The highest-ranking player invited to the U.S. Women’s National Team training camp later this month is 30-year-old Olympic veteran Julie Chu. The youngest invite is 15-year-old Jincy Dunne of O’Fallon, Mo.
In between those two outliers are 15 players who were born in the 1990s and 11 players born in the 1980s — including four players born in 1989.
But even though the U.S. squad that won silver in Vancouver in 2010 didn’t include a single player born in the 1990s, don’t be so quick to say that the 28-players invited to the training camp for the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship in April represents a youth movement or a changing of the guard.
After all, the 2010 Vancouver team featured 15 first-time Olympians.
“I don’t think it’s a conscious effort, it’s not a changing of the guard at all,” U.S. National Team coach Katey Stone said when asked if she was building the team with younger legs. “It’s about finding what we need and the players to fill roles, and age is not an issue at all. It’s about what you are capable of doing and multipurpose players.
“It has nothing to do with age.”
It has to do with experience, she said, noting that more than half of the players on the roster have played in the Olympic Winter Games.
The roster also features 20 players from the U.S. team that captured first place at the 2012 Four Nations Cup in Vantaa, Finland, and 16 members of the 2012 U.S. team that earned silver at the 2012 IIHF Women's World Championship.
Harvard junior Lyndsey Fry made her debut on the senior national team at the same time as Dunne during this past November’s Four Nations Cup.
“I certainly don’t base experience on age, I base it on how long you’ve been here,” Fry said. “Michelle [Picard, a sophomore at Harvard] is younger than me, but she’s been in the national program for three years. I definitely look up to here in that aspect.
“This year Jincy and I both had our first national team tournament together. Again, she is a rare case because she certainly doesn’t act her age.”
With that said, Stone, who also coaches the Harvard University women’s hockey team, did say that younger players are getting better every year.
“Five years from now a 15-year-old will be better than a 15-year-old now,” she said. “That’s the great state of our game. I see that in college hockey all the time. Freshmen are better than five years ago, and then it’s about development and opportunity. The sooner you give kids an opportunity you increase their chances of development
“With regards to Jincy, she had great experience so far so hopefully she’ll get an opportunity to make herself better as with all the young kids. Again, it’s about providing opportunity … I believe every kid on this pre-Worlds roster has been in the mix for some time. They’ve been to a number of different camps and understand the difficulties and demands.”
Harvard sophomore Michelle Picard said even though there are fewer 1980s babies going into this training camp, they still set the tone for the team. And although it would mean training for years to come, Picard said she hopes to play into her 30s.
“Knock on wood I can play that long, definitely,” she said. ”I think being able to play longer has definitely helped in terms of having players with experience all the time. We definitely learn from them.”
Picard said nobody is concerned about age when they are out on the ice.
“It’s not something I particularly notice,” she said. “When you are out there on the ice and everyone is just playing, all the players do their best, and that’s what it comes down to. We’re all on the same team competing for the same spots.”
But as far as if the 1980s babies will stick around after the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Fry said it will likely depend on what kind of hardware the team brings home.
“I’m sure things are going to change,” she said. “I think a lot of it will depend what color the medal is that the team hopefully wins. There are some of these girls who have played two or three Olympics who never won gold. That’s a little crazy to think about. I know some of them, certainly, they have been training so hard so long that they want that gold medal around their neck. A lot of it is definitely depends on that.
“One thing coach put in all our heads is we’re training to win a gold medal. This whole thing is bigger than that and bigger than personal pride so a lot of it will depend on that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.