While advancements in training and resources for the U.S. Women’s National team have allowed players to extend their careers into their 30s, it has simultaneously allowed younger players to compete at higher levels earlier in their careers.
Of the 23 players on the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship — which begins tonight in Ottawa and concludes next Tuesday — 13 players are still in college.
“I definitely think the younger and younger players are starting to learn more and more about what we can do to be better players,” said Harvard sophomore Michelle Picard, who joined the senior national team for the Four Nation’s Cup in each of the past two years. “I notice some of the seniors in college say, ‘Yeah we didn’t know any of this off-ice training stuff till we went to college.’
“My experience is I learned it freshman, sophomore year of high school, and I think I definitely got the experience because of the USA Hockey National Development Camp.”
The team was whittled down from 28 players on Saturday after a selection camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The camp included 15-year-old Jincy Dunne, who did not make the final cut but nevertheless represents the programs ever growing youth movement.
That youth, however, is balanced out with 10 Olympians, including three-time Olympian Julie Chu, who did make the final cut on Saturday.
“With the depth of the talent pool in our country, it’s always a challenge to settle on a final roster, and this year was no different,” Reagan Carey, the director of women's hockey for USA Hockey and also the general manager of the 2013 U.S. Women’s National Team, said in a statement. “We’re excited about the group of players we’ve selected and are confident that Coach [Katey] Stone has the team focused and prepared to compete for the gold medal in Ottawa.”
While nine of the college players are coming off the NCAA tournament, including four players who won the national title with Minnesota (and Patty Kazmaier Award winner Amanda Kessel), making that transition from college hockey to the international stage is still difficult.
Overall, that transition does not just mean adjusting to a faster, more physical and much more intense style of play, it also means making a monumental commitment to training.
Stone, who also coaches the women’s team at Harvard, said it’s not about the amount of time a player spends on the ice but the amount of time a player spends off the ice.
“What I tell kids in other [college] programs is that if this is what you want to put yourself in the position to make the national team Olympic roster and still be a college athlete, you are going to have to do more than anyone else on your [college] team,” Stone said. “As much as great demands are put on college players, it’s not the same.
“It’s a very different mentality. You don’t just start training for an Olympic team in September. It’s something you do for four years. Sacrifices have to be made. There’s a lot to college life. But kids that want to play at the elite level, they are making sacrifices and it’s obvious.”
Still, Stone said players can’t train 24 hours a day.
That’s why she loves the fact that Boston has become a hub for U.S. women’s hockey. Of the 23 players just named to the national team roster, eight of the players on the squad also play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, including seven who won the Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades.
Four players on the team play for Harvard, Boston College or Northeastern.
Many of those players train together and hang out together off the ice.
“I think with that regard the kids here are really enjoying their experience,” Stone said. “Part of it is the great resources and development here. But you can’t train all day so you want to make sure there are other things going on. At this stage of the game you want to make sure you have a good balance in life.
“I think it’s great. Certainly there are a lot of facilities and resources here. Boston is a great hockey town and there is a lot going on here; from a media standpoint as well, hopefully we’ll get good buzz.”
And while living and training in a college town makes the transition to post-college hockey easier for the younger players on the Boston Blades, making the transition to international hockey is always an emotional adjustment for players.
“I think for me it was just sort of when you get your first opportunity, the biggest thing is don’t over think it,” said Harvard junior Lyndsey Fry, who made her debut on the senior national team during this past November’s Four Nations Cup. “Whether it is at the U-18 level or whether at the national level I think you definitely have to believe you are there for a reason. That is the biggest thing for me
“I wouldn’t be there if they didn’t want me there, so playing with confidence is the biggest thing.”
Team USA will open the World Championships against Canada at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.