship to Stanford University for track and field to throw the discus and javelin. Her dream of participating in the Olympic Games flourished until injury plagued her career and she consoled her feelings of failure by returning to the game she grew up loving. Hockey became her passion again as she played on the Stanford Men’s team even garnering PAC-10 MVP honours while earning her degree in mechanical engineering.
Her childhood dream became a reality when she accepted a spot on the 1998 Olympic Games team traveling to Nagano, Japan. Women’s hockey was on the rise and Sami Jo was a huge part of its success. She has since won five World Championships and has twice been named Championship MVP. She is a three time Olympian and has been a member of two Olympic Gold Medal Winning teams.
The biggest difference between myself and other Olympians is the whole idea of being placed in situations that were not the way I had envisioned living my Olympic dream. Not playing in the final game in Salt Lake and then not receiving a medal in Torino forced me to focus on accomplishment of the team above my own feelings of failure.
I think my motto has grown to become “In life, you don’t always get to choose the role you play, but you do get to choose how you play it.”