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.
Starting with the upcoming season, USA Hockey is launching a new online curriculum in our Officiating Education Program. In addition to the standard registration requirements, including application, open and closed book testing and attendance at a USA Hockey Officiating Seminar, every official must complete the online material prior to receiving their card and crest for 2014-15.
The online curriculum is designed to enhance educational experience with accurate and consistent officiating information. The online modules will be broken down into three categories. The first two requirements will include general and level-specific presentations. The third category will have elective courses from a variety of topics such as positioning, procedures, penalty criteria and the mental game. These electives will be level-specific and allow you to hone your officiating skills in areas you select.
The length of each presentation will vary depending on content and focus. The majority of the presentations will fall in the 5- to 10-minute range, followed by a short quiz reviewing the content. The entire online curriculum will take 3-5 hours to complete, depending on the level of the official. The in-person seminar each official will be required to attend will be abbreviated and designed to supplement the material presented in the online curriculum.
Instructions on accessing the online seminar will be sent to you upon receiving your USA Hockey application. The curriculum will be accessed through your USAHockey.com profile and can be completed at your leisure, meaning you can log out and log back in to pick up where you left off. Some presentations are designed to be viewed before attending the seminar as a means to improve the overall seminar experience. These will be highlighted for your consideration.
Officials will find this new system to be beneficial and it will make your overall USA Hockey experience a more valuable one. Let’s get the season off to a great start!