The Edmonton Oilers were prominent in Danielle Serdachny’s childhood.
Her father Steve was the NHL team’s skills coach for a dozen years.
Meeting players Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall stands out in her memory.
So does an introduction to actress Hilary Duff, who was in a relationship with Oiler forward Mike Comrie at the time.
“After the games, we’d be waiting around as seven-year-olds begging to go in the dressing room,” Serdachny told The Canadian Press. “It’s cool to see the players away from the ice.
“I have a younger brother too who was super into hockey and a big Oilers fan. We used to make Edmonton Oilers dressing rooms in our basement, so a little bit of an influence on us there.”
Serdachny, 21, is on Canada’s roster at a women’s world hockey championship for the first time in her career.
Canada opened the 2023 championship Wednesday with a 4-0 win over Switzerland at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ont.
The host country and defending champion meets 2022 bronze medallist Czechia on Friday and Japan on Saturday in Pool A games.
Alberta has produced mostly defenders and goaltenders for the national women’s team.
Serdachny is the first forward from the province to appear in a world championship since Edmonton’s Shirley Cameron captained Canada to gold in the inaugural 1990 tournament.
The five-foot-nine, 157-pound Serdachny led NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey in points with 25 goals and 45 assists in 39 games in her senior year at Colgate. She was one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
Serdachny is one of two college players on Canada’s roster alongside Princeton’s Sarah Fillier.
“Thrilled to be a part of it, especially in our home country,” Serdachny said.
Serdachny made her national team debut in December when she appeared in the fourth and fifth games of the Rivalry Series games against the United States.
Her overtime winner Dec. 19 in Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles lifted the Canadians to a second straight win after dropping the first three of the series.
Serdachny’s adaptability and versatility impressed head coach Troy Ryan.
She’s a centre for Colgate, but she played on the wing of Sarah Nurse and Fillier in the Rivalry Series.
“It was her play along the wall, her confidence with the puck, her confidence amongst our group, and then just how she kind of fit in well and right away,” Ryan said.
“The type of team we have right now, sometimes it could be a bit nerve-racking, especially being thrown into a big building, you’re playing against the U.S. and our team has been together for a while. She just handled all those things very, very well.
“We’ve got to find ways to get some of these younger college players some opportunities early on in the quad. She’s a top player coming out of college. This is a good opportunity to give her a shot.”
Serdachny’s brother Noah spent last season with Colorado College. Her older sister Brooke played triple-A and her younger sister Jordan is an under-15 player.
“Having a dad who works in the hockey industry, you’re kind of born to be a hockey player,” Serdachny said. “He’s had a huge influence on my career as well as my mom.”
Steve knows he’s had a hand in shaping his daughter’s game, but says her sheer love for hockey is her competitive advantage.
“With my profession and being an NHL skating and skills coach, all the kids have been part of the game continuously,” he said. “You’d like to think you had a real big part in it, but it’s ultimately Danielle putting in a lot of dedication, time and effort.
“It’s been a dream of hers since she’s been a little girl, that she wanted to be on Team Canada and represent her country. It’s always great to have goals, dreams and ambitions, but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, so we’re extremely proud of her.
“Hockey’s more than a game to her. It’s a passion and such a big part of her life.”
Watching his daughter score the OT winner against the U.S. in the Los Angeles Kings’ home arena was “was pretty surreal to be honest,” Steve said.
Serdachny wants to contribute any way she can to Canada winning a third straight gold medal at a world championship.
“As far as expectations, I don’t want to put too many on myself,” she said. “Coming home with a world championship medal and trophy would be pretty cool. I just want to make the most of it.
“You never know when an opportunity like that is going to come again. I just want to enjoy it all and learn from the players.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2023.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press