Last August, near the start of a second Olympic quest, Keady suffered a severe concussion during practice at a USA Hockey camp, forcing her to take several months off. She recently returned to training at a gym near her Massachusetts home, working with the Boston Celtics’ conditioning coach, Walter Norton Jr., with her eyes set on the 2010 Vancouver winter games.
“I am going to do everything I can to make [the Olympic] team and contribute,” she said. “No one’s spot is guaranteed, but I have no problem working for mine. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In February, Keady was preparing to report to the U.S. women’s ice hockey residency program, a demanding training camp for post-collegiate players held in Blaine, Minn. She will join nearly 20 other Olympic hopefuls, including goaltender Megan Van Beusekom ’04, to compete for cherished spots on the U.S. roster for the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships — to be held in Finland in early April — and, more importantly, for a chance to make the 2010 Olympic team.
Van Beusekom, a celebrated All-Ivy goalie who holds the Princeton record for career wins (43) and ranks second in career saves (2,072) and save percentage (.921), has been participating in the Blaine program since it began in September. Established by USA Hockey to help train women for the 2010 Olympics, the program is based at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, an eight-rink complex some 20 miles north of Minneapolis. Though not all players live in the immediate area — Van Beusekom, newly married and a volunteer goalie coach for the Univer-sity of Minnesota women’s hockey team, lives just west of Minneapolis in Cokato, Minn. — the residency program will be the players’ home away from home until mid-March.
Typical days begin early, with players expected to be at the rink by 8 a.m. and on the ice before 9. Practices typically last 90 minutes, with another hour of weight training afterward and often cardio workouts after that. The women have their own weight-training facility, a brand-new locker room, a medical room, and offices for the on-site coaching staff, which is led by Tom Osiecki, a veteran Minnesota high school and college coach. Wisconsin women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson, best known in hockey lore as a member of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team (the “miracle on ice” squad that defeated the Russians en route to a gold medal in Lake Placid) was named head coach of the 2010 U.S. women’s team Jan. 27. He will join the U.S. team before the world championships in April.
Besides training on and off the ice, members of the residency program have been playing a grueling 41-game schedule against opponents that include women’s semipro and college teams (among them last year’s national finalists, Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota, Duluth), under-20 boys’ junior squads, and adult men in an elite division of the Minnesota Wild Adult Hockey League in Blaine.
“It’s been great for me,” Van Beusekom said of the program. “Playing consistently with this caliber of players, my game has improved significantly. As a group we are definitely coming together.”
Freelance writer Andrew Robinton ’04 lives in New York City.