VIERUMAKI – It was a happy and emotional week for former American Olympian Lyndsey Fry. One that deeply touched her as she was able to share her passion for the game, her experiences and emotions with the future of women’s hockey from 16 countries as one of the athlete mentors and with the other women and men who came to Vierumaki to grow the game.
The 23-year-old retired from top-level hockey one year ago to pursue a career in a coaching position by organizing her own camps after winning gold at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, silver at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and earning another second-place finish in the national NCAA women’s ice hockey tournament with Harvard in 2015 when she graduated in history of science.
When the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp opened, Fry told her story and confessed that she had to go through quite some adversity to become an Olympian. Firstly because she’s from Arizona. To compare with, in her hometown of Chandler temperatures are hotter than in many cities in North Africa let alone anywhere in Europe. There haven’t been international hockey players from there before her – and now with Auston Matthews, who went first in the recent NHL Entry Draft – and there were few girls playing hockey there. “There were not a lot of opportunities for girls’ hockey but I was lucky that I had at least boys’ hockey,” she said but eventually had to leave home during her high-school time to improve her game due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot of women’s hockey.
Then came a setback that she had to deal with mentally for a while when in her first year at the Harvard University her best friend passed away with whom she was sharing the dream of making it to the Olympics that were set to take place in Sochi just over three years later. It was in 2010 on the day before Christmas Eve when her teammate in Colorado, Elizabeth Turgeon, died in a car crash in New Mexico. It was not only the saddest Christmas for the family – her father Pierre Turgeon was a long-time NHL player who represented Canada as a junior – but also for Fry.
After some time she eventually managed to cope with the loss and to fulfil her dream, share her experiences and bolster those up who suffer similar setbacks. IIHF.com had a chat with Fry during the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp.
Lyndsey Fry, how do you feel after spending some days at the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp with the players and staff?
I feel good, it’s really cool to see the girls having so much fun and working hard especially for the girls who haven’t ever trained like this before, worked this hard before. It’s nice to see them doing it and doing well with other cultures.
It was not your first coaching experience since retiring as a player one year ago.
I don’t coach a team but I run camps all over the U.S. I’m used to coaching but not at this high level. It’s fun to coach these players and during the games. I often coach in states where you’d think there’s not a lot of hockey there like Arizona, Alabama, New Mexico and Washington state.
When thinking of Arizona and hockey, most think of Auston Matthews but you were actually the first international ice hockey player from the state. How do you feel about that and about Matthews?
I was the first Olympic hockey player from Arizona and the first Winter Olympian to win a medal, which is kind of cool. I’m excited to see what Auston does and hopefully we can grow the excitement in Arizona. He actually played with my brother. They know each other well and I was on the ice with him too when I joined their team. He’s a good kid.
How did you grow up and what made you start with hockey?
I grew up in Chandler. I started playing roller hockey when I was four or five and ice hockey when I was six. I fell in love with the Mighty Ducks movie. I got rollerblades and my father put a stick in my hand and I loved it. When growing up I loved the Ducks but now my favourite NHL team is the Coyotes and we work together a lot to help grow youth hockey in Arizona.
How was it to play girls’ hockey in Arizona at that time?
I didn’t play with the girls because there weren’t many of us playing, so I played with the boys. I loved it. I was a big kid. I loved to check and get physical. The challenge was when I went to high school. The only chance colleges would see me was when I played somewhere else so I’d fly back and forth to Colorado but it was worth it. It was a club team, the Colorado Select, and I still went my first two years of high school to my regular high school and went to Colorado for the weekends. And for the third and fourth year I did high school online and I’d go like for a week to Colorado.
In the panel on the camp opening ceremony you said how hard you were hit by the death of your best friend.
I still played but I was frustrated and angry and couldn’t focus. I was upset a lot. When I would think about her and try to use her memory to make me feel better I would feel worse. Finally I tried to look at it differently and realized that playing on our Olympic team was our dream and she wouldn’t want me to be training angry, she would want me to be thinking about her, encouraging me because we both wanted to make that team. When I had this change in my head it made it a lot better and it made me able to have more success.
What would you recommend other girls who are in such a tragic situation?
Just expect it. Setbacks are going to come. One quote I’ll never forget that I saw on Facebook from another national team teammate is: “An optimist is someone who thinks that taking a step backward after taking a step forward isn’t a disaster, it’s more of a cha-cha.” Basically that really hit me. Maybe I messed up today but that doesn’t mean all my hard work is ruined. It’s one day, one setback, one thing in the way, it’s just a cha-cha, it’s just a step back and you keep getting forward. If something bad happens – and it will – or a setback will happen, just trust in the fact that it’s just one small thing and you can get through it and you will get through it if you keep working hard.
What would you call your best moment in your career?
My first thought is everything with my family. Had they not sent me to Colorado, had they not supported me all the way through college, I wouldn’t be here. I will never forget when I got the medal and looked up to them and saw them in the stands and remembered all those moments when I was a kid.
You already finished your career as a player when you were 22. Why?
I was ready to step away from the ice game for a little bit. I had a great finish at Harvard, took second at the national tournament after we had even not been close to making the national tournament during the four years before. I love teaching, I love coaching, so I love to be on the ice for that and I have rediscovered roller hockey and ended up on Team USA and representing my country in roller hockey.
Could you imagine a comeback?
I don’t imagine playing at a level like the national team again but I could imagine playing in Europe to gain more experiences. I’d use it as an opportunity to play, have fun, travel and meet people. That’s what it is all about in hockey for women. I’m in Finland right now. A lot of people don’t get these opportunities so I’m very thankful for them. Hockey has given me a lot. But it will depend if I can get work in any of these places.
With the NWHL there’s a new alternative for players after their college careers. What do you think about it?
It’s awesome to see there’s a new opportunity for really good players to have a place they can keep playing after college. I think the challenge will be to continue to getting them paid but hopefully they will be able to do it because the women deserve it and work really hard.
No chance to see you there?
I realized that I can do so much with what I accomplished at the Olympics that I was ready to do these things. What I was able to do with these kids across the country is so rewarding. It’s way more rewarding for me than continue to play hockey right now. But that’s just me.