September 13, 2006

Bronze Medalist Insalaco Added as W. Icers Assistant

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Kim Insalaco’s affection for hockey started at the age of four, when she began attending her older brother’s ice hockey practices.
“I remember going to the rink at night, watching my brother’s games,” she said. “I wanted to do everything he did. I kept asking my parents ‘when do I get to play?’”
Thinking she just wanted to be on the ice, her parents bought her figure skates and sent her to figure skating lessons.
“The rink was divided into two, one half for ice hockey lessons and the other for figure skating,” she said. “I would always try to skate over to the ice hockey side. It got to the point where my figure skating teacher told my parents ‘just let her play hockey.’”
Fortunately for Insalaco, her parents did let her play hockey, and one Olympic bronze metal later, Insalaco started her career as the new assistant coach for the women’s ice hockey team.
“She is motivated, driven and has had great experience,” head coach Doug Derraugh said. “Both academically and athletically, she knows what it’s like to be in our girls’ shoes. She knows what it takes to succeed.”
Insalaco played for Brown’s ice hockey team, where she was captain for two years.
“There’s not a lot of difference between [Cornell and Brown],” she said. “They are the two oldest programs for women in the Ivy League. They recruit the same kind of kids.”
After graduating in 2003, Insalaco continued working towards the Olympics, believing that the Olympics were the highest an American woman could progress in ice hockey.
“There is no where to really play after college because there is no national league in America,” Insalaco said. “You can train in Europe or Canada, but there really aren’t a lot of options for women ice hockey players.”
In order to keep training at a high level, Insalaco chose to move to Canada in 2003. After the 2002 Olympics, Insalaco was able to secure a spot on the World Championship team. She played in the in the tournament every year from 2003 until 2005 — the year the US won its first gold metal.
“One of the hardest things of being on a national team is [having] no job security,” she said. “You have to constantly push yourself and ask yourself, ‘How am I going to be better today?’ These women become your best friends, but there’s also constant competition.”
Her hard work paid off and she was selected to play in the Olympics. Shortly after hearing the news, however, she almost had her hopes dashed.
“It was my first game in Finland and the final game of the tournament, Insalaco said. “And a girl fell on my knee. I heard a pop, and I realized the one thing I wanted might not happen.”
Insalaco flew home the next day to be examined by a physician. The damage was not severe; it was just a meniscus tear.
“I had arthroscopic surgery and was back skating in about three weeks,” she said. “Mentally, it was a very hard injury.”
After playing in the Olympics, Insalaco decided to end her nineteen-year career as a hockey player.
“For a while I was making decisions just for this one team and one goal,” she said. “It was hard at times to feel balanced as a person because so much of your life is towards this one thing. But it was the Olympics, and it only comes every four years.”
Insalaco now feels her life has a better balance.
“Now I can make decisions on other things,” the assistant said. “But I don’t regret anything because it was really amazing. Not many people have an Olympic metal. Hockey has just been so great to me — the people I’ve met, the countries I’ve gone to — and now I’m making a career out of it.”
Insalaco’s family has been her strongest support. Her family attended the Olympics in its entirety.
“At the end of the last game we played, I scanned the crowd for my family and blew them a kiss,” she said. “When you play a sport like hockey for a long time, family is a big part of it. They were my rock.”