Photo Credit: Yan Huckendubler
Canadian forward Holly Stewart announced her retirement from international hockey in September 2020, more than twelve years after she first made the sport part of her identity.
Stewart joined the national team program in 2012 on the junior squad, and eventually battled her way up into the starting senior rotation. She played club hockey for West Vancouver FHC and most recently in Belgium for Royal HC Namur and Royal Evere White Star HC. She comes just shy of the 100 mark, with 99 international senior matches under her belt.
The Vancouver native recorded her first cap in June 2013 against Ireland and scored 21 goals over the span of her senior career. Notable competitions include two Pan American Games, where the national team won silver at Lima 2019 and bronze at Toronto 2015, as well as the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“I had been battling with the decision for quite a few months,” she said. “COVID-19 forced me to look at some of my other goals that had completely just taken out of my mind for years, because I was focused solely on qualifying for Tokyo. It forced me to slow down and remember some other things that I’m passionate about.”
As far as reflections and career highlights, Stewart recalls the Hockey Series Final in 2019 in Valencia as a fond memory, having defeated Italy in the semi-finals, and gushes as she remembers scoring a goal during her first cap against Ireland and a game-winner against Korea at a tournament in New Zealand a few years back. Patrick Tshutshani, Women’s NextGEN Director and Women’s National Team assistant coach, has worked with Stewart since 2018 and describes her as an extremely hardworking athlete with always a smile on her face.
“She strived to be at her best all the time and had an unbelievable work ethic,” Tshutshani said. “Holly was a coachable individual who was always adapting and evolving with the game…and was well respected by her teammates, friends and certainly by her coaches. I wish Holly all the best in her future endeavours and I know that she will continue to make life a success.”
Though injuries and setbacks have put her to the test, there is much to be proud of, even if retirement presents some challenges of its own.
“The toughest part was figuring out a way to let go of caring about other people’s expectations,” Stewart said. “It was hard learning how I could be okay with where my career was and be happy with it, without having certain medals and accolades and even ending my career at one cap away from a hundred, which is a big milestone.
“It took some time and I don’t know if I can let it go right now, but I’ve come to terms with it. I’m super proud of being an athlete, but it’s not the only thing I have to offer. And it’s not my only success in life.”
Stewart plans to stay close to sport, currently coaching at West Vancouver Field Hockey Club, and wishes to impart her wisdom and experience to the next generation, particularly girls growing up and moving through the system.
She said, “I think a lot of girls playing field hockey are afraid to mess up. Like so many girls I coach, they don’t want to do a backhand hit because they’re scared it’s going to stop on the turf or they’re just going to miss the ball. It’s important realizing that mistakes only make you better.”
Congratulations Holly Stewart on a tremendous career!