I had the opportunity to talk with the USA national team goalie coach:
1. How did you get started in hockey?
My family (my parents, an older sister and 3 older brothers - I'm the baby!) moved from Ohio to Maine when I was 3 or 4 years old. When we got there the youngest brother, who is 4 years older than me, started playing hockey, and me being the tomboy I was, I followed in his footsteps! I fell in love with hockey and played forward/defence from age 5-12. At 12, I tried out for a previously all-boys Select team in NH, the Seacoast Spartans, and got cut as a F/D, but was offered the opportunity to tryout as a goalie. I had never tried goalie before, and quite frankly was a bit scared of the puck, but I really wanted to be the first girl on the team, so I tried out and beat out 4 other boys for the spot! The rest is history!
2. What made you move from Maine to Toronto?
While I was playing at the University of Maine from 1998-2002, I had heard a bit about a women's pro league in Canada. So in my Jr year at Maine I started doing a bit of research into the league - where the teams were, coaches names, etc. I called a few coaches and talked to them about trying out after my Sr. year. I just knew that I was not yet playing my best hockey and I wanted a chance to play at that level and see what the league was all about. So after I graduated, I spent the summer at home and then in mid-August, after talking to some coaches in Vancouver and Edmonton, I was about to take a road trip on my own out west to see if I could earn a spot on one of the squads out there. Then I got a call from Pete Perram of the Durham Telus Lightning in Toronto. He wanted to sign me! Although I was really looking forward to the road trip and the sights on the west coast, it was a no-brainer to stay closer to my family, and to have a spot right away instead of having to tryout. So I drove to Buffalo with my parents to meet Pete and sign! I moved up to Toronto in late August of 2002 and have been up here ever since.
3.What was it like to play in the CWHL, the first professional women's league?
It was a great honour to have been able to play at such a high level for so long (2002-2003 was my 1st season in the NWHL and 2011-2012 was my final season in the CWHL - 10 full seasons). It has been so great to see the level of talent improving more and more in the younger generations of CWHLers coming into the league each year. We have had some great history-making moments like the first-ever Women's Hockey Draft held at the Hockey Hall of Fame; games at NHL arenas with upwards of 5,000 fans, etc. Overall, it was an experience that shaped the last decade of my life.
4. What was it like winning back to back National Championships with the Brampton Thunder? Was it tough to repeat?
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"] Mandy with her goaltending partner after winning the National Championship[/caption]
It was a great experience! And yes, it was definitely an uphill battle to be able to win it the 2nd time. As I mentioned previously, the NWHL/CWHL improved
every season I played, as the younger generations of female hockey players came in very strong, so our opponents were increasingly tough competitors.
5. What has been the highlight of your playing career?
I have 2:
1. Team USA tryout camp personal invitation - in 2004 I was personally invited by Ben Smith (US Olympic Coach) to attend the 4 Nations Cup pre-camp. I would be the only player coming into camp for an evaluation, as everyone else was on the team already. It was the most amazing experience flying into Lake Placid, NY and staying at the Olympic Training Centre for a week, training with many of the women who I had grown up playing with/against. The most memorable moments of that week:
- Walking into the Team USA dressing room and seeing the #1 USA jersey sitting in a stall with my name on it! Even the grey practice jersey was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen because I had earned the right to wear it!
- After the last skate, while I was stretching on the ice, Cammi Granato came over and shook my hand and told me that no matter what happened, I deserved to be there. I ended up being released and that was absolutely devastating, but looking back, that was a dream-experience and I was proud to have made it that far.
2. Boston vs Montreal game in 2010 - out of every team I played for in the NWHL/CWHL, I would say the most memorable was the 2010-2011 season when I was the goalie in the inaugural season for the Boston Blades. I got to play in front of my entire family for the first time in over a decade (I'm from Maine, about 50 minutes from Boston), and our team had the most amazing chemistry. There were so many great games and experiences with the Blades, but the best memory was from a weekend road trip to Montreal to play the Stars - the best team in the league at the time. I believe they were undefeated, 11-0 at that point. We had quite a few Olympians on our team but most of them were missing that weekend for various reasons, so we went up there with 9 players total. The first night we lost something like 9-1 or 10-1. It was a brutal game, but our team was able to let it go and regroup overnight. We came back the next day pumped up and ready to go. I faced 74 shots during that game and we ended up winning 3-2! My team played amazing in front of me (despite what the shots might show!).. my D were helping me as much as they could and the forwards scored some beautiful and timely goals. It was such a rush to blow Montreal's undefeated streak with such few players, especially after losing so badly the night before! Those are the moments that make me miss playing competitively - but they will always make my heart smile!
6. How did you get started in goalie coaching?
I had done a bit of coaching my whole life for all of the sports I played. I found a passion for coaching when I worked at my former prep school, New Hampton during my high school and college summers. I was a counsellor and administrator for the SPORTS P.L.U.S. (Positive Learning Using Sports) camp, which was
created by NHS's former headmaster, Jeff Beedy. From then on, I knew I wanted to work with kids - to help improve the outlook kids had on life. Then duringmy 2nd year of playing in the NWHL in 2004, I met Jamie McGuire who became my goalie coach. He was a great mentor, and working with the goalies at his goalie school helped me realize that I had a passion and a knack for helping kids become not only better goalies and athletes, but more confident people. I have been enjoying my career very much since starting M-Power Hockey in 2007!
7. Whats the biggest difference between playing and coaching?
Well, one major difference - the most obvious answer - is that I am not playing competitively anymore. I don't travel to participate as goalies in practices & games multiple nights per week anymore. Now I am on the ice about 15 hours per week coaching goalies and occasionally playing in some rec/pick-up hockey games. I am now able to enjoy some other aspects of life that I have not been able to partake in during my NWHL/CWHL career: traveling, family/friends time, and more time to work.
8. Whats it like coaching for the US national team?
My experiences working with/for USA Hockey and Team USA have been life-changing. I have been able to travel all over the US and Europe and work with not only the best female goalies in the US, but also from all over the world (the IIHF Camp in Finland last summer). It's a great feeling to be able to wear your country's logo on your track suit and help shape the future of the girls who are dreaming the same dreams I dreamt many years ago. I hope that I will continue to be a part of USA Hockey & Team USA's goalie coaching staff in the future. The young female goalies coming up are very talented and I value every time I am able to get on the ice with them
9. Whats one thing you tell all goalies?
As for real life advice for my goalies, I always tell my kids that they have to be their own agent and represent themselves well - the best of the best will be sought after by top teams, colleges, and the national team, but everyone else (the majority) have to make themselves known to those scouts, and make sure they always put their best foot forward so they are always getting another step closer to their dreams.
10. Whats one thing you wish people knew about women's hockey?
Female hockey players for the most part are very educated, intelligent women. We don't get paid a penny so we have police officers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, students, etc, all paying their own way to play. It's a shame that we can't figure out how to pay CWHL players - I'm not talking the millions the NHL'ers make, but just enough to equal at least an entry level professional job - $30-40k. NHL teams could spare one or 2, 4th liners and pay our entire league with their salary. This pay would allow elite female hockey players to focus on their hockey careers and be able to train regularly like NHL'ers and escalate the level of our game to a place where we could draw even more fans and sponsors. Someday, I hope!
11. Who is currently your favourite NHL goalie?
Well, considering there's no current NHL goalies to watch, I'd have to reflect back on last season! I don't have one absolute favourite but I have a few that I really like watching for various reasons: Timmy Thomas (he's not a great positional goalie but he just gets it done.. and I am a Bruins fan so it's a given that I'd be a fan of his!); Jonathan Quick - he's tiny, but he doesn't care - he's lightning fast and such a tenacious athlete; Ryan Miller - very positional and disciplined; Pekke Rinne - again, very disciplined but also very smart and just seems like a great guy; I did jump on the Holtby bandwagon as well, even though they were playing against the Bruins in the playoffs!
12. If you could work with any one professional goalie: male or female who would it be?
I've never thought about that. I don't have anyone in mind that I've always wanted to coach... but I guess it would be fun to work with someone like Johnny Bower and see if we could teach an old dog new tricks!
If you want to learn more about Mandy Cronin and her M-Power goaltending school you can visit her website: M-Power Hockey. Her goal is to "empower" all young goalies and help them reach their true potential- and I know from personal experience she really knows her stuff and is a fantastic goalie coach. Since we wont see NHL hockey for another week, why not take this opportunity to check out your local NWHL/CWHL hockey team?
I'd like to thank Mandy Cronin for taking the time to sit down with us for an interview!