MEET SYDNEY CONRAD!
Tell us about yourself!
Hi, I am Sydney Conrad, my hockey family calls me Syd. I am a 25 year old student/teacher. I am back in school to learn how to teach tiny humans how to be the best they can be (Preschool teacher). I recently discovered my passion for teaching while losing my passion to continue college hockey. But how could one lose that passion? Well in a word, I was tired. I began skating around 3 years old, my life has been on skates since. I was introduced to roller hockey after spending a whole figure skating class snow plowing my classmates. I played only roller hockey until I was in high school. I have always loved hockey. Growing up my friends were always my teammates, I went to school so I could play hockey, I did my homework so I could go to that tournament, I skipped my middle school promotion for a youth recreational game, I rushed prom prep because of a morning tournament, I missed winter formal altogether for Gabriel Landeskog’s post concussion return vs the Kings. Growing up hockey always accepted me as I came, which was important to me because as a female hockey player I never felt that I fit in with my peers. But with hockey, I was always welcome.
I discovered travel hockey around 11-12 years old and instantly fell in love with the extra competitiveness of it all. My father had actually denied my requests to join my brother in ice hockey, but fully supported my roller career. One day after practice a teammate invited me to an ice tryout, I had 0 intentions of making this team as I had never skated ice before and it was a 16uAAA team. The coaches were impressed with me, and immediately offered to sign me upon hearing I had never played ice prior to that skate. At this time I began baking to raise money to pay my own ice fees. Every day at school I’d walked around with dozens of baked goods offering them to students for $1 each, and it was a success. I was able to pay for my next three ice seasons this way! During this season I was placed as a winger, and surprised myself with being able to score a couple of goals. Halfway through my season I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts on both ovaries. Due to surgery I missed the end of the season.
The next season I continued playing with the Pasadena Maple Leafs for their now 19u team. New coaches, a lot of new teammates, and a friend who suggested letting me try defense. I felt so comfortable and confident playing defense that season, and I even became besties with my d-partner. I was so happy to be able to play in every tournament, and travel with my team, which helped me create the many great friendships I still have today from that squad! That was our last season with a girls team, I watched many girls play for Lady Ducks, Sharks, or Coyotes the following season. I was given the opportunity to try out for Pasadena’s 18u team that season.
During my tryout I was able to chase down one of our fastest players to steal the puck and ruin his breakaway opportunity, the coaches invited me to sign for the season. Looking back that year was my overall best season in youth hockey, and it hurts knowing that my coaches and my own father spent that whole season telling me that I wasn’t good enough and “as a girl you will need to give 150% just to see game time”, working my hardest and still being skipped over in line changes when I had done nothing wrong all game and my team was winning by multiple goals. That summer I was asked to help coach back at my roller rink, one dad collected the girls spread out in the youth divisions and made an all girls team, the Pink Ladies. So I began coaching immediately after my final youth season, and I loved it.
About a year into coaching I received an invitation to join Post University’s inaugural women’s ice hockey team. I was ecstatic. I began working on my transfer from my local community college immediately. My time at Post U was simultaneously the most amazing and the hardest time of my life. I was able to go with Anna, and we were excited to play together again. Everything was a breeze until I was called into the athletics department to be told that my NCAA eligibility was denied…days before our home opening game. I sat in the stands holding back tears as my team lost. I spent weeks working with athletic staff to figure out why and how to fix this, I pulled up medical records, transcripts, anything that could help me play. Not even a month had passed and I felt everyone on my team lose faith in me playing, and I slowly felt myself being ostracized from my team. I honestly felt that I was just a team groupie, and the only thing keeping me going was that I had a chance to play in the future. I hated going to practices and working on game plans when I knew my coach was not speaking to me, and have given up completely on coaching me. I became less and less myself as the year went on, I felt I only had a few friends on my team, and I never connected with other students. At the end of the year meeting I told the coaches I wanted to come back to play a season because I knew playing in games was part of the reason I had become so depressed, so we planned on seeing me coming back. I came home to California for the summer, and instantly I noticed a shift in myself. I was back to playing with the people I grew up with, every single one commenting on how far I had improved, when the coaches and teammates responsible never said a word. I was skating with the girls I coached, watching them being asked to play for the Lady Ducks and other ice teams in SoCal.
During that summer, my mom’s school needed an extra hand in a classroom and I was offered a long term sub position. I made the decision to not risk my mental health again and stayed in California continuing my kinesiology education. I helped a few friends make a women’s travel team that year, and the following year I was asked to help a club create a women’s team, where I helped set two rosters for women’s teams. I stayed on as a substitute teacher and have since transitioned into becoming a full time Childhood Development major, while continuing to play and coach hockey wherever I can.
What made you want to be a WHL Brand Ambassador?
I am so passionate about women’s hockey. I love seeing more young girls begin playing, I adore seeing girls come out to learn hockey, I just love to see it! BUT I also know how hard it is to grow up a girl in a sport seen as “too rough” for us. I grew up constantly hearing everyone I ever met say “but girls don’t play hockey!” “Isn’t that a little rough for you?” “Oh so you play field hockey” “are you even allowed to play with the boys?” and how rude, did I not just say that I, a girl, play hockey? Why would I lie?
As an ambassador I can help spotlight women in hockey, I can use myself as an example to show the next generation of hockey players that girls do play, and girls are amazing, and that yes they too can learn to play! If everything I overcame and everything I learned can help just ONE girl have an easier time getting into hockey, onto a team, and succeeding in her career, then it was all worth it to me.
What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAMBASSADOR?
Expanding the hockey community. Helping create opportunities for more kids to play, helping families find opportunities to win scholarships for their hockey player, creating more opportunities to play, just overall sharing the love of hockey. As an ambassador I have access to network and discover information, other people, rinks, coaches, opportunities for players who need it. I am looking forward to helping this community any way I can. To give back and to thank hockey for everything that it has given me.
What’s something not a lot of people know about you?
My secret talents include singing and acting, growing up I auditioned for countless musicals and almost every school production offered, I was also on my church youth group’s worship team. I have dabbled in many sports over the years including dodgeball, volleyball, water polo, dance, cheer, and I even dabbled in lacrosse at Post U. I am often found with my teacher filter still on and will proudly use “potty” in adult conversations, but will also be thrown in the box for defending my goalie.
If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?
Hilary Knight. I discovered her when I was in middle school, it was a particularly hard year for me academically and I constantly butted heads with a teacher, one day this teacher did not like an essay I wrote and told me that “you’re just daydreaming about hockey, I hope you’re planning on marrying rich because hockey won’t get you into college” my blood boiled. I wanted to scream. Then a teammate somewhere mentioned her name, and explained that she was a USA player. For the first time in my life there was someone LIKE ME I could look up to. She was a girl! She was on Team USA! She wore #21, MY NUMBER! She had long brown hair, just like me! I cried, I wanted to be Hilary Knight. She has always been an amazing voice for the women’s hockey world, she constantly inspires me, and she helps remind me that there’s someone watching me, looking up to me for inspiration or advice, and I should be the best example I can be for the next girl looking for hope.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in hockey or in life?
The best hockey advice I have ever been given is simple, “play YOUR game” I spent a lot of time wishing I was more like these other players. I chased after what I thought I was “missing” when it was just that I saw the game differently and therefore played differently. Once I started embracing that I was a stronger player that I believed I began to excel so much faster. Trust in your game, just imagine if Wayne Gretzky spent his whole career trying to be Bobby Orr.
What’s your dream for women’s hockey?
Normalization first and foremost. The more “normal” women’s hockey becomes the easier it is for it to grow. And I believe that with the growth of women’s hockey, the higher the demand will be for more opportunities for us to play(youth, travel, recreational, college, professional) hockey is for EVERYONE so we should work towards making it easy for everyone to join, and continue to play.
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