The usual routine of girls hockey camps was disrupted by a welcome visit by a former Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjack and role model giving back to her community.
The morning of Tuesday, June 18, was almost a typical day of girls hockey camps at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet, with one exception: Cloquet High School alumna Sadie Lundquist was also on the ice.
Lundquist is a forward with the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL)'s Minnesota Whitecaps. Lundquist spent part of her 28th birthday on the ice skating with the high school girls and a youth girls hockey camp.
A free open skate was held after the camps were over. A few of the kids were practicing their hockey moves.
“Nice shot,” Lundquist yelled from the players box as she multi-tasked.
Lundquist’s team won the end of the season playoffs and took home the Isobel Cup, the equivalent of the Stanley Cup for the NHL. In fact, the cup is named after Lord Stanley’s daughter, Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, who also played the game.
The girls had their photos taken with Lundquist and the Isobel Cup. Some girls held the heavy silver cup high over their heads, grinning like they had won it, as family members excitedly grabbed photos with their cellphones.
The NWHL was founded in 2015 and is the first women's professional ice hockey organization to pay the players. There are four teams in the East coast area and the Minnesota Whitecaps.
While the Whitecaps have been an independent team for about 14 years, the team just had their first season with the NWHL. The Whitecaps are also the first team in the NWHL to turn a profit. According to Lundquist, the core of the team is made up of women from Minnesota.
“Each team has $100,000 to work with,” Lundquist said. “It’s dispersed like it is in the NHL. Our Olympians make more than the rest of the players. It’s based on talent. Each team has three or four Olympians. We don't get paid nearly as much (as the NHL). After college, I used to pay to play in leagues. So to get paid a little bit to play, get some gear and get back into shape was a dream come true.”
While the women are paid to play the game they love, they also have day jobs to pay the bills. Lundquist said that practices are in the evenings after a full day of work.
The women play their home games in the new Tria Rink on the fifth floor of the Treasure Island Center in downtown St. Paul. The rink holds about 1,200 spectators. One side is glass and overlooks St. Paul.
“People would be standing on the stairs and by the glass two or three rows deep waiting to get into the building. It was pretty cool,” Lundquist said. “We were the only team to sell out every single game. It was amazing. Sometimes we sold out so quick I couldn't get my family tickets. I had to ask around for tickets for my own family. It’s a good problem to have.”