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Kelly Dyer and a distinguished career between the pipes (Part Two)

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Enjoying the privilege of a pair of inductions into the Northeastern Huskies Hall of Fame, one for her individual achievements, while the other sees Kelly Dyer and her 1987-88 teammates celebrated together, the tapestry of hockey brilliance is undeniable.

First recognized in 1995 with a place in the Huskies Hall of Fame, Dyer’s credentials were remarkable. A four-time Beanpot champion, besting John Dooley’s Harvard Crimson each time, she amassed 35 wins over her final two seasons. Fittingly, both of those seasons (87-88, 88-89) saw Dyer recognized as Team MVP.

With 47 career wins, Dyer ranks seventh all-time in Huskies history. Coincidentally, her career goals-against average of 2.08 also places seventh. Worth noting, her impressive career numbers also see her in the Huskies top ten in save percentage and shutouts.

Adding to the emotion of such a milestone, the Huskies Class of 1995 also featured the late Reggie Lewis. who led the Huskies to four straight NCAA basketball tournament appearances. Drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 1987 NBA Draft, remaining a New England sporting hero, his hardcourt skills were the perfect complement to franchise greats Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. With his widow Donna accepting the 1995 honor, there was a unique coincidence in the fact she was also on-hand for the recent induction, making an impression on Dyer, gaining a second induction alongside her jubilant teammates.

“It is a lot more fun to be inducted with your teammates as they help you to win. It seemed more fitting. Certainly, it was great to be honored back then. I remember back then, the inductees had to make a formal speech.

Remembering when I prepared my speech, I always felt that it was about “we”, and not about me. It was great to be honored with the other inductees, especially Reggie Lewis. His wife was there to receive the honor for him. She was also at the recent induction and there was a lot of emotion.”

Adding to the impact of Dyer’s Hall of Fame standing is the fact that she was among the first of numerous star goaltenders for the Huskies to play international hockey. Part of a legacy that includes Chanda Gunn, Florence Schelling and Aerin Frankel, Dyer set the table, highlighted by the inaugural IIHF Women’s Worlds in 1990.

Serving in the capacity of head coach for Team USA, it represented a proud milestone for Don MacLeod. Also in the same role for the Northeastern Huskies since 1982, the opportunity to coach Dyer at the university and international levels allowed his team’s the opportunity to succeed.

“She started against Finland and we won by one goal. Just tough as nails. We came from behind to beat Sweden. She was great in all those games. In the Canadian game (for the gold medal), she was in the mid-30s in terms of saves.Because of her talent, she was a leader. She was dead serious before the game. Wanting to be in her own zone, she did not get involved in any conversations. Everyone had their own way to get ready, and that was her way. Definitely leading by example, she was excellent, always professional, a winner all the way.”

Alongside fellow Huskies teammate Tina Cardinale, serving as the first captain in Team USA history, the 1990 roster also included Cammi Granato and tournament scoring champion Cindy Curley. Reaching the gold medal game, Dyer gained the start, assuring a place in history. Although host nation Canada overcame a 2-0 deficit to capture the gold in front of a capacity crowd in Ottawa, her reflections on the event go beyond the scoresheet. The feeling of arrival, the female game back in the sporting conversation propelled a relevance and professionalism, the enthusiasm of the crowd in the final remaining a key focal point.

“Playing for Team USA, the pride and joy of putting on the first-ever women’s USA jersey, with the logo on the front, was tremendous. To see our names on the back, it just added a whole new level of professionalism. Being from Boston, I grew up watching (Bruins goalies) Gerry Cheevers and Gilles Gilbert come out of the tunnel (at the Garden) and I dreamed of playing at such a level. We were treated with a degree of importance never seen before.

In the final against Canada, we took a two-goal lead. After Canada scored, the cheering and uproar of the crowd, there was some energy from that applause at the Ottawa Civic Centre, it actually shook my rib cage.”

As Dyer’s hockey dream progressed, the opportunity to play professionally added to a sense of momentum for the female game. At a time when Manon Rheaume and USA teammate Erin Whitten made headlines with their heroics in men’s ice hockey, Dyer’s presence proved equally important. Resulting in a trinity of goalie greatness, together, they enjoyed many important firsts.

Considering that no professional league existed for women at the time, the opportunities in the early to mid nineties allowed Dyer and her fellow netminders to maintain their strong skill sets. Worth noting, before the decade expired, Dyer enjoyed elite club hockey in the women’s game, garbed in the jersey of the memorable North York/Toronto Aeros. Coincidence emerged as a theme once again, as one of her teammates on the Aeros included Geraldine Heaney, a member of Canada’s roster at the 1990 Women’s Worlds.

Professionally, Dyer enjoyed stops in Florida, with the Jacksonville and West Palm Beach franchises of the Sunshine State League. Additionally, Dyer guarded the crease in the East Coast Hockey League, appearing for clubs based out of Richmond, Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky. With a pro career that spanned from 1993 to 1996, of all the markets where she played, Louisville, home to the River Frogs, their home ice at Broadbent Arena known colloquially as “The Swamp”, played a key role.

A famous sporting city celebrated as the home of Muhammad Ali, Churchill Downs, host venue for the famed Kentucky Derby, Cardinals basketball and the iconic Louisville Slugger baseball brand, Dyer was also employed as a product manager for Louisville Hockey. The position served as a bridge, going into semi-retirement from competition, allowing Dyer to remain integral to the game’s growth. Focused on the development of equipment geared for women, it marked a major step forward in acceptance and credibility. As a side note, Dyer would also hold a similar role with Easton Hockey.

“While Hamlen played in Toledo, I was with the West Palm Beach Blaze in the Sunshine Hockey League. Former Bruins goalie Doug Keans was with Jacksonville. In the ECHL, I played one preseason game with the Richmond Renegades. Another team in that league which I played for was the Louisville River Frogs.

Near the end of the decade, I also played with the Toronto Aeros. I was teammates with Geraldine Heaney and Cassie Campbell. For a brief time, my billet was with Heaney.”

Articulate and graceful, the last few years have provided Dyer with a combination of rejuvenation and gratitude. From the magic of this year’s Huskies Hall of Fame induction, shining a long overdue light on a highly accomplished and dedicated team, to a place on the the cover of USA Hockey Magazine’s Goalie Issue in 2022, Dyer is a fan favorite all over again.

Equally important, the cover of the Goalie Issue also featured long-time friend Erin Whitten, confirming their ascent into legendary status while enlightening a new generation of netminders where the trailblazing path began. Although the game’s fundamentals remain the same within the confines of the frozen perimeter, the efforts of goalies such as Dyer and Whitten established them as once-in-a-lifetime stars. Their courage to take on the men’s game professionally went beyond novelty, instilling confidence in young female players to stake their claim in sporting equality. Undoubtedly, the mutual respect between the two stands as a symbol of a pioneering time for women’s ice hockey, part of a chain of events that propelled Dyer into greatness.

“When I arrived at Northeastern, I was very fortunate with the timing. At the time, Cindy Curley was the first player to get a scholarship, and she played for Providence. After I graduated, we had the first-ever Women’s World Championships. When Manon became the first woman to play professional men’s hockey, I remember I was training for Team USA.

Manon also played in 1992 at the Women’s Worlds in Tampere, Finland. Erin and I became the second and third to play pro. With the Toledo Storm, Erin became the first woman to win a men’s hockey game (a 6-5 win over the Dayton Bombers). We stayed close. Currently, she is the head coach of Merrimack College. Her son was born two days before my daughter.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

References:

http://winthroptranscript.com/2023/11/09/proud-to-be-a-pioneer-donald-macleod-gets-the-call-to-the-hall-as-coach-of-northeasterns-national-champions/

https://marbleheadcurrent.org/2023/04/14/hockey-icon-a-pioneer-for-generations-of-girls/

https://www.usahockeymagazine.com/article/2022-06/pioneering-puckstoppers

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