April 8, 2012

Journey to the Frozen Four: Part Three

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In the national semi-finals on March 16, Cornell lost to eventual national champion Minnesota 3-1. At the postgame press conference, Head Coach Doug Derraugh thanked his winningest senior class for their contributions that transformed Cornell from a last-place Ivy League team into a national contender. See the video here. http://youtu.be/wxNQBPZmSVI.

Most stories would have ended by now. However, the girls’ attendance was required the next morning at the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Ceremony. This award is named after former Princeton player Patty Kazmaier who “represented the spirit, character and on-and-off-ice excellence upon which The USA Hockey Foundation national women’s ice hockey award is based,” who passed away at the age of 28. It is like the Heisman but for women’s ice hockey. All three finalists were in attendance for the announcement of the winner.

There was a lot of great food to choose from and a lot of friendly discussion. The girls still seemed a little disappointed, but they managed to stay upbeat and carry on. After everyone had eaten, it was time for the keynote speaker, former 2007 Patty Kazmaier winner Julie Chu, whose father graduated from Cornell. Julie Chu was a captain on the Harvard ice hockey team and has since gone on to play in three Olympics for Team USA. She was able to candidly speak without really consulting her notes, which she confessed she had just scribbled down beforehand.

Chu talked about growing the sport of women’s ice hockey and how the award is given to one individual but it really reflects the efforts of a team. She spoke about her growth “as a person, as a player, as a coach” and not taking anything for granted. One of the memorable moments she shared was asking Coach Johnson about defining success and his answer was along the lines of “Were you significant in the lives of others?” So Chu spoke about how she doesn’t remember any of her college records but she remembers her teammates and the relationships she built through hockey.

She continued, “My hope is that young girls, when they grow up and they have a choice, to say, ‘Hey, do I want to play soccer? Okay, maybe. Do I want to play softball? … Do I want to play hockey?’ And it’s not something that ‘Oh, I heard about hockey’ but it’s a sport that is right there and is an opportunity that they can see and they can make a choice whether they want to play it.” She also talked about personal growth and said “as you continue to grow our sport, let’s also make sure that we continue to grow ourselves.”

She wrapped up her speech to laughter with “You learn this at camp that if you’re green, you’re growing. If you’re ripe, you’re dead. [laughter] Sorry, that’s a little morbid for this talk. [laughter] But the bottom line is, I always kind of say … be a sponge … absorb as much as you can around you. We’re surrounded by incredible people. There are resources at our fingertips … so don’t be afraid to go out there and seize the moment, seize all the knowledge that you can so that maybe tomorrow you’re a little better than you are today. And a year from now, even better.”

She congratulated the players and thanked everyone for their time before we left early for the return flight to Ithaca. The girls cleaned out their locker room at the arena and returned the Big Red bags to the bus. The flight check-in process was fast and after a half-hour wait on the tarmac due to minor mechanical problems, we were Ithaca-bound.

Less than two hours later, we had returned to Lynah Rink and everything was unloaded. After hugs and farewells, the girls parted ways for spring break. The past four days had been an incredible experience.

By the end of the journey, my inner monologue had gained a slight Canadian accent and I started speaking in #hashtags, but I felt like I had been a part of something really special. I want to thank the players, the coaches and the staff again for letting me come along. It was hands-down the most memorable sporting event I have ever seen in my past five years with The Sun. Thank you again and good luck with all your future endeavors! #LGR

Original Author: Tina Chou