A week ago, I moved to a small city, nestled between mountains and vineyards in northeastern Italy. I will soon be starting my eighth semi-professional ice hockey season with a new team, the Bolzano Eagles.
Hockey has taken me to some incredible places: I’ve had the opportunity to play in the SDHL in Stockholm; the CWHL in Calgary; to play games in Japan and China; and to accidentally end up on an elite inline team in Barcelona.
Hockey has also been a winding path… The first time I thought I was done playing competitively was after I graduated from Brown University. At that time, the CWHL was just getting started. I barely knew anything about it except that my best friend had moved out to Calgary. She was texting me asking for fundraising money for her new “pro-team” (I mailed her a check for the fantasy pool and never sent in my picks).
This first time I hung up the skates, I went on a 6-month post-collegiate adventure – I tried to soak up as much of the world, as quickly as I could, before starting a “real job.” I made it to Tanzania, Costa Rica, Israel, and a handful of cities I hadn’t yet visited in Europe. That trip came to a crashing halt when my Dad died suddenly from a heart attack while playing hockey. It was just days before we were set to get together – my brother, my dad, and I – for our annual Christmas ski trip.
Before he passed, he had already wrapped and labeled his gift:
Losing him really made me lose my footing on the world. My grief, and that low, sent me back to the drawing board on what I wanted my life to look like.
I packed up my hockey bag and flew out to Calgary to join the CWHL. I played there for five years. We took an unknown, losing program, and turned it into a championship team that inspired the community. But five season in the oil-and-gas capital of Canada left me restless about my other passion: sustainability. Even though I had weaseled my way into a role focused on innovative climate change solutions, I felt I wasn’t doing enough. I felt, and still feel, that a lot of people and communities will suffer if we don’t made immediate and drastic efforts to reverse the environmental damage of modern times.
So, in 2018, I quit my cushy engineering job and announced my retirement from hockey to the world (this time, there was an actual announcement):
I decided I would be moving to Barcelona to pursue a Master’s in Pathways for Renewable Energy. A great way to experience the world and pivot my career, I thought. But of course, I packed my hockey bag and sure enough I found myself playing twice a week with a group of Spanish guys at a rink in the shadow of the famous Camp Nou. My new beer league friends extended an invitation to me to give inline a try. Soon after, I accidentally found myself committed to an elite team that traveled around Spain playing games.
For the second year of my Master’s I could choose between several partner universities across Europe, but a part of me was missing leaving it all out on the ice. While in Spain, a team in Sweden had contacted me about coming up for playoffs. It conflicted with my roller hockey commitments, so I declined, but it planted a seed. And sure enough, I couldn’t keep myself from picking the partner university in Stockholm. I signed with SDE, planning to finish my studies and tie a nice neat bow on my hockey career, once again.
Then, I stayed two seasons. I couldn’t resist the feeling of continuing to improve. I couldn’t resist that feeling that our team was capable of more than we were achieving. I was tempted, with these same thoughts, to stay even a third season, but a new goal was forming that required a different path.
In 2019, Italy was awarded the title of host for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games and an old dream was reignited. Little choices, take you down such unexpected paths. Had I stopped playing after college, after Calgary, or after my first season in Sweden, as I planned… well, I’m not sure where I would be, but I’m positive I wouldn’t be in Italy with the goal of working my way onto their national team.
As I enter this new chapter of life, in a new country, on another new team, I feel like my Dad is nudging me to take a leap of faith. Not only is Italy his country of origin, my comfort expressing my thoughts in writing come from arguing with him over email as an angsty teenager. Beginning to blog was almost inevitable and what better time to start then now. I’m excited to share my adventures and maybe a few unsolicited opinions, too. I hope you enjoy!
I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.