Carla MacLeod is Alberta built.
The three-time Olympian began playing her minor hockey in Spruce Grove. As a teenager, she moved to Calgary to play for the Oval X-treme in the Western Women’s Hockey League before committing to the University of Wisconsin.
MacLeod made her first appearance on the international stage with Canada’s National Women’s Under 22 Team in 2002. The five-foot, four-inch defender cracked the National Women’s Team roster in 2005, where she participated in her first of four IIHF World Championships. The team struck gold at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy and again at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Following the 2010 Olympics, MacLeod retired from playing with two Olympic gold medals, one World Championship gold medal and three silver medals.
Over the course of her playing career – whether it was with the national team or the Oval X-treme - the road always led her back to home in Calgary.
“I’m really fortunate to have grown up in Alberta and be a product of the Alberta built model,” said MacLeod. “I think the main reason I’ve always tried to give back to Hockey Alberta, even when I was still playing, was understanding that you want that impact and that opportunity for the next generation and the next group coming up.… We see these women at the Olympics or at the World stage, but really the starting point is the provincial branch and that’s something I’ve never forgotten.”
Following her playing days, MacLeod took the step behind the bench, coaching at every level over the past decade.
Her coaching career started as an assistant coach at Mount Royal University. In 2012, MacLeod made her international coaching debut as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team at the World Championships. That season, MacLeod became an assistant coach with the Japanese Women’s National Team.
For three seasons, MacLeod travelled back and forth to Japan, while balancing her position at Mount Royal and a job in banking. During her tenure, Japan qualified for their first Olympic Games since hosting the tournament in 1998. In 2014, MacLeod made her third appearance at the Olympic Games, her first as a coach.
“English was very limited in that situation, so everything was translated,” said MacLeod. “A small example, you call a timeout in the game and instead of having 30 seconds, you have 15 because everything has to be translated. The impact of language is profound but having said that, it’s also the privilege of coaching internationally.”
Following the 2014 Olympics, MacLeod returned to Calgary as head coach of the U18 Prep Team at the Edge School. She also availed herself of coaching opportunities offered by Hockey Alberta, including assistant coach with Team Alberta at the National Women’s Under-18 Championships in 2015 before taking over as head coach in 2016.
“Short-term competition in general is very unique, I think it’s one of the greatest pieces of sport because everything is expedited and your preparation is so critical in short-term,” said MacLeod. “As a coach, you’re trying to make sure 30 of you are in the right state, that you’re ready to go and everyone is comfortable and confident – and everyone needs something a little different to get there.”
MacLeod returned as Alberta’s bench boss at the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Under her direction, Alberta won its third-ever gold medal, the first since 2011.
“It was just a privilege to coach that group. All we wanted to do as a staff was to ensure that those girls had the best experience possible at that level. That’s not a result-based goal, that’s a process-based goal, ultimately for us the result took care of it as well,” said MacLeod.
In 2021, MacLeod took the next step in her career – head coach of the University of Calgary Dinos.
Then, a year later, she was offered a new challenge ahead of the Women’s World Championships – head coach of Czechia’s National Women’s Team. In recent years, Czechia had built a strong foundation, but it was up to MacLeod to get them to the next level. After nearly upsetting the United States at the 2022 Olympics, all eyes were on them at the World Championships.
“Anyone who watched the World Championships or the Olympic Games could see that there was momentum within the Czech Women’s Team. We did a lot from a coaching perspective to get to know the players as people,” said MacLeod. “We wanted to maintain and build on that foundation that had been laid but we knew that if we wanted to take that next step and push for a medal in the ‘A’ pool, we’d have to do some things differently. That was part of the growing process and it’s part of the journey.”
MacLeod found the next step with Czechia. With the first female coach in federation history, Czechia won their first-ever medal when they claimed bronze at the World Championships.
Through MacLeod’s Alberta roots, she is delivering the same level of game to the world.