‘It was rock bottom’: How Erin Ambrose overcame setbacks and self-doubt to become Canada’s best defender

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 08: Erin Ambrose of Canada controls the puck in the match between USA and Canada during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at National Indoor Stadium on February 8, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
By Hailey Salvian Feb 15, 2022 15
Alone in her mom’s basement, self-isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak during the U.S.–Canada Rivalry Series, Erin Ambrose was waiting for a call she’d long hoped would come.

She’d been awake for four hours. She’d been waiting for four years.

It was Dec. 23 and Hockey Canada would spend the day breaking good news to 23 athletes and bad news to three. They were naming the women’s Olympic team that would head to Beijing.

Ambrose’s Zoom chat with the coaching staff was scheduled for 10:15 a.m., and her mom was hovering on the staircase of her home in Orillia, Ont., 90 minutes outside Toronto.

“My mom came down about four times that morning,” Ambrose said. “‘Do you need anything? Do you need anything?’ I was like, ‘Mom, you’ve gotta go. Like, this is not something we can be doing for the next three hours.’”

The last trip down the stairs was the best. Ambrose — flanked by her mom, stepdad, and goldendoodle Henry — was on with coach Troy Ryan, and Ryan made it a quick call: “Congratulations, Erin. You’re going to your first Olympics.”

“There were a lot of tears,” she said. “All I could hear behind me was my mom sobbing.

“We’re an emotional family.”

It was the culmination of Ambrose’s decade-long journey as a player and a person, especially in the four years after being the final cut from the 2018 Olympic team.

She battled self-doubt, depression and anxiety. For most of her life, Ambrose’s identity was linked inextricably to her performance as a hockey player. If she wasn’t good enough to be an Olympian, what good was she?

That’s how she felt. She’s said it herself.