Gracious, heartfelt and sincere, Cherie Hendrickson brought an appealing authenticity to the rink. An exceptional individual, whose respect and admiration for her team and teammates alike, made her presence on and off the ice most valuable.
Although the early remnants of this season saw Hendrickson transition into retirement, resulting in the Boston Pride unable to enter their second season with a great leader and more importantly, a valued friend and great hockey humanitarian, there is no question that she skates away with an exceptional feeling of accomplishment, having contributed to the unforgettable halcyon days for women’s ice hockey during the 2010s in New England.
“Retiring has definitely been a difficult decision, but one that I knew was the right move. I’m 30 now so keeping up with the young guns graduating college isn’t easy anymore haha. Also, I graduated from physician assistant school this year and started working at Lahey a few months ago in the ICU, so given the schedule constraints of the job and the learning curve I wanted to be sure I was making my new career a priority.”
Embodying the great potential that this game can reach, while having assembled a legacy built on loyalty, friendship and character, Hendrickson deserves to be remembered as someone who made the game better for those all around her. Although she remains humble about her influence, a significant part of her hockey leagacy involves inspiring others,
“I guess I would like to be remembered as a hard worker and someone who had fun playing the game.”
Among a rare group of women to have won both the Clarkson and Isobel Cups in a career, having achieved such a summit represents a proud accomplishment that also adds to New England sporting lore. Of note, Hendrickson achieved this with a pair of Boston-based teams. Having donned both the Boston Blades and Boston Pride jerseys in each of their inaugural seasons, she was at the pulse of exciting times for women’s ice hockey in Beantown.
Having also spent a season in Russia playing with current Buffalo Beauts star Kelley Steadman (who would win the Clarkson Cup together in 2013), Hendrickson reflects on the joys of getting the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie that exists between players, setting the stage for some of her most cherished moments,
“There were many highlights over the years…certainly traveling to Russia to play, and winning the Clarkson and Isobel Cups were all great memories. I’d have to say my best memories are the road trips and spending time with teammates – everything from Angela Ruggiero buying a cheese plate in Montreal one hour before our secret santa to Jordan Smelker’s pre-game dancing and antics, that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
The Clarkson Cup victory of 2013 involved skating for the Boston Blades, a team that her father, Paul, helped bring to fruition. In recognition of the Blades’ achievement, they were honored guests of the fabled Boston Red Sox baseball team, getting the opportunity to participate in a pregame ceremony on the iconic playing surface at Fenway Park.
Adding to a great sense of historic milestones in her career was the fact that the Isobel Cup was the first-ever contested in the history of the NWHL.
The chance to don the Pride colors in their inaugural season represented a much bigger story that Hendrickson proudly helped to compose. From the outset, Hendrickson was among 72 empowering women that comprised the rosters among the founding franchises of the NWHL. All franchises were part of an exciting chapter in American sporting women’s history, as the league represented the first female pro hockey league in the US.
Having dedicated so much of her life to the game she dearly loved, the chance to spend her final season as a salaried player represented more than just reward, it marked a validating new chapter for women’s ice hockey,
“Winning both the Clarkson and Isobel Cups is really a dream come true. As a young girl playing hockey on primarily all-boys teams, there weren’t any professional leagues to aspire to for women. Being a part of the CWHL and then later the NWHL, the first league to pay women’s hockey players a salary in North America, has been an absolute thrill.
Winning the Cups is a testament to my teammates though…it’s not often that you have the chance to compete with people who are truly the best in the world at what they do, and it’s been an amazing experience to learn from them.”
By mid-season, the initial sojourn of Hendrickson in the brave, new NWHL, allowed for another special opportunity, simultaneously contributing to the unfolding theme of history. Competing in the first-ever professional women’s ice hockey game, such a brush with history was even more profound because it took place in her home state.
Gracing the frozen surface at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Pride and Canadiennes de Montreal skated to a 1-1 tie as Blake Bolden scored the Pride’s only goal.
In the middle of such a feeling of achievement, there was also a tinge of tragedy as Denna Laing suffered a neck injury, which would sadly be the final game of her promising career. Showing great character, Laing embarked on a journey of recovery that inspired fans and teammates alike, including Hendrickson. With the Pride’s inaugural season having set the stage for new friendships, including with Laing, Hendrickson and several other Pride teammates honored her with a fundraising game in her honor, testament to the essence of teamwork and devotion.
While this season sees the Pride raising a banner with Laing’s number 24 to the rafters, that was not the only tribute involved. In the spring, Hendrickson ran in the Boston Marathon in support of further fundraising for Denna Laing. She would continue this heartwarming effort as she also ran in the New York Marathon on November 6 as well, finishing all 26.2 miles. As a side note, Laing would be honored a few weeks following Hendrickson’s remarkable marathon performance as the recipient of the 2016 Dana Reeve Award.
“I have run the marathon to raise money for Dana Farber the past seven years, but this year of course had to honor Denna and wear her shirt for Mile 24. I can’t say enough about her and what an inspiration she is. I am so happy I got to know her this past year on the Pride.
She’s a great friend and is always making us laugh, and I can’t tell you how many times she makes a point to have a conversation with young hockey playing girls who ask her for a picture. They all leave with a smile on their face. I know she’ll continue to be the same Denna that she’s always been, and helping to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries and highlight her hard work is the least I can do.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Dave Sandford, Getty Images