Category Archives: Sandra

Returning for season two with the Calgary Inferno

Last year,  I embarked on new and unfamiliar territory when I put on a headset to be the play-by-play voice of the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Calgary Inferno - 2016/2017 season

WinSport – Arena A of the Markin MacPhail Centre during warm-up ahead of an Inferno game. (Sandra Prusina)

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to call hockey games. It seemed like a pipe dream though. Everyone in Canada wanted to do hockey play-by-play and combine that with being a woman, reality set in that it would never happen.

I’ve been in broadcasting and journalism for nearly a decade and while I greatly enjoy my radio career and the travels I’ve had to three Olympics, the yearning for being the voice of a hockey team was always in the back of my mind. It was an honour to receive a message from the CWHL asking if I wanted to be involved with the Inferno.

I studied the players and the teams, but that wasn’t enough preparation for the task at hand. Even though hockey is a fast game, I had to learn that trying to speak all the time wasn’t doing me or the viewers any favours. Many years ago, a journalism instructor taught me that when communicating, make what you say poignant and make it count. It took me awhile to adapt that to my play-by-play style. Oh, and if I had a nickel for every time I said “the ice” or “the zone” in my first few broadcasts, I’d be a rich girl.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I struggled with some name pronunciations. In particular, I feel bad for then-rookie Iya Gavrilova, whose last name I must’ve said differently each time. Her family watching back home in Russia likely cringed.

It took me the whole season to figure out what was easiest for me in terms of numbers and names. While I knew the Calgary players, I had to quickly adapt to the other teams. Holding my roster sheet during calling the game was a guide, almost a safety blanket, and I was okay with that. It made me feel comfortable.

While I did receive mostly positive feedback at season’s end, I wondered what was in the cards for the future. There were on-air blunders, many of which I recall vividly. Would the Inferno call me back? How did the CWHL feel? The summer rolled on and I came to the realization that this was likely going to be a ‘one and done’ situation. Even if it was, I was grateful to live out a dream I had since I was a little girl: I was the voice of a professional hockey team playing out of an incredible facility at WinSport’s Markin McPhail Centre – home of Hockey Canada.

It was a thrill last week to receive an email from the new general manager of the Inferno asking if I wanted to come back for the 2017-2018 season. With it being an Olympic year, there will be a lot to learn and I’m ready to embrace that challenge.

Calgary Inferno - 2016/2017 season

My first season as the voice of the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. (Sandra Prusina)



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Has it really been four years?

A quick glance at the calendar this morning and I saw July 23rd. Four years ago on this date, I was already fully entrenched in my London Olympic experience. I had finally figured out the Tube and how to get from our residence to Olympic Park. I also experienced Marks & Spencer for the first time since my childhood (There were a couple of Marks & Spencer stores in Calgary during the late 1980s and early 1990s). The delicious assortment of chocolate goodies and fresh cookies hadn’t changed.

London 2012 (from my iPhone)

London 2012 (from my iPhone)

Exploring London after work will always be some of my non-sports highlights of the trip, although sports always somehow did seem to creep into sight-seeing. One night while headed to the Tower Bridge with my friend from Germany, Felix, we noticed a throng of people circling a very, very tall man. I compare it to a scene from Hollywood, where the paparazzi is after the latest shot of the most popular celebrity. Instead, these were tourists, overwhelmed with excitement at being next to the giant. As Felix and I got closer to the mob, we recognized it was Chinese basketball phenom, Yao Ming. At 7′ 6″, he actually had to duck his head, while walking through the Tower Bridge, all the while trying to maneuver through the Beatles-like crowd that was following him.

More exploring took us to Covent Garden in Piccadilly Circus, which reminded me of New York’s Times Square with all the billboard advertisements and the buzz of the crowd. Another night, we headed over the Buckingham Palace. I remember being surprised at how quiet it was. Of course, there was plenty of security, but I figured there would be tourists around. Instead, it was just my friend Felix and I and a quick check of the timestamp on my camera says 10:42 p.m. I remember turning to him and saying, “I wonder what the Queen is doing right now?” as I pointed to Buckingham. Felix’s answer? “She’s probably on Facebook.”

Days at the broadcasting centre were entertaining. One mid-morning, as I walked to our newsroom, I looked over and noticed a familiar face: John McEnroe. The tennis legend was working for NBC as an analyst and I remember thinking to myself how unsuspecting he looked. He was carrying what looked like to be a homemade lunch in a plastic grocery bag and he was dressed in a tracksuit. A few hours later on that same day, a massive group had gathered outside out newsroom. Because our newsroom had glass walls, you could see everything that was going on around us. There was Prince Harry, looking over the facility and taking the tour. It surprised me at how normal it seemed because a year ago Prince William and his wife Catherine were in Calgary as part of their Royal Tour, and the fanfare that surrounded them was something like I’d never seen.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 9.28.42 AMFor the past month or so, I’ve been working on a large women’s soccer project with members of the 2012 Canadian team that won bronze in London. They’ve shared some of their memories of the historic tournament with me and as a result, memories of my 30 days in the United Kingdom have come flooding back.

As I wait for the 2016 Olympics to begin, I smile and look back fondly on my time in London. Sports-wise, it changed my career and brought me down a different path I never really imagined. I also saw sights and sounds I had only dreamed of growing up. Whenever I hear “Good Life” by OneRepublic, I’m taken back to the summer of 2012:

Woke up in London yesterday
Found myself in the city near Piccadilly
Don’t really know how I got here
I got some pictures on my phone

New names and numbers that I don’t know
Address to places like Abbey Road
Day turns to night, night turns to whatever we want
We’re young enough to say

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life

Say oh, got this feeling that you can’t fight
Like this city is on fire tonight
This could really be a good life
A good, good life

What an honour to have been there as a Canadian journalist.

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To Russia, with love: My Sochi experience at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

I love the Olympics. One of the reasons I got into journalism was because of the Olympics. It’s a phenomenal event that brings together people from every corner of the world. When I was asked to work in Sochi, I didn’t even bat an eyelash.

I had wonderful experiences in both Vancouver and London and I expected the same in Russia. However, when the 30-day mark rolled around before my departure date, the headlines were filled with information on terrorist threats, the Olympic host being a massive target, and basically that anyone going to the area would be at risk. All of the focus on this wonderful sporting event was gone and instead, the focus was on safety. It’s something I was not used to.

Three days before I was supposed to leave, the headlines intensified. I registered with the Canadian government in case I needed to search for an embassy during my time in Sochi. South of the border, safety dominated American newscasts. Athletes said they didn’t want their families to come with them. There was even talk of the United States sending their own Navy ships to the Black Sea in case a quick escape was needed.

I had absolute stomach turning anxiety on the day I left, but the good news was, I already had colleagues in Sochi. They sent me pictures and gave me briefings about the surroundings and security presence. They felt safe. Maybe they didn’t put my mind at ease 100%, but it definitely helped.


Welcome to Sochi!

My journey to Sochi was simple one: Calgary – Frankfurt – Sochi. When I arrived in Russia, I was greeted by one of the many friendly volunteers. These people were superstars. They were always smiling and ready to help if you had any questions.

When we arrived in the media village, it was as expected. Forget all the stories you saw on Twitter, the accommodations were just fine. It was clean. There was plenty of space. It was quiet. There was Internet. We were in a secure area that was surrounded by a gate that was guarded by police.

I was covering figure skating this time around. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I always knew figure skating was a popular Olympic sport, but I never really knew how fanatical people were about it until I got to Sochi. The Russians had strong skaters in every event. There’s a reason they took the gold in the inaugural team portion. They were just that good.

It was phenomenal to see the kind of drive the skaters had. They spent countless hours day in and day out perfecting their routines for the four minutes the eyes of the world were on them.

The Canadians had a strong showing in figure skating. They left Russia with a silver in the team event, silver in men’s and silver in ice dance. There was plenty of controversy along the way. Did I feel that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir deserved gold? Of course I did, but I wasn’t a judge. It was fascinating learning about all of the different elements and finally knowing what a proper twizzle was supposed to look like.

Kevin Dineen and women's hockey team

Kevin Dineen and women’s hockey team

In my spare time, I focused on the other Canadian athletes. Our country not only impressed in the field of play, but off of it too. Other journalists were constantly commenting on the friendly and polite nature of our athletes. That’s something to be very proud of.

One of the highlights of my journey to Russia was the success of the women’s hockey team. They went into the tournament as the underdogs. The team must have used it as a rallying point, because they looked stronger than ever. Head coach Kevin Dineen had a game plan and he stuck to it. The final versus the US is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched. The resiliency and drive helped them bring home their fourth consecutive gold. Amazing.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

Olympic Park itself was lovely. All of the venues were top class and they will be for years to come. Sadly, it’s just window dressings. The area outside the park is obviously struggling economically. It really saddens me to think that all of these people who worked at the Olympics are going back to being unemployed and have to wait for the next event to roll around. You could see how much it meant to the workers and volunteers when you spent time talking to them. They were all so genuine.

I left Sochi with a better appreciation for the country I live in. I’ve always been a very proud Canadian and now, even more so. We are very lucky. When I arrived home in Calgary, I had this sense of pride and calm wash over me as I waited in the Customs line.

A big thank you to everyone in Russia. Spasiba.

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What 2012 in Canadian sports means to me

Canadian Olympic Committee logo

Canadian Olympic Committee logo

What a year. It’s almost hard to put into words how 2012 has impacted my view on sports and my feelings as a Canadian. I’ve never been more proud of my nationality. The performances, results and actions of our athletes personified everything it means to come from this country.

One of the first people I look at is Milos Raonic. He immigrated from Montenegro to Canada when he was a little boy. His parents came here so he could have a great childhood. They gave him every opportunity to thrive in tennis and when you look at all he accomplished this year, you can say his family and coaching staff did a wonderful job. Although he captured two ATP titles in 2012, I think he was most impressive at the US Open when he advanced to the fourth round. He was turning heads in New York and a lot of the mainstream media was noticing “the tall kid from Canada” with a blistering serve. Roger Federer was even quoted saying he sees Milos as a top ten player. He finishes the year ranked 13th in the world and coming up in February, he’ll once again be Canada’s main weapon when they host Spain in Davis Cup action.

When I think back this on year, another athlete that sticks out in my mind is sprinter Jared Connaughton. His humility and heartache at the Olympics was felt by all. After his 4X100 team was denied the bronze due to a lane violation, he apologized to us. He didn’t point fingers and he didn’t make excuses. Jared, you showed us class and grace. Thank you! We are all proud to have you representing Canada.

Switching over to the world of hockey, Steven Stamkos had a 2011-2012 campaign for the ages. His spectacular 60 goal season will be remembered for a very long time. He’s the 20th player in NHL history to hit that mark and it comes during an era where goals are hard to come by. Hopefully this work stoppage gets ironed out sooner than later, so we can see Steven on the ice again.

And saving the best for last, our very special Canadian women’s soccer team. As someone who has covered and followed this core of players for over a decade, I felt like a proud sister, beaming with pride when they stood on the podium with their bronze medals in London.

How fantastic is it to finally see Christine Sinclair getting the recognition she deserves? And how equally amazing is it to hear Christine always crediting her teammates for helping her along the way. What a leader. The beaming smile on her face as she carried the flag at the closing ceremony will be etched in our minds forever.

All of these girls and their families have given up a lot to play for our country. They are humble, kind and fantastic role models. The time is now to embrace them. My words don’t do this team any justice and if you ask me in person, I’ll talk your ear off about their journey over the last 10 years. One of my greatest wishes is that Canada continues to support women’s soccer with such fervor as the last six months. These ladies deserve it.

Thanks to everyone for an unforgettable 2012! I’m tremendously proud to be a broadcaster in this country, but more than anything, I’m so proud to be Canadian.

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Soccer thoughts, Olympic celebrations and thanks

It’s a great time to be a soccer fan in Canada with the women’s Olympic bronze medal win this summer and World Cup qualifications on the men’s side.

While many of the girls get back into their regular routines of school and work, they will be in Toronto on Friday night at the men’s WC qualification match against Panama at BMO Field. Apart from the meet-and-greet, they’ll also be honoured before kickoff. Make sure to give them a standing ovation. They deserve it! The Canadian Olympic Committee is also hosting an Olympic Heroes Parade on Friday, September 21st at noon. It will make its way down Bay Street and ends with a celebration at Maple Leaf Square in Toronto. 

As the women’s team builds up toward the 2015 World Cup on home soil, I’ll be covering them every step of the way. My hope is that they get all of the coverage they deserve and Canadians embrace the team and sport once again on this new journey.

The men, meanwhile, have two important World Cup qualification games coming up. On 9th, they host Panama and will then square off again at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Ciudad two days later. Stephen Hart’s 21-man-roster includes a solid mix of players belonging to clubs in 10 different countries. The list includes three players, Terry Dunfield, Ashtone Morgan and Patrice Bernier, who have been added to the roster since the last qualifier in June. Bernier was just named the MLS Player of the Month, while Canada’s Dwayne De Rosario netted his 100th MLS goal a few days back. The Voyageurs have already sold out a good chunk of BMO and there will be viewing parties across the country for both games. It should be an electric atmosphere.

On a more personal note, thank you to everyone who read my last blog entry. The feedback was overwhelming and tremendously flattering. The interest is a true testament to how the Canadian Women’s National Team touched our country. Thanks to Canada Soccer for including a link to my post on their website and to the members of the squad that read my blog, re-tweeted it or posted it on their website. This down-to-earth bunch continues to impress me. Also, a big thanks to my family and friends for the encouragement. I never claimed to be the best writer, but please know everything I wrote came from the heart and that’s what I will continue to do.

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My “a-ha” moment, thanks to the Canadian Women’s National Team

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian. Maybe it’s because I love soccer. Because I’m a broadcaster? I guess when I think about it now, it’s all of the above.

I’ve seen a lot of highs and lows in the world of sports, but I have never been so emotionally invested or impacted by a game or series of games as I was by the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team at London 2012. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. They turned me into a blubbery mess on more than one occasion.

Rewind to last summer. The team went winless in Germany at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The results shocked many who thought the squad was ready to take the next step on the world stage.

Now fast forward to January 2012: A new coach and Olympic qualifications on their home turf. The team oozed with a sort of understated confidence. The long ball game they previously employed was gone. Instead, the midfield and forwards were working together with crisp passes and a sense of creativity I had never seen before with this squad.

It was also at this time the chemistry really started to show between forwards Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi. If you listen to the broadcasts of those qualification games, all you hear is “Sinclair finds Tancredi. What a goal!” or “Tancredi with an amazing pass to Sinclair and it’s in the back of the net!” They trusted one another and had little trouble getting the ball to each other. Obviously, the connection was always there, but something was different in Vancouver. They had matured and the whole team had a sense of “we can do this.”

The win against Mexico that sealed their ticket to the Olympics proved they were going places, literally and figuratively. The loud, boisterous, Canadian fans knew it and soon the world would too. London was calling.

The Olympics were the culmination of years of hard work and for some, it marked more than a decade of international play. The 2002 U-19 Women’s World Cup featured a number of players we are seeing in their primes today. Not just Sinclair, but Erin McLeod, Brittany Timko, Candace Chapman, Melanie Booth and Carmelina Moscato. During that tournament, Sinclair potted 10 goals to win the Golden Boot. She also claimed the Golden Ball Award. McLeod was named to the tournament’s all-star team along with Chapman, Sinclair and Moscato. It was obvious the country had a strong generation of female footballers coming through the ranks.

As years went by, they evened out their squad with a number of key players. Tancredi, for example, reminds me of a typical power-forward in hockey. She has no fear. She’s willing to put her body on the line to benefit the team, while having the skill and finesse to leave the opposition confused as to what just hit them. The midfield? Solid. Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott, Diana Matheson, Kaylyn Kyle and Kelly Parker. Don’t forget about a one-two punch in net with veterans McLeod and Karina LeBlanc and a steady, dependable back line with the likes of Moscato, Emily Zurrer, Rhian Wilkinson, Lauren Sesselmann, Chelsea Stewart, Marie-Eve Nault and Robyn Gayle.

There’s no point rehashing what happened in the semi-final between Canada and USA. It’ll be debated for years to come. However, you cannot deny the kind of impact it had on Canadians. It made them care because they saw how much the girls care. Call it Canadian nature or whatever, but people who weren’t even soccer fans were talking about that match. Canadians from B.C. to Nova Scotia were finally understanding how special this team is and how the world’s best player is a soft-spoken, shy girl from Burnaby, who has been carrying the national team on her back for most of her life.

I’ll still never forget how I felt after that semi-final: gutted. It was like someone had ripped out my heart, threw it on the floor and then proceeded to do the Macarena all over it. The ride home on the media bus was one of complete silence. I sat on the top level of that double-decker in the front seat like a zombie. I closed my eyes, leaned my head back and thought about the last 10 years of women’s soccer in Canada and how far it had come. I thought about the dressing room at that very moment and how the veteran players must have been feeling. Years of blood, sweat and tears. The sacrifices made by their parents and other loved ones. You can’t deny the squad left absolutely everything they had on the pitch.

My phone was filling up with text messages and I was getting tweets like crazy that night. Everyone back home wanted to know the same thing: “Why?”. I had no answer for any of them. And that’s when it happened – the “a-ha moment” – a phrase now in the dictionary thanks to Oprah Winfrey. I said to myself, “this is what it is all about.” Sports bring people together. Broadcasters get out the message and that night, they united a country. This story brought together Canada.

As the girls prepared for the bronze medal match against France, I’m sure everyone wondered if they had anything left in the tank. As the half drew to a close, it was obvious the girls were physically and emotional drained. Truly though, can you blame them? The last 48 hours had probably been very surreal to each and every person on that team, from the players to the coaching staff. The reality is that many of these players are in the prime of their careers: Sinclair, Tancredi, McLeod, Moscato. All of them are 28-31 years old and they may want other things in life in the next few years. It must have dawned on them that the same team might not be together when Canada hosts the 2015 Women’s World Cup and that added to the raw emotional magnitude of everything.

Coventry Stadium itself was quiet that day. You could almost hear a pin drop expect for John Herdman: “Come on girls. Let’s move it up!” and most poignantly “Christine, I need to you to take it to another level.” At the 90 minute mark, the stats told the story: 25 shots for France. 3 for Canada. McLeod kept them in the game, despite a scary moment when she went down after punching out a ball. And how about Scott’s goal line save? I won’t forget the slow-motion replay of her keeping the ball out with her right leg and her exhale of relief afterward.

Herdman used up all of his subs and the girls just needed one break. They got it during injury time. When Matheson put that ball in, celebrated and kissed the Canadian crest on her jersey, all of Canada cried. I cried. They had done it. And how about the image of Sinclair on her knees, arms raised, looking to the sky with tears streaming down her face? That’s all you needed to see. Bronze around their necks. Gold in their hearts and in the hearts of all Canadians (The Vancouver Southsiders said it nicely….)

I looked at the people around me when Matheson scored. I was surrounded by international broadcasters with whom I had really connected with over four weeks in London during my freelance stint. They clapped and said “Congratulations Sandra. Congrats Canada.” I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life. It’s like every single Canadian was on the pitch with the girls at that very moment.

What an emotional rollercoaster. Forget the broadcasting though. I’ve been playing soccer for more than half of my life and yet it took what happened in London for me to truly appreciate my teammates. Yes, I now play for a division four women’s team and perhaps it’s not the nicest soccer to watch, but dammit, we are a family. You form a bond with these girls you probably don’t realize is there until it’s gone. That’s what this wonderful Canadian team taught me.

Thank you, girls. Thank you.


COC Photo: Mike Ridewood –


August 20, 2012 · 3:00 am

Time to give this a try

I’ve waited years to get on board the blogging train. It’s 2012 now. I figured it was about time. As I go through a number of experiences and changes during the next few months, I would love to document them.

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