Hockey to me is the greatest thing in the world. I understand that was a pretty bold statement, but to me nothing will ever beat the rush I get anytime I touch the ice or even the feeling I get when that cool breeze hits me as I walk into the rink. For me personally, hockey has had an extremely profound impact on my life. My dad put me on skates for the first time when I was two years old and my love for the game only grew from there. The rink has been my home away from home (my mom might argue that we spend just as much time there as we do at our house) and if you ever find yourself having a conversation with me, you better bet hockey is going to be part of the discussion. There is also my family lineage; my two uncles, aunt, my Mom’s brother, and my Dad have all played and built quite the persona in the hockey world. Just about every aspect of my life has, and still does, somehow connect back to hockey. Some might consider the amount that all this hockey takes up is too much, but in all honesty I would not have it any other way.
When I was little, I was lucky enough to grow up being a part of such a huge hockey family. One of my first memories as a kid is going to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah to see my aunt, Cammi Granato, captain the USA Women’s Ice Hockey team. I was five years old at the time, unaware of the importance of the event. The remarkable thing about it all is even though I didn't exactly understand how big of a deal the Olympics was at the time, the memory of it still sticks with me so vividly to this day. I can remember going to the opening ceremonies, my aunt being a torch bearer, going to my first ever concert (The Goo Goo Dolls), trading pins with pin collectors (who couldn’t really say no to the little girl wrapped up in a fluffy, white parka and Team USA beret), being with my family, and going to a handful of the events. It was an unbelievable experience, one that I will never forget, one that I would mark as the start of my own journey.
I am currently a freshman, soon to be sophomore, on the Women’s Ice Hockey team at the University of Vermont. I am from a suburb of Chicago, Plainfield, which is about 920 miles from Burlington (according to Google). Although I am very far away from home, I cannot tell people enough how much I love it out here. The people I have met thus far, the scenery I get to see everyday, and the fact that I get to do something I love daily makes me feel so grateful that I ended up where I am. For anyone who reaches this level, being a Division 1 athlete is something they have had to work at for a long time. It has been hard work and it is a huge commitment, but I would not trade the opportunity to do so for anything. Not only do I get to attend a great school, but I also get to continue doing something I am so deeply passionate about. When you find something you love you roll with it, and I have been able to do that by playing hockey.
Deciding where to play college hockey was about the first big decision I had to make by myself. It was completely up to me to decide where I wanted to be, where I wanted to attend school, and where I wanted to continue my hockey career. Leading up to my commitment I was pretty stressed out, mostly because I could feel the weight of the decision resting all on me. I knew going into everything that I wanted to find somewhere that I felt welcome and fit me. I had visited a few other schools and gotten the feel of other campuses, but I knew when I stepped onto UVM’s campus I was somewhere I wanted to be. Some of the other schools I had been to were great schools, but I did not get the same feeling I got as when I visited Vermont. It was just a gut feeling that I trusted and not too long after I made my verbal commitment to UVM.
I do not think I could have asked to be in a better place. Not only am I happy with where I am, but I am beyond lucky to be a part of my team. Growing up, you play with a lot of the same girls, some who might have been on your team since you were ten years old. It is a little different to be a part of a team where you have to build relationships from scratch, but there is not any other group of girls I would rather be a part of. I have felt so welcomed not only this year, but all the way back when I visited the school for the first time back at the end of 2014. They make me laugh all the time, I know they have my back, they push me to want to be better, and I without a doubt consider them my family. Throughout my years playing I have always thought of my team as family and I am so proud that I get to be a part of this one.
My experience in both collegiate and youth hockey is one that has molded me into the person I am today. Without it, I would argue that I would be a completely different person. Maybe I would not have played sports at all, I might of even took up dance for all I know (anyone who knows me personally knows that this would be frightening.). Hockey set me on a path that I would never otherwise take and I take pride in who I am because of it.
There are so many unique attributes that make hockey such an extraordinary sport. I have been involved in a handful of other sports like basketball, soccer, volleyball, and even golf, but nothing compares to how I feel every time I get to pull on the jersey. I really do not think a person can truly understand how special hockey is unless you have had a taste of the physical, fast paced game yourself. From those who are maybe considering lacing up the skates for the first time to those who have played since they were big enough to hold a stick, I urge you to continue playing and enjoying the greatest game in the world.