Even though she’s living and playing hockey in a city with nearly 400,000 college students, Anne Schleper feels light years away from her own college career.
“I guess I was a lot more spoiled in college, which I quickly realized,” said the 23-year-old, who graduated from the University of Minnesota last year and currently plays for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
“You are really on your own. The league has come a long way in three years, but we’re still not at a point where we’re given the resources [like a college team]. It’s not at that level yet. I’m sure it will be some day. The way it’s going I’m sure it will be one day.”
Boston, however, is becoming a hub for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Of the 28 players (including Schleper) invited to its U.S. Women’s National Team training camp scheduled from March 25-31 at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., eight are members of the Boston Blades. Another four players invited to the camp play for Harvard University, Boston College or Northeastern University.
And the team’s coach, Katey Stone, is also Harvard’s head coach.
The camp will determine the U.S. roster for the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship, which will be held from April 2-9 in Ottawa, Ontario.
So in that regard, living in Boston couldn’t be more collegial for the 5-foot-10-inch defender from St. Cloud, Minn.
Schleper said that having so many national team players in the area made her transition to Boston easier.
“You already have a lot of friends,” she said. “It’s like a little family, so that was awesome too about the move.”
But Schleper, who has scored two goals and added 13 assists in 22 games this season for the Blades, said playing professional hockey is much different than college hockey, even though Schleper won a NCAA championship with the Golden Gophers last March.
“It’s definitely the highest level of women’s hockey you can get,” she said of the CWHL. “There’s no doubt about that. Just think about all the post grads playing and Olympians. You can’t get much better competition than that. I was just thinking about how close our games are. All of our games have been one-goal games.
“The competition is probably the best you can ask for.”
She also said playing professionally makes the jump to international hockey easier. Schleper has been playing at the international level since first playing in the Four Nations Cup in 2008. She has also played on several age-group national teams as well as every Four Nations Cup since 2008 with the exception of 2011, when she had to miss it because of a wrist injury.
But making the jump from her college team to the national team was much more difficult, she said, than going from the Blades to the national squad.
“Now that I’m consistently at that level it’s easier to make that transition and it makes me confident,” she said. “That’s what I noticed has been the biggest difference.”
She has also played for Stone since 2008 at the international level.
“It’s helpful, I know her style of play,” she said. “I know what she expects, I know how she likes to run the team.”
Now that Schleper has plenty of experience under her belt on the national team — “I’ve always been the younger one of the group but, I mean, I’m getting up there” — she said she is looking to play a leadership role on the team.
“Each tournament and each camp I’m able to build off that even further and be comfortable with the systems and things like that,” she said. “Each camp and each tournament is just an opportunity to get better and that’s kind of our motto in USA Hockey, is to become better.
“I really take that to heart, whether on the ice or off ice I continue in that facet.”
That’s the philosophy she’s hoping will earn her a spot on 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
“If I continue to get better each day and get better in skills its mine for the taking,” she said. “God willing I’ll be there.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.