Books Lose Out to Hot Tub
With 10 U.S. players and four Canadian players still in U.S. colleges, it raises the obvious question, what happens with academics during the two to three weeks of preparation and competition? Not much.
“It kind of takes a back seat in tournament like this,” said Dartmouth sophomore Gillian Apps. “When you have time to do it, you have time to do it, but it definitely is not a main focus right now.”
Because the Canadian college students are a minority on their team, it’s even harder for them to band together and complete schoolwork.
“It’s so hard to do work when I’m on the road,” said St. Lawrence senior Gina Kingsbury. “Anyone in the locker room in school has the same problem as me. The focus is on the tournament, and you just want to nap, and there are so many more things to be doing than picking up your books and reading them.”
Kingsbury asserts that being the one senior does not make her the responsible one.
“I’m definitely not a good leader there, because I’m the first to say, oh maybe the hot tub would be better, or my legs are a little sore so I need massage,” she says, grinning. “That’s a lot better than opening the books.”
Kingsbury adds that she looks forward to getting her work done when the tournament ends and getting back into a regular routine.
“Hopefully I’m graduating this year, which is sad, because I love college.”
Apps and Cherie Piper are in a more convenient academic situation than Kingsbury because Dartmouth operates on a trimester system. Their third trimester is only just beginning.
Kingsbury was all smiles after scoring the game-winning goal in Sunday’s game against Sweden that clinched a gold-medal game berth for Canada. It was quite a contrast from two weeks before, when she was in tears after having to leave her St. Lawrence team prematurely to train for Team Canada and miss the NCAA Frozen Four.
“It was unfortunate what happened because we’re trying to grow the game in general, and the final four and world championship are two big events for women’s hockey,” said Apps, who also missed the Frozen Four for Dartmouth along with Piper. “I think everyone would like to see in the future schedule be a little apart. It’s unfortunate what happened there.”
What’s done and done, but can this conflict be averted in the future? Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson could make not guarantees.
“The NCAA is not part of the IIHF, and the first priority for the IIHF is to look after their own members, and I would think that the NCAA understands that the IIHF World Championships have been around a lot longer than the NCAA,” Nicholson said on Saturday.
Nicholson added that such conflicts are commonplace across hockey, citing junior hockey and the World U-18 championships as an example. But he expressed hope that future women’s championships could be held in February or April.
“We deal with [conflicts] all the time, and you have to put our priorities where they should be,” Nicholson said. “We continue to work our Canadian universities and leagues. I know our director of female hockey Julie Healy continues to have discussions with the NCAA.”
One reason to be optimistic about the avoidance of future conflicts is the stability of future Frozen Four dates, which the NCAA has set through 2007. The dates for this year’s Frozen Four were originally set for after the World Championships in mid-April but they were moved to the last weekend of March after the New Haven Coliseum closed. Building closings should not be an issue with the future venues.
“It’s good to see that the NCAA is moving forward and naming those dates,” Nicholson said.
Life After College
NCAA schools have a strong showing in providing 14 players between the U.S. and Canadian teams, but they are not the top supplier of players for the World Championships off 2004 rosters. That honor goes to the NWHL which featured 15 Canadian national and 3 U.S. national players this year, although seven of those are alumni of U.S. colleges.
The NWHL provides a place for the Canadian national team players to play after college, though all still have to work elsewhere to support themselves.
“It was different for me for the first couple of months, but I think I’ve sort of gotten in a groove now,” said Harvard alum Jennifer Botterill, describing the experience. “I look back very fondly of my years at college. I loved it. I loved every minute, but it’s been good now. I’m getting adjusted to the league up there, and doing different things.”
Most of the national team players are concentrated on two teams that played for the NWHL championship last month-the Toronto Aeros and the Calgary X-treme. The league rosters feature a mixture of college graduates, older and younger players. It’s a mix that’s unique from U.S. college play.
“College was great, because you had a great game schedule, but [college and NWHL] allow you to develop in different ways,” Botterill said.
Apps, Piper, and Botterill are among those who played with the Aeros or the X-treme before coming to college. Both Apps and Botterill were influenced to come to U.S. colleges by the good experiences their older brothers had there, among other reasons.
More U.S. players used to play in the NWHL, but recent Canadian import rules limit teams to just two Americans now. That rule led to the demise of the Vancouver franchise where U.S. captain Cammi Granato once played.
Among those who get by without the NWHL after graduation is U.S. goaltender Pam Dreyer. In between the Four Nations Cup and the World Championships, she worked three jobs and skated about twice a week, playing occasionally in a men’s league. That proved enough for her to be named the top goaltender of this tournament by the media.
Medals of Every Color
Finland beat Sweden 3-2 in the Bronze medal game to avenge a defeat from the 2002 Olympics. Sweden has never finished ahead Finland at the World Championships.
In a losing effort for Sweden, UMD alum Erika Holst was named the Player of the Game for her second straight game. She scored the Swedes’ first goal on a blast from the point that found the top right corner.
UMD junior Nora Tallus was a member of the victorious Finnish squad. The Bulldogs featured players on all three medal winning teams, including junior Julianne Vasichek and senior Jenny Potter on Team USA and junior Caroline Ouellette on Team Canada
Although the Minnesota trio of Kelly Stephens, Natalie Darwitz, and Krissy Wendell were denied their first World Championship, they still get to go back home and celebrate their NCAA championship.
The three missed the Gophers dropping the puck at the final Wild game, but there are plenty of perks left to come — such as throwing out the first pitch at a Twins game, visiting the State House, and visiting the White House.