As 2015 approaches its conclusion, it has proven to be a monumental year for Jordan Smelker. Currently with the Boston Pride during its historic inaugural season, the calendar year has seen her career grow by a quantum leap.
Among the career milestones and pinnacles attained, the first would take place in March 2015 as Smelker became the first Alaskan-born player to win the coveted Clarkson Cup. Competing with the Boston Blades, she was part of an all-rookie line that featured Corinne Buie and Janine Weber. As a side note, Buie is currently Smelker’s teammate on the Pride, while Weber is a member of the New York Riveters.
Participating in the Boston Pride’s inaugural game, it would prove to be the first of two significant milestones in her NWHL career. Along with Zoe Hickel, who played her collegiate hockey for Shannon Miller at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the two are the first Alaskan-born players to compete in the NWHL.
During the NWHL’s Opening Weekend, which saw the Pride take on the Buffalo Beauts, Smelker’s second period goal was not only the second goal in franchise history, it carried on a much more historic meaning. Of note, she would become the first Alaskan to score a goal in NWHL regular season play. Hickel would add her name to the Pride’s score sheet one week later, with a two-goal performance, one that saw Smelker add another goal.
Although Smelker has not resided in the state for several years, her legacy as one of the state’s sporting heroes is without dispute. Recognized by the Anchorage Daily News as the female athlete of the year during 2008-09, her grandfather Steve Knowlton competed at the 1948 Winter Games in St. Moritz. The chance for Smelker to make history with her landmark goal is a point of pride,
“Of course, it is always a good feeling to score a goal. I have gotten some messages from friends back in Alaska which is a cool thing. I have not been back for a few years since my family moved to Montana but it will always be home for me.”
During the first half of the NWHL’s inaugural season, a break in play was held in order for some of its players to compete in the Four Nations Cup. As a side note, Smelker once appeared for the US national U22 team in 2012. Proudly donning the blue USA Hockey jersey, Smelker helped the national team capture its sixth gold medal in tournament history. Contested in Sundsvall, Sweden, Smelker appeared in two games for the US, joining fellow Pride players Kacey Bellamy, Alyssa Gagliardi, Gigi Marvin, Brianna Decker, Zoe Hickel, Hilary Knight and Amanda Pelkey.
“It was definitely an honor and it is something that I have been working towards for a long time. I am really thankful to have had the opportunity and it is a pretty great thing to be able to play with a lot of the girls on a daily basis.”
While Smelker hopes that 2016 will include a chance to claim the inaugural Isobel Cup, the most gratifying element of 2015 may very well belong to the outpouring of fan support. Since the NWHL has brought professional women’s ice hockey to the US, the results have been empowering. From a growing fan base to an increased level of interest in the game overall, Smelker has been part of an exciting revolution in sport.
As much as Smelker has enjoyed the camaraderie among her teammates and the opportunity to add another exciting chapter to Boston’s rich sporting history, it is the fans that have made the experience so worthwhile. In reflecting on what she has enjoyed most about playing in the NWHL, the chance to connect with a new generation of fans and perhaps inspire others to take up the game have translated into an unforgettable time to be cherished,
“I think what I have enjoyed most is seeing all the support we have gotten from fans and especially from the youngsters that come to our games. It is great to see how excited they are to come and watch us play. Seeing big smiles on their faces really makes my day.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TheBostonPride/?fref=ts