Two futures await hockey player Lyndsey Fry. There’s the immediate future, the one defined by the months the Chandler native and Harvard forward will spend in Massachusetts training with her Team USA teammates as they aim for gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this February. There’s still one last tryout session left in December — only 21 players will join USA and Harvard coach Katey Stone for the Eurasian trip — but she’s taken a year sabbatical from Harvard to give this rare chance, one that would make her the first Arizonan to play Olympic hockey, her best shot.
This isn’t one of those part-time opportunities for her: “You have to be a full-time athlete to do this.”
But what happens to Fry after that? Where does a female hockey player go after the Olympics end and her college career winds down? Professional women’s leagues are hard to find and don’t offer players anywhere near the same pay grade as their NHL counterparts, and her aspirations to design theme park attractions for Disney petered out once she discovered her disdain for physics.
“I really don’t have any idea,” Fry said about her future plans. “The focus has been hockey.”
It’s hockey, however, that has taken her on her current route toward an Ivy League degree within the next couple of years — she switched from mechanical engineering to history and science — and has made her ready for a future without skates, sticks or pads.
“This is a payoff, this is where hockey can help me go,” she said. “This is going to sound philosophical, but I’m kind of into ‘what does money even mean?’”
Fry’s dedication to hockey began 16 years ago after she fell in love with Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” as a 4-year-old. She donned her first skates — a plastic pair produced by Fisher Price — shortly after, and began her life in skates by puttering around her driveway for hours. She matriculated to roller hockey by age 5, then found her way to Polar Ice in Chandler the following year.
“I went to ice and never came back,” she said.
The icy road has taken her through youth leagues in her native Chandler, a stint as the team captain for the U19 Colorado Select AAA squad in 2010, and a gold and silver medal, respectively, for the U.S. National Under-18 team at the world championships in 2009 and 2010.
She’s played on all-female squads and played with the boys, and had her body ground down by the grueling game she says is incredibly taxing on the body. While there’s no checking in women’s hockey — it’s one of the reasons Fry says people ignore the sport — the game’s inherent physicality leaves its players battered and sore.
“We end up with bumps and bruises,” she said. “People would be surprised how tough we are.”
In her three years as a Crimson, Fry was picked twice to the all-ECAC (Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) third team, earned a second-team all-Ivy League designation as a sophomore and was a second-team all-league choice as a junior. She finished second on the team in goals and assists (16 and 20, respectively) as a junior on last year’s Crimson team that went 24-7-3 overall.
It’s been a bit of a juggling act trying to meet the demands of her on-ice obligations with a full-load at such a prestigious institution. She had Ivy on the mind prior to her graduation from Arizona Connections Academy — her wishlist was Harvard or Cornell — so the expectations for a rigorous academic lifestyle were always in play.
But Fry admits her profile doesn’t scream “Ivy League student.” She didn’t ace her SAT tests, doesn’t have the pedigree — think prep schools and legacies — many of her classmates brought to the institution, and doesn’t come from a family that sports a traditional East Coast education. Harvard also doesn’t offer students athletic scholarships, meaning she has to meet the standards required by the academic scholarships she receives.
Still, Fry wonders if the 15 years of hockey, especially the 10 years spent at a more competitive level, impeded on her academic potential. Perhaps, she would have met the higher academic standards her classmates achieved had she focused on classes instead of ice.
It’s not like she’s floundering just outside of Boston; rather, Fry said the rigor has made her a more efficient student capable of succeeding as a student-athlete.
“You learn to deal with it, you learn to push through and be successful for both,” she said.
As Fry put it, the school has taught her how to learn, and has taught her how to handle the adverse situations that pop up in life. She doesn’t know what will come after graduation or after this winter, but she’s confident she can handle the unknown.
What happens next, however, is far less opaque. She’s back in Chandler for the moment, spending mid-mornings at Arcadia Ice Arena in Phoenix preparing for the Team USA training. She goes to the gym with her folks, lifts weights four days a week and does what she can to train without overdoing it.
“It’s not the ‘Rocky’ movies where you train for hours and hours and wake up early in the morning,” she said.
Fry heads back to Massachusetts later this month and will join her fellow campers in Bedford, which is about 20 miles outside Boston. From there, she will have approximately three months to prove she belongs on the final roster.
Making it to that level will, in a way, allow her to live out the plot of the superior “Mighty Ducks 2” which Fry prefers over the original. Sadly, her experience won’t include the glorious knuckle puck, Gordon Bombay and a few other details.
“The experience is going to be different; we’re not going to be playing Trinidad and Tobago with the multi-colored jerseys,” she said.
What she does hope to replicate is the ending; at least the part preceding the Ducks’ fireside sing-along to Queen’s “We are the Champions.” “D2” ends in epic fashion, with Team USA rallying to beat Iceland in a shootout to give the scrappy group of misfits a well-earned championship.
Real-life events rarely end that neatly, but “D2” does provide a template for what Fry and her teammates might experience at the end of the games in Sochi, although the word “might” deserves an emphasis.
“Hopefully, everything goes well and we get gold, but I have no idea what it will feel like,” she said.
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