Olivia Sutter stands only 5’2” tall, yet she approaches life with the same large breadth of ambition that characterizes her style of play on the ice with the Martlets hockey team. Winter 2016 marks the end of her third year at McGill and her 20-year hockey career. Sutter graduates in December, a mere semester away, after which she hopes to attend law school. The culmination of Sutter’s undergraduate studies and varsity athletics has left her in a reflective and humbled mood.
“It would be easy to say that my highlight [at McGill] would be winning Nationals [in 2014],” Sutter reflected. “Playing on that team is something I’ll never forget […] but overall, I think the best memory is any moment off the ice that I can spend with my teammates. To be able to get to know each one individually has brought so much joy and happiness to my life.”
Sutter’s drive for excellence and her constant humility has placed her on a unique hockey career trajectory. At age 18, with her “eye set on staying in Canada,” Sutter was recruited to Carleton University in Ottawa on a scholarship, where she played for a year before determining the school wasn’t the right fit for her. Ultimately, she elected to return home to Alberta for a period of personal growth and a stint with the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL, Canada’s professional women’s league.
“I really liked my overall experience [at Carleton],” Sutter said. “First year university was a learning curve, and Carleton was a good stepping stone during that time period. But my decision to return home and play CWHL also [helped me grow] as a person.”
This growth prompted Sutter to return to school when she was 21, choosing to pursue a double major in World Religion and Political Science at McGill. On top of her demanding coursework, Sutter learned to balance playing on the hockey team, being president of varsity council, partaking in various volunteer activities including Right to Play, the Alouettes Foundation for Leucan, and Best Buddies, and spearheading a sexual assault awareness campaign on campus.
“[My years in Alberta after Carleton] really helped my experience here at McGill,” Sutter said. “[The maturity I gained] allowed me to pursue a lot of stuff that I probably wouldn’t have if I came here when I was 18 [….] My goal [at McGill] was more on behalf of getting Athletics more involved in the Montreal community. Being a student-athlete, you are a leader and an advocate in your community.”
Sutter’s commitment to community outreach and her pride in being a Martlet has resulted in a slew of awards over the past year. Sutter won RSEQ honours for the Leadership and Citizenship Award, was nominated for the prestigious CIS Marion Hilliard Award for excellence in hockey, academics, and community service, and is nominated for the McGill Athletics Muriel Roscoe Trophy for leadership and excellence. She is also a fixture on the Student-Athlete honour roll and has merited Academic All-Canadian honours. It’s clear, however, that the awards are merely an ancillary benefit to the satisfaction linked to making a difference, which Sutter hopes she has done at McGill and in the larger Montreal area.
“It’s obviously an honour to be recognized for anything you do,” Sutter said. “Pursuing both sport and education is huge and should […] be an example to the younger generation.”
Ultimately, Sutter’s greatest pride is not in her many accolades, but in acting as a leader in her community, and helping other student-athletes follow their dreams.
“The biggest award is when I see athletes from all different sports and backgrounds get together and have a common goal to give back to the community for allowing us to be able to pursue our goals.”
McGill Tribune (MT): Popcorn or chips?
Olivia Sutter (OS): What kind of chips? And what kind of popcorn? Is it Chicago Mix?
MT: It can be Chicago Mix.
OS: Okay, then it’s popcorn, Chicago Mix [laughs].
MT: Running or yoga?
OS: Probably running.
MT: Plateau or McGill Ghetto?
OS: I’ve lived in both. I’m torn. I actually can’t…50-50.
MT: Are you a Lorelei or a Rory from Gilmore Girls?
OS: Probably a Rory.
MT: Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens?
OS: Oh my…Montreal Canadiens. Is that even a real question? [laughs]