With the arrival of the NWHL’s Whale, the state of Connecticut continues to rise as a prominent hot spot for elite women’s hockey. Among one of hockey’s most accomplished individuals contributing to such a golden era is Jessica Koizumi. Having served as a member of the Bulldogs coaching staff, she has also maintained a sparkling career that has seen her garner a pair of Clarkson Cup titles, while scoring the first goals in the history of the Boston Blades and the Connecticut Whale (including the first goal in NWHL history).
Another aspect that has also defined her career in the admiration she holds for Mandi Schwartz. For Koizumi, that inspiration took on a whole new dimension. Although Koizumi was not yet a member of the Bulldogs coaching staff when Schwartz played there, her impact was profound, one that she finds inspiration from. Among such inspiration includes the annual “White Out for Mandi” games hosted by the Bulldogs.
“Mandi’s legacy has had a tremendous impact in the hockey community and to anyone that had the privilege of knowing her. She was known to be the hardest working player that had the most positive outlook on life. Every year we honor her through the White Out for Mandi games and hosting our annual bone marrow drive in April. For me, Mandi is a positive reminder to relish each day always having the mentality to work hard for the opportunities that are given.”
As the Connecticut Whale and the New York Riveters faced off at Ingalis Rink, the home ice of the Bulldogs, there was a strong emotional yet compassionate component to the contest. As the NWHL Foundation continues to work towards bringing betterment to the community, a Fundraiser for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation was a perfect choice. As a side note, a Bone Marrow Registry was held at the event, which NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan registered for.
In addition, it adds a sense of importance for the players themselves. Of note, the Mandi Schwartz Foundation is one of several causes that were important to current NWHL players when they were in college. The chance to increase awareness of these causes as professionals have resulted in a true feeling of collaboration and renewed importance. The day after the Mandi Schwartz Fundraiser, the Boston Pride held a fundraiser for Do It for Daron, a cause familiar to all NWHL players that once played at Cornell University.
“Ingalis Rink is one of my most favorite places in the world that I get to work at every day. It is certainly special whenever I get to play there and there was added motivation being our Mandi Schwartz Foundation game.”
Both NWHL rosters on this day featured Yale alumnae proudly skating for Mandi. The Riveters roster featured Bray Ketchum. Having played alongside Schwartz with the Bulldogs, she is currently a board member of the Mandi Schwartz Foundation. Former Bulldogs captain Aleca Hughes, also a former recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award winner participated in the ceremonial faceoff, which included Koizumi and Kethcum. The presence of so many members of the Bulldogs family speaks volumes to the importance that Schwartz’s life held on so many.
From a Yale perspective, Koizumi was joined by two other members of the Whale roster with ties to the program. Of note, both were coached by Koizumi; Jaimie Leonoff (a three-time Bulldogs Team MVP who also won the first game in NWHL history), along with Tara Tomimoto, the Bulldogs captain in 2013-14. It would result in a cherished experience for Koizumi, proud to share the ice at Ingalis Rink with them,
“It was incredible to share this game with so many Yale ties. Three of my former players Tara Tomimoto, Jaimie Leonoff, and Bray Ketchum played in the game. Aleca Hughes, our captain in 2011 who spearheaded the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, dropped the ceremonial puck.
Several other Yale Women’s Hockey Alumni were present since it was our Alumni weekend and my current Yale Women’s team helped with several volunteer game-day opportunities like color commentating, national anthem singing, selling 50/50 raffle tickets…etc. Things seem to come in full circle and I was a proud coach being a part of such a meaningful event with both my collegiate program I work for and professional team I play on.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
To learn more about the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, please visit: http://www.mandi17.org/