05 October, 2018

Monica Quimby makes it happen during monumental year for US women's ice sledge hockey



Continuing to gain international prominence, women’s ice sledge hockey features an abundance of inspiring athletes whose heroic efforts hold a worthy place in the sporting conversation. Among such revered competitors is blueliner Monica Quimby, a former varsity athlete from the University of New Hampshire, contributing to a United States roster that is certainly the world’s finest.

In the aftermath of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, women’s ice sledge hockey took center stage. With the 2nd Women's International Para Ice Hockey Cup, contested in Ostrava, Czech Republic, one that featured over 10 teams, Quimby enjoyed a series of milestones.

From the outset, Quimby served as an alternate for the US team that captured the gold medal at the inaugural Cup back in 2014 (held in Brampton, Ontario). Gaining an opportunity that was four years in the making, Quimby capitalized by scoring her first international goal, part of a 7-0 trouncing of Team Europe.

By tournament’s end, Quimby would have the gold medal adorned around her neck, celebrating a 1-0 victory over eternal rival Canada. With a flood of emotion, from achievement and celebration, to redemption and resolve, it marked the summit for the native of Wesley Chapu, Florida.

Considering that the US men’s team captured the gold medal in ice sledge hockey at the 2018 Paralypmic Games, such an achievement not only served as motivation for the women’s team to stake their own claim competitively.

Adding to a strong sense of national pride, Quimby and her teammates utilized this strong sense of momentum, garnering their own golden victory in Czech Republic. Besting their rivals, Canada, to grab the gold, it cemented their place as the team to beat internationally.

The jubilant of triumph was also enhanced much further with another prominent performance by American women in hockey earlier in the year. Led by captain Meghan Duggan, the US also defeated Canada, emerging with gold in women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Games, the first for an elated team of American competitors since the 1998 edition of the Winter Games.

As Quimby reflects on the chance to be part of such a fascinating time for hockey in the United States, with three different teams enjoying international gold, the chance to be part of the latest chapter in the Canada vs. USA rivalry is euphoric. Undeniably, the parallels and the common ground of triumph in 2018 comprise a unity that shall link these teams in American lore.

“It was an incredible feeling winning gold against Canada in Czech with the Women's Sled Team, after the Men's Sled Team and the Women's Olympic Team taking home the gold against Canada as well. It is a tale as old as time, USA vs. Canada, and the win is a big victory.”

Balancing athletics and family, along with a career as an adjunct biology professor, Quimby is not only one of the most inspiring players in the game, she is reaching her pinnacle as a celebrated athlete. Of note, 2018 has already been a highly eventful year. From becoming a homeowner to the prestige of international play, followed by earning a roster spot for the 2018-19 US season, the feeling of momentum is an inspiring source of motivation.  

Through it all, Quimby maintains an admirable perspective. While Quimby has definitely gained a degree of celebrity status, from once placing third at the Miss Wheelchair USA pageant, to MaineToday Media recognizing her among the state’s Forty Under 40 emerging leaders, plus working with Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito to organize his charity golf tournament, she remains remarkably grounded. Quick to recognize that there is always more to learn, and that opportunities to grow are plentiful, it is the type of approach that has made her a model teammate, whether on Team USA or with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s sled hockey program,

“I think we all have different roles and strengths that we each bring to the team, that's what makes our team work well together. I love connecting and encouraging others, as well as learning and continuing to develop as a player. I feel I am pretty universal in my role on the team, sometimes leading and sometimes following, but most importantly, being open and receptive.”

Certainly, the golden achievement of 2018 takes on greater luster for Quimby. Taking into account that the female ice sledge hockey team has now been picked up by USA Hockey, enjoying sponsorship money and access to even greater facilities, they become the first team in the game’s nascent history to be welcomed by a nation’s governing body for hockey. For a grateful Quimby, such a move is one that served as a defining moment for the ice sledge hockey program, contributing towards a sense of very well deserved acceptance in the greater hockey conversation,   

“Besides the gold medal, the stand out moment for me was when we found out the night before the championship game, that we were officially picked up by USA Hockey. It bonded us together as a team even tighter and with the growth with the other female teams all over the world, the Paralympics are getting closer and in sight. This trip to the Czech Republic was so such an important step in the development and growth of women's sled hockey.”

Upon the return stateside, the feeling of celebration took on a much greater relevance. A remarkable affirmation of the growing relevance of Quimby and the other wondrous women of the US ice sledge hockey team, took on a genuine major league feeling. A group of competitors were distinguished guests of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, attending a contest at Denver’s Pepsi Center. Shown on the big screen during a break in play, a well-deserved round of ovation by the fans on-hand was testament to the type of gesture from the Avalanche which only adds to the self-esteem of the game.

The gracious treatment from the two-time Stanley Cup champions represented the proverbial “cherry on top”, helping to herald an energizing and empowering era for the women of ice sledge hockey. Undoubtedly, 2018 served as a landmark year, contributing towards the shaping of these hockey heroes into essential role models, while displaying the inspiring impact that disabled people can have in society when presented with the opportunity,

“I was with some of my teammates and we were so honored being recognized at the Avalanche game, that was such a happy moment. We got to meet some of the Avalanche Alumni as well; hockey players are all around great people. It means a lot to us; it means that we are being taken seriously, worth being celebrated and we are here to stay.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Pepsi Center photo (featuring Gabby Wake, Erica Mitchell, Hope Bevilhymer, Monica Quimby, Rachel Grusse and Christy Gardner) from the Robynne Hill Collection

Blue USA Hockey jersey photo by Ron Robichaud

Other image obtained from: http://www.disabilityachievementcenter.org/sled-hockey-gold-medal-just-another-goal-accomplished-by-monica-quimby/

To learn more about Monica Quimby, please visit: https://monicaquimby.wordpress.com/

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