The Malik Report
Hockey’s a game of sacrifice and dedication, and goalie Florence Schnelling’s dedicated to her craft
by George Malik on 03/22/13 at 03:21 AM ET
Hockey's not an easy sport to play. It's expensive, it involves learning how to master playing a game and learning how to master said game while playing on ice, and it involves physical, mental and financial sacrifices--and serious-ass dedication to the sport--even for the average beer-league player.
But I don't believe that there's any doubt that female players attempting to maintain a high level of skill between competing for spots on Olympic teams place "sacrificing to play hockey" on a professional level, and the Globe and Mail's Rachel Brady reveals that Swiss national team goalie Florence Schnelling's dedication to hockey involves finishing her college degree in Boston and flying to Ontario to play hockey because there's simply nowhere else for someone who's used up their NCAA eligibility to play at a professional level:
Schelling was inspired to take her play even further, and accomplish more success in international play by training with the best. She had just used up her four years of NCAA eligibility, but she had a fifth year of studies to finish toward her business degree at Northeastern. The Montreal Stars of the CWHL drafted her last spring, but she lost out for playing time to Canadian Olympic goalies such as Kim St-Pierre and Charline Labonté. Schelling refused to sit on the bench, despite having already started a business internship in Montreal. She agreed to be traded to Brampton, determined to earn meaningful hockey experience to take home to Switzerland.
Schelling, 23, decided to fly back and forth between Brampton and her studies and work obligations in Boston and Montreal for the remainder of the season. She kept two sets of hockey equipment – one in Boston, and one in Brampton, jetting to and fro every Thursday in time for a practice and two or three weekend games in the five-team CWHL.
“She desperately wanted to play hockey here, and you have to admire what she’s been willing to do,” said CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress. “She’s been facing shots from the same top-level players she’s about to play against at worlds in Ottawa in April. Brampton and Florence both benefited greatly from that trade.”
Schelling stayed each weekend at the family home of Brampton teammate Courtney Birchard, a Team Canada defenceman and a rival of Schelling’s internationally.
“I knew the Canadian and American players only from playing against them but hadn’t met any of them personally,” Schelling said. “To me, they were all heroes who had won Olympic gold and silver medals. I always looked up to them, so meeting them and developing friendships here has been incredible for me. I feel like I have developed as a goalie and learned so much from the way they train.”
Are CWHL players paid? Nope. Are they able to work and play? Not most of the time--though the Home Depot tries to help Canadian Olympic-hopeful athletes in every sport work while accommodating their training schedules. And what happens when Schnelling finishes her degree? Brady reveals that Schnelling will have to play with the guys because there's nowhere else for her to play:
She is one of two European players in the CWHL this year. Katka Mrazova of the Czech Republic national team plays for the Boston Blades. Andress hopes to enlist more international players to the CWHL after the next Olympics, hoping to get sponsors involved in helping the players find work in Canada and the United States while they are playing.
“If more are interested after the Olympics, I hope we can put things in place so it’s easier for them to come,” Andress said. “Florence has certainly been a great ambassador for our league internationally.”
Rock on, Florence...And no, I didn't put this in the wrong blog. I'm amazed at the dedication and fortitude displayed by athletes of every gender, and female hockey players grind it out with the best of 'em.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.