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Everything is coming together for Megan Bozek

12/18/2012, 1:45pm MST
By Drew Silvermen

Three years ago, Megan Bozek never could have imagined that she would be in this spot.
 
A senior standout for the University of Minnesota hockey team. A first-team All-American and an NCAA champion. And most importantly, a member of the U.S. Women's National Team.
 
Those are accolades that any women’s hockey player would drool over. But they are accolades that did not come easily, particularly when Bozek thinks back to her first collegiate practice.
 
“My first Bozek Mugpractice was 2 hours, 45 minutes, and I didn’t think I’d be able to last all year,” she says in retrospect. “It was different coming from a travel team in Chicago where we practiced twice a week to practicing every day here.”
 
At the time, did she envision one day playing for Team USA?
 
“Making the national team was a stretch,” she said flatly.
 
Bozek acknowledges that the turning point for her hockey career came between her sophomore and junior seasons for the Golden Gophers. She decided to get in better shape. She really dedicated herself to defense. In short, she began to emerge as the superstar that she is today.
 
And now Bozek is one of the nation’s best defensemen, whether you judge greatness by leadership and character, by statistics (29 points in 20 games) or by team record (20-0-0).
 
“Hard work does pay off,” she said with a smile.
 
Indeed, her dedication resulted in a spot on the U.S. team at the Under-18 World Championships in Germany in 2009. And most recently, Bozek participated in the 2012 Four Nations Cup — a tournament featuring the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden — that the Americans won this past November.
 
“It was great,” Bozek said. “It’s so exciting going to your first international tournament, so to speak, with the national program. Knowing that we have a group of girls that doesn’t play together all season that can come together and play together and bond as a team in that short a period of time is great.”
 
Asked about the level of competition in international hockey, compared to her college rivals, Bozek did not hesitate.
 
“You forget about everything that’s gone on in college,” she said. “You’re there for the week to represent your country.”
 
Bozek admits that she gets charged for a Minnesota-Wisconsin matchup. And the Gophers have several other rivalries that create a buzz around campus. But still, she says, nothing compares to Team USA.
 
“It’s a whole different atmosphere,” Bozek said. “We have a lot of rivals at school, and putting on the ‘M’ jersey is incredible. Every game I get chills before the game putting on the jersey. But playing for the national team, I mean you put on your country’s colors and compete against other countries. It’s just great.”
 
But exactly why do the international rivalries, such as United States vs. Canada, carry a much greater weight than, say, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin?
 
“I think it goes much deeper within the U.S. program because girls have been there longer,” Bozek explained. “And they’ve played Canada much more, so I think it goes deeper there. There’s a lot of competition. I think Canada vs. USA is just one of those games that everybody gets fired up for.”
 
Of course, no potential Canada vs. USA matchup consumes Bozek more than the thought of the world’s two biggest powerhouses squaring off at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. There are no guarantees that the matchup will take place — or that she will be a member of that Olympic team — but considering the way things have gone for her over the last three years, it seems to be a pretty safe bet.
 
“It’s exciting. It’s something that I’ve been striving for,” Bozek said. “Anything can happen between now and the Olympic Games, and I’m hoping that I will get a shot to try out for the team. But it’s just exciting to have an opportunity to represent your country in the Olympics.
 
“It’s a dream of mine. It’s always been a dream of mine.”
 
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Three ways to beat burnout

11/28/2016, 9:45pm MST
By Dave Pond

According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.

Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.

And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.

“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”

Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.

“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”

Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.

“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.

“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”

Find balance
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.

Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.

“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”

That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.

“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.

“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”

Have fun
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.

“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”

For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.

As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.

“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”

But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”

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Tag(s): Women's National Team