Florence Schelling, one of the most decorated Swiss ice hockey players of all time and the winningest goalie in women’s ice hockey history, announced her retirement today.
The announcement was made by Schelling on her personal website.
“After 25 years of playing hockey, it is now time for me to retire from this incredible sport and move on to a new chapter in my life,” she said.
“Hockey has always been a big part of my life, a big part of who I am. Hockey has given me so much, made me the person I am today and opened a seemingly unlimited number of doors in my life. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to play hockey for such a long time and being a member of this worldwide hockey family.”
Schelling’s retirement closes a career that saw the 29-year-old become one of the most successful and recognizable athletes in women’s hockey.
Born in Zurich, Schelling started playing hockey at a young age, lacing up skates for the first time before she was five and then playing for Grasshoppers Club Zurich before moving into the ZSC Lions Zurich system.
Back then, she was unaware that there even was a Swiss women's team, and so was making plans to play for the men’s national team instead. Although she didn't know it at the time, both Schelling and the Swiss women's program would grow together and reach new heights.
A budding star in the Swiss ice hockey system, Schelling didn’t have to wait long to play hockey for her country.
At age 14 she made her international debut with the senior women’s national team at the 2004 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, putting up a solid 30-save performance in a 2-1 loss to Russia. She came back into the Swiss net in relief during the following game against China, and then never looked back. A 4-0 shutout performance against Japan showed what was to come.
Schelling became an Olympian two years later at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, while still only 16-year-old.
This kind of experience would make anyone confident, and Schelling took what she learned on Olympic and World Championship ice with her to college, when in 2008 she began attending Northeastern University in Boston, USA and started playing for the Huskies women’s team.
In four seasons at Northeastern Schelling was a force, posting a 1.74 GAA, 49 wins, and 18 shutouts in 98 games, while earning numerous Player of the Week and All-Star honours. She would go on to play in the CWHL for the Brampton Thunder for one season before moving back to Switzerland, where she played for two years with EHC Bulach in the third-tier men’s league before moving to Sweden to compete with Linkoping HC in the SDHL women's league .
Internationally, Schelling competed in a total of four Olympics with the Swiss women’s national team, along with ten IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships.
Her crowning achievement came in 2014 in Russia. At the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, she helped guide the Swiss to a thrilling bronze medal victory over Sweden, securing the country’s first-ever Olympic medal in women’s’ hockey. Switzerland rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Sweden 4-3, becoming the fifth country to win a medal in Olympic women’s ice hockey since 1998 after the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden.
"We never gave up," said star Swiss goalie Florence Schelling after that game. "We never stopped believing. A huge change for us was beating Russia in the quarter-finals 2-0. And then going into the semi-final and only losing to Canada 3-1. We won the second period in that game and tied the third. That was incredible for us to make us believe today we could win the bronze medal."
For her part, Schelling was selected to the All-Star team, was voted Most Valuable Player, and was also named Best Goaltender of the tournament by the IIHF Directorate.
Schelling was a steady presence in net for nearly a decade with Switzerland. Her record at the Women’s Worlds stands at 21-22, with a 2.70 GAA to go with 5 shutouts. Schelling’s best finish was in the bronze medal game of the 2012 Women’s World Championship, where she backstopped Switzerland to a 6-2 victory over Finland. Along with the bronze medal, Schelling earned an All-Star team selection and the Directorate Best Goalie award.
By the time she played in her last Women’s Worlds in 2017, Schelling owned the record for Most Games Played (44), Most Tournaments (10), and Most Wins (21). She even holds the all-time record for Most Assists by a goalie with three.
When she stepped onto the ice this year at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, she tied Sweden’s Kim Martin for the most Olympic Appearances for a female goalie in history.
Although Switzerland wasn’t able to medal in her final Olympics, Schelling left her mark on the Games and in the record books of international ice hockey.
She helped Switzerland defeat Sweden 2-1 in the final preliminary round game, allowing her to pass Kim St. Pierre as the all-time wins leader with her ninth victory.
Then, in what would turn out to be her final game with the Swiss national team, Schelling put up a 20-save performance against Japan in the classification game, giving her team one final victory without allowing any goals, breaking St. Pierre’s’ shutout record with her fifth all-time.
Her final total of 10 Olympic wins now stands alone among all female goaltenders, and allowed Schelling to walk away from the game on top.
Counting on “Flo” between the pipes has been a big component for Switzerland’s improvement in women’s hockey, where the country has gone from a fringe contender to a serious medal candidate. She leaves the women's program in a much stronger place than when she came in as a 13-year-old.
For all her accolades, she will be remembered as someone who had a passion for the sport that lifted up everyone around her. The example she set for women’s hockey both within Switzerland and internationally has helped to raise the women’s game in Europe, and inspire countless female ice hockey players around the world.