Dr Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer – the first lady of the world’s female hockey

Dr Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer is the first lady of the world’s female hockey. She is the Chairwoman of the Women’s Committee in the  IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation).  If there would be a possibility to describe someone’s life in a just one word, for Mrs. Kolbenheyer it will be for sure – hockey. Her father and brother have been ice hockey players, her husband has been also a hockey player. She has been playing hockey actively many years, even her three kids are, guess – hockey players. I haven’t asked her if she has pets. But if she does, I’m pretty sure they can play hockey too! 🙂

dr Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer

THE HAPPIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

I come from an ice hockey family. My father was a professional player for 22 years. My brother started to play when he was 10, for the NSZE (the former name of the MAC Ice Hockey Club) in Budapest. In those days girs were not playing hockey in Hungary.

In 1989, when I was 11, my brother’s club was invited to an International Tournament in Germany. My parents decided to make a family trip, so we all went together. That was the first time I ever saw girls playing ice hockey, and I really liked that. So, when we came home, I asked my brother’s coaches to go to practices too. They allowed me, and I was the happiest girl in the world. My family and my friends were very proud of me.

A BREASTFEEDING MUM  HOCKEY PLAYER

I’ve been playing hockey actively for 22 years. I have a lot of precious memories, and just a few hard moments. I have enjoyed every moment of my career, so it is very hard to choose the best one. Maybe the World Championships were the highlights. I have played at 8 World Championships (2 Qualifications Tournaments) for Hungary. If I have to choose, I would say the WC 2004. (III division, Slovenia) was the special one. It was the most difficult for me, because my first child was only 6 months old. I had to take him with me, because I was stil breastfeeding him. At that tournament I became the best player of the Hungarian national team. We won bronze medal as well, for the first time.

All of her 3 kids are hockey players

I played my last WC in 2011, in Australia. After my retirement, the general secretary of the Hungarian Federation, Zoltan Kovacs asked me to be the Team manager of the senior team. in those days I was working as a lawyer, but I felt I could do the both jobs. And I was happy being able to stay in touch with my favourite sport. So I accepted the offer.

80 DAYS  A YEAR ON TRIP

6 months later, I was asked by the Team manager of the U18 team if I could help him as well. And I said YES again. In December 2011/January 2012, the U18 team was promoted to the Top division. We have won the Qualification Tournament, and 3 weeks later the Division I Tournament as well. So, when we came back, the general secretary asked me if I would like to run for the IIHF Council as a candidate. This time I asked for a few days to think it over, and discuss it with my family. To tell you the truth, I was shocked when I checked at the IIHF web site who were the members of the Council. I found out that the average age of the members was 68, and I was 34. But I said, let’s try, I have nothing to loose!

The Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer 2016: Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer, Henrik Bach Nielsen (the president of the Danish IHF), Thomas Bach (the president of the International Olympic Committee), and Lindsey Vonn (the famous American multiple World and Olypic skiing champion)

THE CHAIRWOMAN OF THE 2018 OLYMPIC GAMES

I’ve started to travel to the different countries with my General Secretary. During those trips I had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people from the international ice hockey family. I had to make a short speech in Helsinki at the Congress as well.

5 months later, in Tokio, at the General Congress, I was elected to the IIHF Council. I got the Women’s Committee as the Chairwoman, and I started my work with the International hockey. And, in 2016 I was reelected for another 4 years term. I have to travel a lot, approximately 80 days a year. We have the Council meetings, congressses committess meetings. Our job is to go to the different World championships as chairmen/chairwomen.

It is a great honor for me that after the Sochi Olympics, I will be again the Chairwoman of the Women’s Tournament at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.

A GREAT FAMILY SUPPORT

Of course, sometimes it is not easy to work with so many men. But they trust me, and let me lead women’s hockey.

From the other side, my husband is a former hockey player as well, so I do not have to explain him anything regarding my job. Of course, he is my bigest support. Without him and our parents, I definitely couldn’t do what I am doing in the last 5 years. We have 3 children, they are 14, 12 and 10. All three of them are playing hockey, and the two younger do fencing as well. Although I am a triple mum who has to work  and travel a lot, I am still playing hockey with my friends, three times a week. Frankly, I don’t know what’s going to happen when the time for breaking up with the hockey comes. For now, I don’t want to think about it. 🙂

The Top World Chamipionship in Russia, 2016: Marton Vas (the captain of the Hungarian national team) and Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer

NEVER GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS!

At the end, I want to tell something to all young players: women’s ice hockey is the greatest sport in the world. No matter if you would like to play for your National Team, or plan to go to North America for an University, you should never give up your dreams. Maybe you have to work hard every day to achieve it, but it will worth every minute. Through ice hockey you will become a better person, find new friends, and will be a part of our great hockey family.

 

 

Isabella Marie Byrne – an American goalie who wants to become a Biomedical Engineer

 

Isabella Marie Byrne is a very funny 18 years old American goaiie. She likes singing and playing the guitar in her band, she is a part of the LGBTQ+ club at her school,  and planning to become a Biomedical Engineer at Columbia University. Oh, have I mentioned she adores ice hockey? 🙂

I grew up in Los Angeles, California, so there wasn’t much hockey around there. But when we moved to New York, I started playing it. Honestly, the main reason for that was the equipment. It looked super cool!

FROM HATRED TO LOVE

At first, I absolutely hated it. I didn’t understand why people would voluntarily stand in front of a flying rubber disk for fun?! I hated when we lost, because I was on a lot of teams that lost a lot. But as I continued to play, it became clear that I loved the sport.

The last tournament with the OHA teammates

The moment when I realized that, was when my team won the state tournament and we were so happy. When I turned 13, I went off to boarding school in Ontario. I loved the sport so much, and it was such a great opportunity for me, and I had to take it. Luckily, my family was very supportive.

So, I’ve moved out to Canada, and it was very great for me to be among people from all different countries. Lol, I remember my roommate from New Zealand. She made me try their traditional food called Vegemite. It is a thick black food spread for toast, like butter or jelly, but I really hated it. (smile)

MY LIFE HAS COMPLETELY CHANGED

My life has completely changed: at OHA we had at least one practice and one workout a day, and about 2 games a week. I had to wake up myself and go to practice very early, sometimes at 6:00am. After that we would workout with our team. There were 3 girls and 4 boys teams. The food was not very good, normally I just had some toast. There was a little extra time for fun, and, normally, I would spend it playing cards with my roommates, or playing the guitar. In that period I dated a girl from OHA, but we broke up.

Talking about hockey I need to mention my trip to Europe. When I was 15, I got an amazing opportunity to play hockey in Finland, Estonia and Russia. I was in 10th grade, and I was a little scary, because I didn’t know anything about these countries. I had never played hockey outside of Canada and the US, but I had to try, and it was a really good, although very expensive expirience.

With the teammates in the current school

A PRESENT GOALKEEPER – A FUTURE BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER?

Now, I am attending The Gunnery School (a coeducational boarding and day prep school in Connecticut, US). and going to take a break from hockey, in order to focus on my studies.  I want to be a Biomedical Engineer at Columbia University. Although, I haven’t gotten in yet, I find out very soon, on December 15th. So, when I became interested in going to college in New York City, I started boxing, because I wanted to be able do defend myself. You never know what’s waiting for you in the future, so you always have to be prepared.

At the end, I will just add this: although I have had 3 concussions from hockey, I can say my greatest reward from it is learning how to be a good teammate and a good friend, and how to balance school and sports. So, I can say it was really worth working so hard!

 

Time to find another hockey club?

Move on, player. Another hockey club is waiting for you. So, let’s start.

First of all, I will tell you  I am not a hockey expert, a coach or a player. But I’m a  parent of a female player, and  I’ve been actively following female ice hockey for over 15 years. As a parent and a tireless support from the bench I have learned many things about this sport, as well as about the rules regarding it.

ENGLISH IS A MUST

 

Lesson 1: Learn English.

Lesson 2: Learn English.

Lesoon 3: Learn English and German, French, Russian or any other foreign language.

Maybe this sounds foolish, but the golden rule is, wherever you are trying to go, you need to communicate with people. Ice hockey has been made in Canada and USA, 80% worlds female registrated players are from these countries. And English is the main language. English is also spoken between foreign players and European clubs. So, this is a must.

From the hockey point, there are two kinds of players. The first group is made of  young tallents who are trying to link the sport with education. They are usually looking for hockey schools or academies in Canada or USA. The other group includes girls who have already finished scholls or universities, looking to travel, play and work abroad.

HOCKEY CAMPS – A REAL CHANCE TO BE NOTICED

If you are a tallented player in teen years, you have to attend as many international hockey camps as you can. The best camps are organized by IIHF: there you can find the girls and coaches from all over the world, living and playing together  as one. If you’re working hard and giving the best of you, there is a real chance to be noticed and selected from foreign scouts. They can offer you a free scholarship in USA, so it’s worth working.

The situation is different in Europe. In many countries you can attend public schools for free, on the official language of the country. But you have also to think about accomodation and the club. Maybe sounds complicated, but you can start with sending e-mails to the clubs and schools – you have nothing to loose. If you are good enough, the club can help you about school and other things.

Photo by: Somogyi Viktor

THE NEW CLUB IN EUROPE/NORTH AMERICA

If you belong to the other group, here are some tips.

The most expencive option is to find a manager, pay, and let him doing the job for you.

But you can also start sending e-mails to the clubs. The Elite Woman Hockey League (organized by IIHF, 2004)  gathers central European female hockey countries in one competition.  You can send e-mails to the EWHL clubs with your infos and clips. But do not expect too much: some of the clubs will answer you immidiatelly, some won’t ever. Maybe is the best way to find someone who know someone, and try to reach the right persons.

SEARCH, PLAY AND EARN

You also need to know there are the clubs that pay their players, give them a flat and opportunity to work and earn money. In SDHL league in Sweden some clubs are paying players, some not. In Denmark, for example, you can play a good hockey, get a help about place to live and job to do from the club, but there is no pay.

Some players are not willing to pay managers, and do not know how to contact the clubs by themselves. There is another option. About this topic, I was talking with miss Victoria Natalie, the European director in a RPH recruiting firm https://rosterpointhockey.com/   Victoria is a Canadian, living and playing ice hockey in Europe.

Victoria Natalie

The RPH firm is located in Canada, but it is run over Europe and North America. The idea is to connect players and teams that they want to play on. For example, players fromEurope wanting to play in North America, or opposite. All the players have to do is to sign up for free. Then the team that have signed up can see there statistics, age etc, and recruit them. All American universities want to recruit European players. And all leagues in Europe want 3 imports. So it helps for both, North America and European girl players. Once the players sign up, they are on the site as long as they want. The players do not pay anything, but the teams pay a yearly fee.

AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES LOOK FOR EUROPEANS

But why would American univerisites look for Europeans, if we know there are over 26000 registrated female players for this season?

The teams like to have diversity, and the top European girls are more talented then the average North American girls.

Ok, but what happens after signing up? Are there some managers, trz outs etc?

Nooo, the girls are their own managers. Teams and players reach out to each other, there is no contract. Sweden, all EWHL teams and High school in North America need players.

Why would anybody need you instead of contacting  clubs directly?

It’s often hard to find the right person at a club to contact. I have at least 20-25 girls per year messaging me to help them find teams and information to get them to play in Europe. And then I have to send them all the informations. This cuts out a step, and also allows teams to see more players, then who just reach out to them. And they can see video and all their stats in one place.

Photo by: Somogyi Viktor

Well, that’s the story. You have several options, and think about them. Nothing is easy in the very begining, but maybe is just the best for you to do something. Standing in the middle will not take you anywhere.

 

Dirty hockey dancing in DNB Arena

The South Korean Olympic Games will start soon. It will feature the top eight teams in the female ice hockey, together with the host. The top five teams of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking (USA, Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden) qualified automatically. Other national teams had to go through qualification tournaments, in order to reach two remaining places. Of course, the Koreans got an automatic spot as hosts.
Unfortunately, many teams have failed to qualify for this prestigious event, despite many efforts and sweat.

DiRTY DANCE IN DNB ARENA

In mid-December of last year, a pre-Olympic tournament of group F was held in DNB Arena in Stavanger (Norway). Teams from Hungary, Slovakia, Kazakhstan and Norway joined.
As the best team, Norway made it into the next round, while others remained grieving about a missed chance.

 However, after the rain always comes the sun. So after the victory over Kazakhstan and Slovakia,  the Hungarian girs were very happy.. Their joy was marked by a very serious and unusal dance in the dressing room. 🙂

Andrea Kollova – Slovakia, Ontario, hockey, engineering and an amazing family

Andrea Kollova from Slovakia adores ice hockey.  She has 8 World Championships behind her, and a lot of amazing memories. And she is just 19 years old. I remember the moment I saw her for the first time. It was  on the World Selects Invitational tournament in Prague, Czech Republic, in April 2011. She was the member of the Eastern Europe team, together with the girls from Czech Republic and Serbia. She was not scoring goals, but it was obvious she will be an excellent hockey player very soon.

I WAS HOLDING A HOCKEY STICK JUST TO PREVENT FALLING 🙂

When I was about 7, my grandfather used to take me to every game of the hockey team that played in my hometown Košice. I loved to watch our men’s team, but I never really thought about actually stepping on the ice. During Christmas holidays, my dad took me for a skate. I couldn’t really skate and my balance was bad. My dad bought me a hockey stick, so that I have something to hold on and stop falling :). After a couple of months, when my skating got better, he threw the puck at me and I guess that’s how it all happened. I joined our boys team and that was the moment when hockey became a big part of my life.

FROM SLOVAKIA TO CANADA

My hockey career  has started in Kosice. I was practicing and playing accros Slovakia and Czech Republic until my 16. Then I decided to go to high school to Canada.

After I came to OHA (high school – Ontario) everything certainly did feel different. New faces, new language, different hockey systems that have been played and the fact that I was so far from home was terrifying. But I have adapted quickly, made new friends and that’s when Canada started to feel a bit like home.

THE ENVIRONMENT WAS PERFECT FOR A HOCKEY PLAYER

OHA is a prep school – that means all players live, study, and play together. It really creates a strong bond within the “community”. The environment was perfect for a hockey player – many hours spent on the ice and in the gym. We also had a skating treadmill and a yoga instructor. My english wasn’t that bad when I came to Canada, but after the 2 years of my time there, I was ready to take on the university level material. I spent a year playing CIS hockey at Carleton University while studying business.

Nicole Kaminski and Andrea Kollova in the Ontario hockey academy

Oh, and I forgot to mention the weather. The winter was crazy, I always wore like 5 layers of clothes to keep myself warm. The only thing that I never got used to was the food.

THE BEST AND THE WORST HOCKEY MEMORIES

The best moment for me was when our senior national team won a gold medal at the Division I B tournament in  Beijing, China, in April 2015. We fought hard and the moment I saw all of my teammates extremely happy was very special. It felt like the training process we went through was totally worth it. It was an unforgettable moment which still gives me goosebumps.

On the other hand, the worst moment of my career was during the qualification for the 2018 Olympics, when we lost our final game to Norway. It did hurt, but I feel like this experience brought our team a whole new level of motivation. Haha, when I think about it now, the time spent with my team was about having fun for the most part. Singing in the locker room, dancing on the bench, laughing on the ice and having long conversations in the bus.

FIGHT WITH A BOY? WHY NOT?

A fight? Hm… Let me think… There was this one time, when I was 10 and played on the boys team. The game was nearly over, we were winning by a goal. I was on the ice in front of our net, when all of a sudden a boy started a fight with me. I am pretty sure that he didn’t know that I was a girl, because I had my hair hidden underneath the helmet. Anyways, we stared punching and pushing each other. It kinda felt like an MMA fight when the ref came. He pulled us apart so hard that we both fell and my arm broke. After that I got a cast and when I came to school, everybody was asking me what happened, so I said that I was fighting. They kinda thought I was tough I guess, haha. 😀

Andrea traveling around Europe

ANDREA KOLLOVA TODAY

Right now, I’m not playing hockey professionally anymore. My main focus is on achieving great academic result. I also spend time creating websites and graphic works like banners, logos and my hobby is video editing. I am also very glad that I get to spend more time with my family and do things I never had time for. I am planing to get my degree in engineering and have an amazing family, kids, dogs with whom I’ll hop in a caravan a drive through Europe.

 

Women’s hockey players stronger than their male counterparts

Kuwait is the only country in the world where the number of female ice hockey players is higher than male players.

Female’s players country

If we take into account the official statistics IIHF list for the season 2017/2018,  http://www.iihf.com/iihf-home/countries/kuwait/ , we will see following results:

  • number of total players: 443
  •  number of female players: 246
  • number of male players: 94
  • number of junior players: 103

After 7 knee surgeries, Ana shoots again!

In my life, I’ve met a lot of girls who play ice hockey: some of them were really promising, but already finished their careers, others are still actively playing, but their performance is somehow lifeless and pale. And the third group are the girls who play hockey with passion, desire and fight in their eyes.

Ana Pršina from Slovenia is one of them: although she is just 21, she had 7 knee surgeries, and still playing hockey.

Ana Pršina

How have you started practicing ice hockey?

When I was 3, my father took me to the ice-rink where I saw some hockey players, and it was love at the first sight. Very soon I started practicing ice hockey in HDK Lisjaki, in Maribor.  All of our relatives and neighbors were thinking the hockey was not for girls, but I didn’t care at all. In elementary school, everybody wanted me for the tough things and fight, for I was big and practicing ice hockey. I was always guilty, no matter if I was in school or not. (smile)

But hockey has also given you some precious memories?

Oh, yes, it’s very difficult to choose between so many beautiful moments… Being one of the best Slovenian girls players, I was invited from IIHF to come to Canada for some testing. It was the year when IIHF celebrated the federation’s 100th anniversary, by holding the top division WCC tournament in the country where hockey was born. I was very honored being able to watch the best world players playing alive…

They drove all night, and passed 1000 km to support me

I also remember my first tournament in the national jersey. We were playing on a pre-Olympic qualifications tournament, the results were very tight, and the last game was crucial for the next round. A night before the game, my parents set in the car, and drove whole night about 1000 km (600 miles), just to be there and support me. I will never forget the feeling I saw them around the ice-rink.

And, in one period of your life, you had problems with your knees

Ana’s had 7 knee surgeries

I’ve had 7 knees surgeries, almost all of them for other reason: I had torn meniscus twice, three times reconstruction of the front cruciate ligaments, one surgery was some kind of transplantation, and the last one was called manipulation. I think I spend half of my life in hospitals…

All her life revolves around ice hockey.

After first four surgeries, I was thinking it would be alright, after 5th surgery I lost hope I would ever play hockey again. But after 7th surgery of the orthopedic surgeon, I finally found out I can still play, and it really means a lot to me. The rehabilitation period was very long and painfull, but it is now behind me. Of course, I have a fear of getting injured again, especially before the practice or game. But when i stand on ice, my fear desappeares. I can not explain it.

You’re 21 now, a whole life is in front of you. What do you do now, and what are your plans for the future?

Well, I study for the physiotherapist in Slovenia, now I’m on the 2nd year. I adore fishing and playing ultimate fresbee. Of course, I practice hockey again, in HC ECE Celje from Slovenia. Our goal is to be the best in domestic league, and play in DEBL league in the next season. These days I was invited again to the national camp, and it means a lot to me.

Do you have something to tell to younger players?

I would just quote a thought of Karen Salmansohn, the best selling self-help book author with over one million books sold: Don’t wait until you reach your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take!

 “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

 

How dalmatians have learned to play ice hockey

If I’ve told you Canadian girls can play a super hockey, I wouldn’t tell you nothing new: everybody knows that.

But the story gets a different craft if I tell you that the Dalmatians can play hockey either, although they are dogs.

Averi Nooren, Stephanie Nehring, Stacey Scott are Canadians, Amie Varano is from United States, and Jelena Grkovic is Hungarian Serb. They all play ice hockey for KMH from Budapest, and live together in a same apartment. Some of them are students, the other have finished their colleges. Like all other girls their age, they like to go out, play cards, dance, travel and so many other things.

But, when it comes to the Halloween, they all become dalmatians and with their Cruella Deville, go to pet friendly ice hockey parties. 🙂