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Kaz Notebook: Halldorson’s Link To Kaz Award Runs Deep

03/21/2015, 9:30am MDT
By Harry Thompson - Editor, USA Hockey Magazine

Minnesota native played with the late hockey star and award namesake

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey.

Perhaps no one seated inside the McNamara Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota has a greater appreciation for the significance of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award than Laura Halldorson. The Minnesota native not only played with the late hockey star during their time at Princeton University in the 1980s, she has also developed a close bond with the family over the years.

Since the inception of the award in 1998, Dick Kazmaier was a regular attendee at the event, taking time to honor his late daughter, who passed away in 1990 at the age of 28 from a rare blood disease, and salute the finalists for the award that bears her name.

Before his passing in 2013, Halldorson made a promise to the Kazmaier family that she would carry on that tradition.

“I’m a weak replacement for Dick Kazmaier, but I made a commitment to him and his family that I would do my best to represent them at this event,” said the former coach of the University of Minnesota women’s team.

After Princeton, Halldorson would go on to play on some of the earliest U.S. Women’s National Teams with other pioneers like Cindy Curley and Kelly Dyer Hayes. As she looked out on the crowd that featured the four teams competing in the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, Halldorson could only applaud how far things have come and the role that her friend’s memory has played in putting women’s college hockey in the spotlight.

“Patty would be honored to have this award named after her and she’d be even more pleased to see how far women’s hockey has come,” said Halldorson, who presented the Patty Kazmaier Award to this year’s recipient, Alex Carpenter of Boston College.

Twin Cities Hopping With Hockey

Minnesota proudly boasts the moniker, “The State Of Hockey.” This weekend the Twin Cities are living up to that reputation as the hub of the hockey universe.

In addition to the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award ceremony, which was centered around the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four semifinals on Friday and championship game on Sunday, there was also plenty of men’s college hockey in town as both the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference held their year-ending tournaments.

The WCHA took over the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, while the NCHC held its tournament in the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

With six of the top 10 teams from the most recent USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today College Hockey Poll competing in the Twin Cities, there was no shortage of star power in the area.

“It’s great to have so many great teams competing here in town,” said Mike Snee, the head of College Hockey, Inc.

“With so much talent here in advance of the NCAA regional tournament, it allows hockey fans an opportunity to see the best teams in the country as they jockey for position heading into the NCAA tournament.”

USA Hockey Brings High Performance Camp To Town

Players don’t make it to the college ranks without good coaching along the way. Helping ensure that the college stars of tomorrow have the tools they’ll need to reach the top, USA Hockey held its fifth High Performance Camp for coaches who work specifically with female hockey players.

The two-day camp, held in conjunction with the Women’s Frozen Four and the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award presentation, featured both on-ice and classroom lectures designed to provide coaches with the tools to help aspiring female hockey players reach the college ranks and beyond.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring awareness to not only the Frozen Four and the Patty Kazmaier Award but also to bring together some great speakers to talk about ideas to help players reach their potential,” said ADM Regional Manager Michele Amidon, whose presentation focused on teaching concepts through small area games.

Among the topics presented over the weekend were the power of habit training, leadership & team building skills, building mental toughness and the importance of goal setting.

Coaches not only received a wealth of knowledge provided by some of the leading coaches and sports administrators in hockey today, they also earned credit from USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program.

Kennedy Recalls How Far Kaz Has Come

Over the course of her playing career, Courtney Kennedy was known as a tenacious defender who combined a no-nonsense approach on the ice with a quick wit and outgoing personality off it.

Now in her seventh year as an associate head coach with the Boston College Eagles, the Woburn, Mass., native has passed that style on to her blue line crew.

As she sat at a table with Alex Carpenter, one of the finalists for this year’s award, Kennedy thought back to 2001 when she was in a very similar situation. And even though her Eagles squad lost a heartbreaking decision to Beantown rival Harvard in the semifinals, she was glad to be on hand to support the team’s leading scorer.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was sitting at one of these tables wondering if my name was going to be called,” said Kennedy, who is responsible for recruiting and hockey operations, in addition to working with the defensive corps.

“Being a part of this and being able to support Alex Carpenter and to being able to sit at her table means a lot to me.”

A mainstay on the U.S. National Team from 2001-2006, Kennedy was teammates with current BC Head Coach Katie King Crowley on the 2002 and 2006 U.S. Olympic Teams. As one of the pioneers of the women’s game, Kennedy is impressed with how far women’s college hockey has come in both the quality of play and the attention it receives through events such as the Patty Kazmaier Award and the Women’s Frozen Four.

“It’s unbelievable, the growth of women’s ice hockey in general,” she said. “Seeing everyone here, not just the teams and the moms and dads, but also the fans who are interested in the game. It’s a special day and I’m just glad I could be here.”

Karyn Bye Dietz At Home In Front Of A Crowd

It wasn’t that long ago that Karyn Bye Dietz stood on a dais and addressed a packed house at a downtown Minneapolis hotel after being named only the third female player to be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Several months later, across town at the McNamara Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Bye Dietz once again recalled the early days of her Hall of Fame career during her remarks as the keynote speaker at the 2015 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award ceremony.

As one of the pioneers of women’s hockey and a member of the first U.S. Women’s Olympic Team that took home gold in Nagano, Japan, the Hudson, Wis., native is pleased with how far the women’s game has come.

“The more I see the NCAA tournament the more jealous I am. I wish I could’ve been a part of it,” said Bye Dietz, who played for the University of New Hampshire at a time before women’s college hockey had a national tournament.

In her remarks on Saturday morning, Bye Dietz applauded the efforts of the players and coaches competing at the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, and offered a challenge to those sitting in the audience.

“Hockey has given all of us a lot over the course of our lives, so when it’s time to give back I hope you will all do so,” said Bye Dietz, whose Squirt team won the Wisconsin state title.

“Also, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of young hockey players out there who look up to you as a role model. You may not think they are looking at what you do on and off the ice, but they are.”

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