April 3, 2012

Journey to the Frozen Four: Part Two

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Sun Staff Photographer Tina Chou accompanied the Cornell women’s hockey team to the 2012 Frozen Four in Duluth, Minnesota. This is part two of her adventures.

The Frozen Four: Welcome Banquet

Cornell was the first team to arrive at the banquet, so everyone posed for an official photograph before entering. As more teams started arriving, a lot of the girls knew each other so there was a lot of mingling.

The national championship trophy had been placed in the front of the room so that everyone entering could see it. According to Ned Dykes, it’s bad luck to look at or take pictures of the trophy, so I should avert my eyes. I asked him what would happen if every team saw the trophy since it was displayed so prominently. Wouldn’t they have the same amount of bad luck and cancel each other out? He still told me to not look at it.

Eventually, everyone was seated according to school, and official Frozen Four hats had been placed on the seats. Each team was introduced and a summary of their accomplishments was read. Everyone was pretty hungry at this point, and my table was magically able to get themselves dismissed to the buffet near the front of the line.

After everyone had eaten, there was a phenomenal speech by three-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist Caroline Ouellette that included a slideshow and a video. In 2003, she was on the University of Minnesota-Duluth team that won the national championship and she had a lot of insightful things to say about her athletic career in college and what she has done since then. There were a few funny parts related to her French pronunciation of words. I recall one long pause where she blanked and said, “What’s the word I’m looking for … I’m French” and I looked over to see Lauriane Rougeau face-palm as the room burst into laughter.

Ouellette’s speech was really inspiring. She described coming from Canada to play for UMD and not having any American friends. At that point in time, it was “in” for teams to hate their opponents, so as a member of the Canadian national team, she did not like the Americans. However, at UMD she realized that everyone is the same, competitively playing the same sport, and that there is a bigger picture:

“I benefit from making my American enemies better. I benefit because our game is going to be better. I want my sport to evolve, to get recognized and appreciated. I win if we display the highest quality of hockey. Our responsibility as athletes is to continue to grow the game together. So I am proud today to say that I have friends from all around the world.”

Interspersed with anecdotes from her time at UMD, Ouellette spoke about the importance of education and finding new ways to gain recognition for women’s ice hockey. The culture and perception of her sport has come a long way since she started playing but there is still ways to go. She asked the players to use their expertise to mentor younger players and use their status to influence the world, like her experience with Right to Play.

At the end of her 20-minute speech she showed a video with audio from VERSUS’ “You vs Them” promo (people should totally watch it before exams), which transitioned into head coach Shannon Miller’s locker room speech before UMD won the national title in double-overtime. I felt really fortunate that I had been there that night and I felt motivated to take on the world despite the fact that I don’t even play hockey.

To be continued…

Original Author: Tina Chou