Bedeque’s Marilyn Fortin has played hockey for the Swiss national team in the past but never at an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) event.
That was supposed to change this week in Halifax and Truro, N.S., at the world women’s hockey championship, but organizers were forced to cancel the event due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic. Switzerland was to open the tournament Tuesday afternoon against the United States.
“It sucks, but you can’t do much about it at this point,” the 23-year-old daughter of Larry and Luzia Fortin said Tuesday from her family home. “Hopefully, next year I’ll make the roster again and be in Halifax.”
Luzia was born in Switzerland and still has family in the country. Marilyn has dual citizenship.
“The dream was always to make the Swiss national team and go to the Olympics,” Marilyn said.
When asked how far back that goes, she paused before saying with a laugh, “probably when I realized I couldn't make the NHL anymore.”
After graduating from Bluefield High School in 2015, Marilyn and her twin sister, Mary-Jo, moved to Switzerland. The country has a stipulation where players must play a certain amount of time there in order to play on the national team.
The Fortin sisters found work as au pairs and played hockey. Mary-Jo return after the first year, while Marilyn remained for Year 2. During the second season, Marilyn was approached about going to some Swiss hockey camps, and she continued to attend those after moving back to Canada in 2017.
During her time in Switzerland, Marilyn reached out to a few U Sports teams to see what options were available to her to study and play hockey in Canada. She found what she was looking for in a relatively new program – the Nipissing Lakers – in North Bay, Ont.
“Nipissing was a small school with a really good hockey team,” said Marilyn, who is in her third year there.
The team lost in the semifinal this season to York, who lost to Toronto in the Ontario finals. Both York and Toronto were in Charlottetown for the U Sports nationals at UPEI when they were cancelled on March 12.
Darren Turcotte, the former NHLer who played with the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators, coaches the Lakers.
Fortin has invested a lot of time in her pursuit of making the national team, balancing her university schoolwork and responsibilities with two hockey squads. She said she was fortunate to have supportive coaches and professors to make it possible.
In early March, Marilyn saw an email waiting for her, when she woke up.
It was the notification she had made the Swiss national team.
Marilyn immediately called her mother and asked her to book some time off work.
“She was pretty pumped,” Marilyn said. “I think she might have been a little bit more excited than I was, if that was possibility.”
The family, including younger brother Frank, have supported Marilyn throughout her hockey journey.
“We couldn't be any prouder,” Luzia said. “We’ve always been super proud, and this was just one step further. Now we just need the world to kind of come back to normal.”
So proud of our baby girl @marilynfortin3 for making the Swiss National team for the Women’s Worlds. It has been a life long goal and dream and all the hard work has finally paid off. ❤️🏒🇨🇭❤️ https://t.co/M7YrSliOW2— Luzia Fortin (@luzia104) March 30, 2020
Luzia was eight years old in 1981 when she immigrated to Canada with her parents and brothers. They settled in Manitoba.
The Fortin children were all born in the province before the family moved to Prince Edward Island in 2010.
A couple of days after Marilyn found out she had made the Swiss squad, the tournament was cancelled with organizers saying the 2021 event would take place in Halifax and Truro.
“It (happened) pretty quick,” Marilyn explained. “I was so happy and so excited (to make the team) I didn't really think about the whole COVID-19 (impact).”
Luzia described it as bittersweet and heartbreaking to know her daughter had accomplished something she had worked so hard for but wouldn’t get to see it through this year.
“But hopefully next year, all will be better and she makes the team again.”
At a glance
Biography of Marilyn Fortin
Who – A 23-year-old Bedeque resident who plays hockey for Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., and Switzerland’s national women’s team. After high school, she played two seasons in the Swiss Women’s Hockey League (SWHL) before joining Nipissing, which competes in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference.
The latest – Fortin was going to play in this week’s International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in Nova Scotia before the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) forced organizers to cancel the competition on March 7.
Height, position – Five-foot-seven forward.
Countries she has played in with the Swiss team – Czech Republic, Austria, France, Russia, Hungary and Germany.
Fortin said: “Travelling with hockey has been unbelievable.”
Season League GP G A Pts.
2015-16 SWHL 20 8 12 20
2016-17 SWHL 20 16 13 29
2017-18 OUA 23 2 5 7
2018-19 OUA 23 3 3 6
2019-20 OUA 24 6 0 6