On Feb. 12, the best rivalry in team sports will begin a new chapter as USA Hockey and Hockey Canada will cross sticks in the first of three meetings for the 2019 Rivalry Series.
For one player, the tournament marks a return to the world stage.
It has been nearly five years to the day since Shelly Picard had a silver medal placed over her head at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. As fate would have it, the stalwart defender was on the ice when Canada superstar Marie-Philip Poulin scored the power-play goal in overtime that broke the hearts of the Americans.
While she suited up for the USWNT for the 2015 and 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championships, where she earned her second and third career gold medals, respectively, she has not worn a USA jersey since.
Now, she is back.
“Oh my gosh, it’s an honor,” Picard beamed when asked by the Sporting News about being named to the roster. “I’m truly excited to get back out there and pull that USA jersey on. The team we’re going out there with is amazing, so I’m really excited to play with those women again and have some great games against Team Canada.”
— NWHL (@NWHL) August 26, 2017
Following the Sochi Olympics, Picard returned to Harvard University’s blueline and emerged as a leader. As co-captain, she helped lead the Crimson to the 2015 NCAA Championship Final and was a finalist for the ECAC’s 2016 Defender of the Year her senior year.
After graduation, she began her NWHL career with the Metropolitan Riveters, winning the Isobel Cup in 2018.
“Playing in the NWHL has been a great way to keep playing the game, to stay competitive, and to give me a reason to train,” Picard reflected. “Being able to be a part of a team – absolutely, the NWHL has been a huge part of this. It’s also just helped me keep my love for the game.”
Picard, 25, kept training and pushing her skills forward. Leading up to the 2018 Olympics, the Taunton, Mass. native, helped prepare her former teammates and friends in a two-game series pitting the USWNT against Team NWHL. Serving as captain, her poise in the defensive zone and strength around the net stood out — and garnered her national team attention.
Michelle Picard will serve as captain of #TeamNWHL for the series in Tampa
“Shelly Picard is the ideal person to lead Team NWHL … there are many leaders on this team, but we felt strongly that Shelly was worthy of the honor of wearing the C.” Team NWHL GM @HayleyMoore9 pic.twitter.com/LNjNf0Iu0z
— Erica L. Ayala (@elindsay08) December 29, 2017
This past November, Picard was invited to join Team USA as a member of its practice squad for the Four Nations Cup. She and fellow Sochi silver medalists Megan Bozek and Alex Carpenter were then invited to USA Hockey’s Women’s Winter Training Camp. On Jan. 25, all three players were announced as members of the Rivalry Series roster.
Before the three-game series wraps up Feb. 17 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Picard will be among the players looking to make a statement. The 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship begins April 4 in Finland, and there are only so many roster spots up for grabs. With a strong series against Canada, Picard could soon find herself playing for a fifth medal at the Women’s Worlds.
But first, she will be looking for redemption for what happened in Russia five years ago.
“Absolutely, the Team USA and Team Canada rivalry doesn’t go away no matter what,” said Picard, who will be skating with nine teammates from Sochi. “It’s out of respect. Both teams have the utmost respect for each other, knowing each talented each side is. It should be a great battle.”