Meet Merve Tunali!
Tell us about yourself!
I was born and raised up in Ankara and Istanbul—two of the biggest cities in Turkey. Not yet called a ‘hockey country’, and many are even surprised when we say “yes, we have hockey leagues in Turkey”. My ice career started as a figure skater when I was five. I remember that I wanted to run on the ice instead of trying new elements. There was no kid’s team that I could get involved in or even any opportunities that I could discover hockey. After moving to another city where there was no ice & quitting figure skating, I was not able to skate for a long time.
Then the story begins with an ice rink built in the middle of city center. I was spending most of my time on the ice and soon an ice hockey coach approached me and then the rest of my life changed, since I became a hockey addict. The first official women’s team I was involved in consisted of five players, plus one goalie in Istanbul, back in 2007. It was the first year of the national women’s league. We were training in a small ice rink located in a shopping mall, and traveling to the capital city (around 900 km round-way) for the games every weekend.
Year by year, the league has developed. I transferred and played in different cities, including on the national team. To fill the gap of the years I couldn’t practice, I attended many camps as a young woman in Europe, such as Czech, Slovakia, Poland. They were mostly with U12 boys. Every time I stepped on the ice, my passion grew.
Then my coaching career started—that opened a whole new page on my life. I was doing my PhD and working as a researcher at the University. I was working from 9 am to 5 pm at the University, then started working on the ice from 7 pm to 11 pm. And I had games on weekends. Once, I had the PhD qualification exam at 11 am in the morning, I was on the ice coaching the day before till 12 pm.
I was nominated to the national team as an athlete that year, so after the qualification exam, I took my gear and went to the candidate camp. They were extremely stressful days, but at the same time extremely amazing. Most of the people were asking me where I find this energy, I always answer, if you really find your passion that drives you, you simply cannot stop it.
My hockey story continues to grow. I have coached the U18 Women’s National Team for two years now. Also, I own a sports club that is Istanbul Skating Sports Association in which we have a U10 team.
What made you want to be a WHL Brand Ambassador?
First, we can have a greater impact on the development of women’s hockey when we are together. Second, sharing a platform with the people who have the same passion as me is fabulous.
What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAMBASSADOR?
Get to know individuals in our community more, building partnerships in every way and seeing how we can grow the game we love all together.
What’s something not a lot of people know about you?
I have a PhD in biotechnology and work on environmental sustainability—sometimes I make experiments in a chemical laboratory—but i used to keep it as a secret in the hockey community.
If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?
Manon Rhéaume as she was a pioneer on shattering the gender barrier as an athlete, and she is still growing the game!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in hockey or in life?
Never stop doing sports to make your academic grades better, if you do, you fail. If not, you will learn time-management, you become a multi-tasking person, you contribute to your own psychology in a positive way. Follow this rule, and you will see.
What’s your dream for women’s hockey?
Equalize the domination of each gender in this sport—both on ice, off ice and on mind!
Want to join our #WHLAmbassador team?
Get more details and apply here!