For me, my most vivid memory of hockey during my youth was when I was 12. I’d been playing boys hockey for 2 years and loved it. When my dad took me to my first women’s game at the 1997 Women’s World Championship, I remember thinking something to the affect of ‘Oh other girls play hockey too!’. At that point I thought it was only myself and the only other girl in the league. My dad let me stay up way past my bedtime on a school night to watch Canada beat the USA in overtime, and in the end, line up on the blue line singing ‘O Canada’.
Six years later I was playing with and against some of the same players in the NWHL Senior league. Just as I was graduating from high school I attended my first Team Canada conditioning camp; the result (besides being unable to sit down from sore muscles, and going home every night to soak in a bath tub of ice) was joining a training group with some of the veteran players. Every morning I arrived at the gym for 7am to train with these players, and at 18 I was the youngest by at least 10 years.
The experience was exhausting, but eye opening. I think when I showed up initially I might have been dismissed as one of the new, young kids who didn’t know what it would take. But after I continued to show up every day through out the summer, I managed to gain some respect from the veterans. Going into my first Under 22 Team Canada try-out I had high hopes, and by the end of camp felt I had done enough to make the team. But the devastation I felt after my 5am meeting with the head coach to cut me was something I had never experienced.
Looking back on not making the team, it seemed so devastating at the time, like the end of the world had finally happened and my life was over. But I guess you learn to live by the principle that ‘everything happens for a reason’. And after an incredibly difficult freshman season at the University of New Hampshire, I set out on an even more strenuous workout program for the summer, with my second attempt at the Under 22 team on the horizon in August. This time, I had success, and played my first game with the Under 22 team against Team USA. I carried this new confidence into my second year at UNH, but in our fourth game of the season, I broke my leg in three places. This meant surgery to insert one metal plate and eight screws into my leg, 8 weeks of not walking, and sitting out the season.
And again, what appeared to be a major devastation was actually a blessing in disguise. Getting a break from hockey gave me a bit of perspective, made me appreciate the incredible opportunity I had and more importantly, reminded me just how much fun hockey was. I developed a work ethic I never thought I had; working out to the point of exhaustion became a pleasure after being forced to crutches for so long. I was voted one of the team captains in the spring, and returned the next season with a new attitude and mindset. Our team went from a nationally unranked and 4th place finish in our league of 8 teams, to the national semi-finalists and entering the Frozen Four as the number 1 ranked team.
In my time at UNH we hosted 3 NCAA quarter final games, winning 2 of them. In my final game at UNH we played host team Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA semifinals. This was one of my proudest moments as a UNH Wildcat. In front of their home crowd of a few thousand people, we played the best game a UNH team had ever played in my tenure there; to the point of not allowing a single shot on goal in the 2nd period. We outshot them 45-12, but of course the shot count means nothing, and after a few bad bounces and a goaltender we just couldn’t beat, we lost 3-2. In some ways, devastating to lose a game when you clearly out play the other team. But mostly it allowed myself and the other seniors to leave the program knowing we had made our last game our best game, and could leave with our heads held high.
Throughout my time at UNH I also continued in the Canadian National Team hockey program. I made the Under 22 team twice, and then began trying out for the Senior National Team. At my first try out I did not make the team, but continued to be part of the program and invited to try-outs. Many of the players who had once been ranked ahead of me were being completely cut from the Senior program, and I felt I would be next up. Going into my last year at UNH, the stress of balancing both teams drained me. I nearly quit the Team Canada program, but I realized I couldn’t give up on my dream. That summer I trained as hard as I could, and found out in the fall I made Team Canada for a major tournament in Sweden.
I was the oldest ‘rookie’ by a long shot, and my entire family made the trip to Sweden to see me play, and the only family to make the trip to Sweden. For most this was just another tournament, but for me this was it. We knew this would likely be my only chance to play for Team Canada and I enjoyed every moment. Playing a game for the Senior National team against Team USA had always been a dream, and being able to do that with my family watching made everything I had done for hockey worth it. The next year I was told I had done all they had asked but I would no longer be part of the Team Canada program. Despite being cut, I left with the positive of knowing I had done everything I could and could leave with no regrets.
Hockey has been a whirlwind part of my life since I was a kid, but has now evolved into a smaller part of my life, playing a very different role. Playing in Switzerland for a year and a half took the stressors out of hockey, and made the game what it was supposed to be: fun. Now, I’ll be starting law school in the fall. Although athletics and academia are technically two separate worlds, I know that everything I have learned from my hockey career is what got me into law school, and also what will allow me to succeed in the future.