Having served as a backup to All-World goaltender Charline Labonte for three seasons at McGill, Taylor Salisbury learned from one of the greatest to stand between the pipes. While serving in a backup capacity is one that requires great patience, Salisbury employed great maturity and acumen.
“It was definitely challenging at times. I look at it on the bright side. How much can you learn from her? Preparation, work ethic, so much experience, you get so much out of that. You learn to be a good teammate by having to be there for the team and do what you can for your team.”
While Labonte graduated from the McGill Martlets in 2012, she remained on as a consultant for the team. “You get out about once a week and we work on ability drills," she said. "She is still a great role model. As far as the mental side, she helps us that way too. She was in the big game situations, she has been there too. It helps us to talk to her about her experiences.”
Her willingness to put the team first is one of her finest attributes and it paid off as McGill enjoyed an undefeated regular season in 2012-13. Salisbury reflects on the feat with humility: “I do not really think about the record too much. It is one game at a time. Our practices during the week help us get better. We just look at a fresh game, and not what we have done, and not at what is ahead.”
Salisbury shares her playing time with Andrea Weckman, who was also a backup to Labonte for three seasons. “Andrea and I have been teammates for four years now. We get along pretty well. We completely push each other to be better in that way. We support each other. When it is your turn to play, you help your team. When it is not your turn, you support the other.”
Their success between the pipes and their unselfish approach to the game is truly admirable. This dynamic duo easily draws comparisons to the successful goaltending duo of John Vanbiesbrouck and Mark Fitzpatrick, who shared goaltending duties in the early years of the NHL’s Florida Panthers.
Hailing from British Columbia, Salisbury made a big decision to go cross-country to compete at McGill in Montreal. “It was such an excellent school academically and the hockey program was renowned academically. I had the chance to meet some players and coaches briefly before committing. There was such great team chemistry and it was a good environment to be in. The experience of living away from home was a very useful and valuable experience for me.”
In addition to her hockey endeavors, the articulate Salisbury already has her sights set on a career after hockey. “I took my MCAT this summer, and had an interview. I am waiting to hear back. I would like to go to medical school and hopefully become a doctor.”
During the 2011-12 Martlets season, Salisbury and her teammates were visited by Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. The famed coach was a McGill alumnus and spoke to the team. “He was a really great speaker. He had amazing stories and provided really good advice. He had been a McGill student athlete himself. It was interesting to hear his stories and the players on his teams and how hard they worked.”
Having won a CIS national title as a backup goaltender as a 2011, Salisbury is part of a number one ranked squad in 2013. The Martlets are the favorite to win the national title this year. While the opportunity to win a national title as a starting goaltender is a great one, Salisbury approaches it with humility: “Anytime you win, it is an amazing experience. You work for it for a very long time. You put everything you have into it and you work hard to see it pay off.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”