Julie Chu was an Alternate Captain for Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Games and a member of 2002/06 US Olympic teams. She represented Team USA at the World Championship six times from 2001 -2009. She coaches US college hockey and is also playing for Montreal in the Canadian Women's Hockey League.
Here is WINIH’s first email interview with Chu on Feb. 24 2011.
Elizabeth Etue: You are coaching at Union College in New York State?
Julie Chu: Yes, I started in June, 2010 and it's been a blast.
EE: You coached at University of Minnesota Duluth. Is coaching a career you might want after hockey?
JC: Right now, that is my plan. I love hockey and I want to be a part of it in whatever capacity I can. I've only coached at the college level for 2 years, but so far, I've enjoyed coaching a great deal. There are only a few days a year that I feel I am actually working. Otherwise, I love what I do and I'm eager and excited to go to the rink each day to work with my team and the other coaches.
EE: You are also playing for a Cdn team in Montreal in the CWHL. How are you managing playing and coaching?
JC: It's always a challenge to balance both. During the college season, coaching is really a 7 day a week job. Right now, I have commitments at the rink with Union Monday-Saturday, then after our Union game on Saturday, I will drive up to wherever my Montreal team is playing. So I either drive 3 hours to Boston, 3.5 hours to Montreal, or 5.5 hours up to Toronto. Some nights if Union is playing an away weekend, then I don't get to my Montreal team's game location until 1-2am Sunday morning. Those are tough nights and early mornings, but it's what I have right now, so that I can balance both a full time job and training full time. And in the end, I get to play a game on Sunday so I can handle a little less sleep for that.
I do realize that in order to balance both, I have to rely on many great people in my life. My teammates for Montreal are awesome and so supportive. I really only come in for Sunday games, and yet, they are so encouraging and always welcoming me when I join the team. Claudia Asano and Ali Boe are the coaches I work with at Union and they are incredible. They both take on extra work in order for me to be able to travel and play with Montreal and the national team. Without their support and willingness to fill in while I am gone, I would never be able to balance both. In addition, my team at Union is amazing. They are my training partners during the week and push me to be better every day. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many incredible people each day that make me a better person and player.
EE: Why did you choose to play for Montreal in CWHL?
JC: I have many close friends on the Montreal team, so it was an easy choice. I have also spent a few summers now training up in Montreal. They have a great team with many talented players, but they also have a great team dynamic which is fun to be a part of.
EE: It sounds like it is tough to combine work and your hockey playing life. Is finding a good team and league to play, still a problem for national team players like you?
JC: It definitely is always a challenge to find the right place to train and play as well as be able to financial support myself. However, with the relaunching of the CWHL, the league has become very competitive and it's great to see the direction we are headed. Already games are very competitive and the level of hockey has risen. We still have many strides to take to make it even better, but so far, the kick-off has been positive and we will continue to work to making it great.
EE: What has been it like playing with Cdn players when your national team and Canada are such intense competitors?
JC: I love it. We may be rivals when we play for our national teams, but at the heart of it all, I truly believe that we have the same goal of growing women's hockey and making it the best that it can be. In order to do so, we have to be able to have enough understanding that we must work together in order to achieve a greater reward for women's hockey in the future. In addition, I played with Jennifer Botterill and Sarah Vaillancourt in college at Harvard and we got along really well. So for me, I'll compete hard against whoever is my opponent that day, but when the game is over, then we are just people working towards the same goal.
EE: What is your plan for Sochi 1014? Are you keen to play in the next Olympics having been in 3 already?
JC: Right now, I'm training hard and with the dream and goal of making the 2014 Olympic team. I'm grateful that I have been able to go to 3 Olympics already and cherish those experiences. But right now, I'm refocusing my energy and attention on 2014 knowing that I will need to work hard and commit myself fully if I will have a chance of making that team. So yes, I have my eyes and heart set on 2014 and will take it year by year and see how I am progressing towards that dream.
EE: Was the silver medal a big disappointment for you in 2010 Olympics?
JC: For all of us on my team, we are great competitors and we went into the Olympics with the goal to win all of our games and come away with a gold medal. We set our hearts and eyes on winning because we committed ourselves to being the best that we could be. When we lost in the finals, there was a disappointment for sure in that we came up short of our dream and our goal that day. That as competitors our biggest rivals out played us and we lost. This might not make much sense but that day, the disappointment wasn't in getting a silver medal but in losing that game and coming up short of our goals. As for the silver medal itself, if anyone saw us a couple hours after the championship game when we got a chance to share them with our family and friends, then there would be no doubt as to how proud we were to have earned them and what an honour it is to be an Olympian, let alone win a silver medal.
EE: Every player responds differently to these events. Have you made any changes in your training or hockey life?
JC: I think we always have to make changes to our training and life in general. At the end of each year, I hope that I am better than I was the year before. And in order to do so, I have to have a willingness to change and to adjust as I move along in my training and preparations. Yes, we will all find things that will help us prepare and get us ready to perform. But ultimately, there are always new ideas and information that we are exposed to that will make us better in the long run. So as time passes for me, it's a matter of balancing what I know works for me with the new developments in training that will help me get to the next level.
In more recent years, I have also learned to listen to my body more. There is a tendency in sports to believe that more is better and working through pain is heroic and admirable. And yes, I'm always for an amazing story of triumph through adversity. But I also believe that sometimes less is more and finding the balance between pushing myself beyond my limits and taking a day off is critical. Rest and recovery are just as important as getting in many hard workouts in a week. If my body isn't rested and ready to train properly, then there are greater chances of me getting injured or just not getting as much out of a workout than if I were rested.
EE: Any injuries that have come up or are you healthy?
JC: I'm feeling good these days. (Knock on wood)
EE: It is both an exciting and challenging time for the international game. How do you think North America can help its international counterparts?
JC: Right now, I think we all know that there is a great need for us to grow the sport abroad and that we need to take an active role in that growth. One way we can help is to bring the other national teams over to train in North America at times, so that can be exposed to our training facilities and have some of the resources that we benefit from. In addition, development of players abroad is key. In some countries, the number of female hockey players is very low, so it makes sense that their national team may not be as strong because they have a smaller pool of players from which to choose. So helping countries at the grass roots level get girls involved and interested in hockey will be a big step for future generations. The grass roots levels will take time to show some returns, so in addition to those efforts, there needs to be development of the current players. Some of this development can be helped along through funding, coaching, and providing resources to perform. The bottom line is that we all need to get on the same page and find a way to work together and help the countries abroad close the gap with the North Americans. Sweden and Finland have shown that they are competitive especially when given the same resources, so finding a way to provide more resources and opportunities to train and to improve will be key in the years to come.
EE: Lastly most players think a pro league for wms hockey is a good idea? Any comments on why?
JC: Yes I think it's a great idea. Hockey is a great sport and women's hockey is really taking off, especially after it was in the 1998 Olympics. Now, when you go to rinks, it is not uncommon to see a girls running around and playing hockey. We want to give these girls even more to dream of and work towards than just the Olympic Games. A professional women's league can be successful. I believe it would have to start out with a handful of teams at first to make sure the product is a highly competitive and talent filled league, and then with time, the league could branch out further.
EE: Is association with NHL the best route?
JC: Right now, the NHL would be a great asset for us to team up with. They already have the hockey fan base, and so, being able to draw from that base would be great and helpful in launching and developing our league. In addition, the NHL would also be able to help guide our league in regards to different challenges that they faced and we may as well in our league.
EE: Do you think a pro league will happen in the next couple years?
JC: I sure hope so. Realistically, it's a matter of getting people on board who are visionaries and believe that women's hockey is a great product and has the ability to be successful. I think there is a great product and that when fans are exposed to women's hockey in person; they are amazed by the high level and intensity of play.
Erika Holst has been captain of Team Sweden since 2001. WINIH caught up with her mid-season to get her thoughts on the new national team coach, her league and pro hockey.
Elizabeth Etue: How is your 2010/11 season going, i.e. your stats personally and the team?
Erika Holst: I’m still playing for Segeltorp. Right now we are second in the league, trying to stay in the two first places to get a semi-final spot for the championship, not having to play quarterfinals. I’m happy with our performance and second place right now, in the beginning of the season I wasn’t sure we were even going to make the playoffs (first 6 teams) but we have really improved, young new players have grown in to their roles and we have a few good impact players from Norway and Denmark. Ylva Lindberg, former defenseman on Team Sweden has and is doing a good job as a first year Head Coach. I’m not super happy with my stats, but I’m also old enough to know there are good things happening on the ice that don’t show in the stats.
EE: What kind of work are you doing? You graduated in Exercise Science at UMD in US.
EH: I’m working as a teacher/coach at a high school. We don’t have high school teams in Sweden, but kids can choose a program where their sport has training during school hours. I have a class of 9 girls; I’m working with them twice a week on the ice, in class room sessions, or the gym. I’m also their "mentor", making sure their school progress is in the right direction.
EE: How is the Elite league doing and is the national team all still playing on that one team?
EH: Not really sure what you mean by “all players on one team”…
The league is improving, games are closer and more teams are possible champions in the end. There are a few players from Norway and denmark that are good, which makes the league better.
EE: Do you get any funding from Swedish government or Swedish Ice Hockey Federation to play for the national team?
EH: There are a few players that are getting some funding from the Swedish Olympic Committee, but that’s it.
EE: Was there funding for players during Olympic year?
EH: I think all players in the Olympics had funding, at different levels, the Olympic year I think the highest amount was about 1300 CAD a month…
EE: Just recap how long you have been playing for the national team now and how you feel about the team’s journey.
EH: My first tournament was the European Championship in 95. We were struggling my first couple of years on the team, Canada, USA and Finland were clearly ahead of us, I think the “real” journey started in 2001, Peter Elander came in with a lot of passion for the game which was contagious to the players, and resulted in a bronze medal in Salt Lake City, 05-06-07 we had good years winning medals, and it felt like we were caught up with Finland and at times had passed them. Then I feel we had a setback 08-09-10, and now I feel that we are back on track, I feel we have a good game plan, working in the right direction.
EE: You have a new national team coach with Niclas, how is that working out? What is his style compared to former coach, Peter Elander?
EH: It was obvious we needed something new after 8 years with the same coach.
Peter did a fantastic job for us and for Swedish Women’s hockey especially the years between Salt Lake and Torino, resulting in that silver medal. Niclas has a very different leadership style, and a different way of teaching/coaching hockey.I really like his philosophy.
I think we have adjusted well during the first part of this season, and I feel it will only get better.
EE: You have been captain since 2001, what are you plans for your hockey career, stay for 2014?
EH: Right now I’m just happy. I love to play hockey again, after a few years of struggling and after a hard hit in Vancouver, I’m taking it year by year, but as long as I’m loving it and can keep up with the young ones I’m planning on playing.
EE: At 32 does your age or anything else worry you about keeping up to youngsters?
EH: I can’t say that my age worries me, I don’t look at the numbers, but of course one feel a difference in training and recovery from age 20 to 32…I do feel that I still develop, if I didn’t I wouldn’t play. I have still got stuff to improve physically and hockey wise.
EE: What is a typical hockey week like for you? Games, practices, training off ice and on ice.
EH: In season we have about 2 games a week, and 3-4 ice sessions with the team. Usually there is some kind of off-ice training before or after on ice practice.Other than that I do a little bit of training/rehab on my own depending on game schedule and timing in the season.
EE: What are you doing differently this year/season?
EH: I think I have a more relaxed view of hockey, and my own game. I’m not so worried about how everything feels all the time. Sometimes you have a bad practice or game, trying to just let go, focus on the good stuff and trying to have fun. It’s been working out well so far.
in my game, the biggest difference is my role, I’m more involved offensively after having been very defensive for a while. In order to be that player I need to skate more, and have had to adjust my game and training to that a bit.
EE: What would be the best thing to happen for Swedish women’s hockey?
EH: If I could pick anything I would say we need more players, the league IS improving but we still don’t have 8 teams with 20 good enough players to have an enough competitive league. It would be great to get some good results this season at worlds, after missing the medal the last couple of years. We need results to get media attention in Sweden and use that to recruit young girls.
EE: Lastly do you a pro league in North America is a good idea? Right now only 2 international players can participate in CWHL.
EH: I think it’s a good idea, but there has to be some kind of financial situations so players can go there to be “hockey players “and they should take away the 2 import player rule.
EE: What would be ideal for international players to compete? How much should they be paid?
EH: If there were to be salaries I think as long as they are big enough for a player to have money for a place to live, a car, food and some money to live off, I think to start with a lot of players would be happy with that, and to go from nothing to make millions is only dreaming, but somewhere its gotta start. There needs to be places where women can be hockey players, full time.
Contributor Heather McIntyre asked University of Minnesota Duluth sophomore goaltender Jennifer Harss to take her through a game day and what it is like to live the intense life of a student athlete. Harss has played for Team Germany for the last four years; her hometown is Rieden Germany and she is majoring in business. She had a huge impact as a rookie goaltender in 2009/10 season compiling 29 wins in 39 outings (all starts) which is the second-most in a single-season by any Bulldog netminder. As of January 30, 2011 Harss record is 4-2-3 for UMD.
Harss didn’t play that much early in the 2010 season because of knee surgery the previous summer. She had not completely recovered until November. According to Harss she “was good to play, but was still not perfect.” Here is her breakdown of life as a student athlete at UMD.
HM:How many classes do you attend on a game day?
JH:This semester I do not have any classes on game days. I´m trying to avoid it so that I don=t have to go to class, but it always depends on how the classes are offered by the school.
HM:What time do you get up?
JH:It´s really hard to say a specific time, because our games are not always at the same time, but I´m getting up about one hour before pre-game skate, which is around 10.
HM: What do you eat for breakfast?
JH:I usually have cereal for breakfast.
HM:Where do you live?
JH: I live off campus in a house with 5 of my teammates (Jessica Wong, Kacy Ambroz, Katie Wilson, Haley Irwin and Jocelyne Larocque).
HM: How do you handle homework ?
JH: I do it on the bus to and from hockey? When we are gone for the whole weekend I´m doing it on the bus or at the hotel and otherwise I´m doing it after practice.
HM:How many times per week do you practice with the team?
JH:We practice 4 days a week and we have two games a weekend.
HM:How often do you work out on your own, without the team?
JH:During the season I only workout with the team. We have two workouts a week. During the season is no time to do any extra workouts. However, over the summer it is different. I always work out on my own then.
HM: What do you find is the hardest thing to have time for? Friends? Sleep? Homework?
JH: Hockey and school are very time-consuming. We only have one day a week off. The hardest thing is probably to find time for friends and sleep.
HM:How many games do you play per week, on average?
JH:We´ve only played a few weekends yet and I didn´t play the first few weekends because of a knee surgery I got this summer, but since I´m able to play again Kim and me split .
HM:What times are your games usually?
JH: At 7pm or in the afternoon at 2 or 3 o´clock.
HM:How often and how far do you travel usually?
JH:I think we have about 7 away series this season (regular season). We travel to Minneapolis, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Mankato, St.Cloud, Ohio State, and Bemidji. The longest bus ride is to Wisconsin, which is about 7 hours and the shortest bus ride is to Minneapolis, which is about 2,5 to 3 hours. This year we only have to fly once, which is to Ohio.
HM: When you win, is there post-game celebration?
JH: Sometimes there is, but in general we do not go out that often during the season.
HM: Does winning and/or losing affect other parts of your life at UMD?
JH: Well, it is always more fun to win and I´m in a better mood after a weekend when we won.
Jan 24th 2011.
Swedish Olympian Maria Rooth got her dream job. She joined the University of Minnesota Duluth as an assistant coach in May 2010, the first non-North American player to come back to her college as a coach.
Click on: http://winih.com/player/sweden/194 for a WINIH interview with her in May as well as a full profile of her remarkable career with the Swedish national team. She scored the winning shoot-out goal against USA in the 2006 Olympics to give Sweden a silver medal.
For her debut year in Minnesota she seems remarkably calm with a very necessary sense of humour for a rookie coach. Here are her answers
Elizabeth Etue: Was coaching something you always wanted to do?
Maria Rooth: I guess I have always had this idea about coaching when I quit playing, but it is nothing I have to do, it is more of a great fun experience that I can’t get anywhere else! Coaching here in Duluth with Shannon Miller and Laura Schuler teaches me so much about coaching!
EE: What coaching training do you have?
MR: I did a minor in coaching in college, I have taken first step in coaching in Sweden, and also I run my own hockey school for girls in Sweden.
EE: What kind of work were you doing in Sweden when you got the offer to coach?
MR: I was a full-time hockey player training for the Olympics, plus running my own business with the hockey school.
EE: Was this job on your list as a dream offer given you played at UMD?
MR: YES! I guess I had written that in a paper I did in college, that it was my dream to come back in 10 years and work with Coach Miller. So it was definitely on my things to do!
EE: Was it difficult to say good bye to family, friends and life in Sweden?
MR: Yes it was, I have been travelling lots and living in other places than my home town for over 10 years, so of course it is hard to leave my family and friends behind. But they know I am living a dream right now, they are very supportive and happy for me.
EE: What is your job and responsibilities at UMD?
MR: I am in charge of skill development, especially making sure the forwards are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I run the forward bench, line matching etc. I am in charge of academics off-ice, and international recruiting.
EE: What has been the most challenging for you moving from player to coach?
MR: Understanding the load of work, coaches at the college level really have to do! How much work they put in to make the team successful! Seeing everything behind the scenes has been very helpful to me, I understand the game better and realized that the details are extremely important.
EE: Do you have a funny or unusual story that happened with you at UMD with a player or head coach Miller?
MR: It was the first game I was on the bench coaching, and I was watching the game just like I always watch hockey. I said in between periods that I was lost, didn’t really pick up on anything of our game or the opponent’s game strategies. Shannon just laughed, because she knows how new coaches are on the bench. She just said that you are learning how to become a coach...but you have the habits of a player which means getting caught up in watching the game, not seeing any details. But she has been patient with me, teaching me more and more, so I slowly but surely progress towards being a good coach!
EE: What advice do you have for international players who want to coach in a US college?
MR: If you haven’t played in college before, I think you need to start in your own country, making a name for yourself, coaching your way up to prove your ability. Then contacting colleges and letting them know you are there is always a good way of getting what you want!
by Meg Hewings
Student athletes have big dreams when it comes to university and hockey. The ideal university will mesh both their athletic and academic goals but wading through the battery of tests, requirements and rules regarding student-athlete eligibility in Canadian and US schools is a daunting task.
Help is on the way. On October 1, 2010 a new website, Athletic Hub will help student-athletes showcase their academic and athletic abilities to scouts, recruiters and coaches and also help to demystify the recruitment process.
Led by a trio of players who include former goalie and the assistant coach of the University of McGill Martlets, Amey Doyle and Canadian hockey Olympians Kim St. Pierre and Caroline Ouellette, Athletic Hub adds a new toolkit for students and parents to navigate the entire recruitment process – everything from the differences between US and Canadian colleges to how to visit a school.
Part of the inspiration for the site came from the trios broad range of experience as students, players and coaches in the North American academic systems.
On Athletic Hub, each player can set up their own webpage and modify their profile (similar to a Facebook account with privacy safeguards and internal email system), or their playing/practice schedule. Coaches can also profile their program, find academic results and upload player transcripts. It’s a quick and easy way for coaches and recruiters to view, contact and inform recruits – and vise versa, for student-athletes to contact coaches and learn about individual programs and requirements.
“College was the best time of my life and it was the same for Amey and Kim, who both went to McGill,” says Ouellette of her stint at University of Minnesota-Duluth which she affectionately calls the “United Nations” of hockey. “I met so many amazing people and now have friends all over the world. I also got coaching opportunities through the university.”
A francophone from Quebec, Ouellette was a leader on and off the ice at University of Minnesota Duluth, but admits the process of getting there involved a huge learning curve, especially because the education system in Quebec is different than in the US. As a Canadian national team player, a former coach at UMD and also the U-18 Canadian team, she found herself advising many student-athletes about how to choose the right school.
“As a coach, it makes me sad when a student goes to a college and it’s the wrong fit," says Ouellette, "It also breaks my heart to have athletes that want to get into university or college, but miss a deadline or don’t pass the right eligibility test. This happens in every sport. We want to try and help athletes, men and women, in all sports and of all talent levels, to be more informed before they make these key decisions and have as many options as possible.”
Ouellette says student-athlete prospects need to be prepared and start planning early. Key decisions about the future begin as early as grade 9 and it can sometimes take several tries to pass tests like the TOELF (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the Scholastic Appitude Test.
The project also hopes to bring Athletic Hub to Europe.
“Coaches want to recruit in Europe, but it’s very difficult. Not all the coaches watch international games, so this gives players all the tools to be recruited: they can upload video and action pictures as well as contact coaches directly through email,” says Ouellette who is currently looking for point people in other countries to help with the project.
Athletic Hub is building its database of athletes and coaches and is looking for testers to use the service for free. The site is offering a free year-long membership to anyone who wants to try out the service. Profiles can be posted online as of Oct. 1. 2010. In future, the site will cost $10.99/month (the approximate cost of hosting your own website). For more details, email: email@example.com.