The cavalry of hockey players surrounding the Lamoureux family’s Thanksgiving table in Grand Forks, N.D. was smaller than usual this year.
And that’s not just because twin sisters Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux, who exhausted their eligibility at the University of North Dakota last year, brought most of the school’s men’s and women’s hockey players to the table with them during their college days. In fact, the table was also missing Jocelyn, who along with Monique is one of 23 women competing for 21 spots on Team USA for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
The sisters were forwards for Team USA’s squad that won silver at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“We usually have big groups,” Monique said of Thanksgiving. “This year we only had 10 or 12 people. So it was a pretty small group of people for our family.”
The family of eight that was profiled in Sports Illustrated almost four years ago for sending all six siblings to play college hockey was also missing some of its own members on Turkey Day, including Jocelyn, who was overseas to surprise her fiancé, Brent Davidson, a former UND hockey player who now plays for Valpellice in Italy’s top division.
After flying seven and a half hours to Torino, Italy, Jocelyn was dropped off at the restaurant where Davidson’s team eats lunch every day.
“I got there five minutes before him and there were a couple of teammates there sitting down at a table,” she said. “I wanted to sneak up behind him, but my back was to him when he walked in. He thought I was another girlfriend or wife. … I turned around and made eye contact and he literally stopped dead in his tracks and did a triple take. First thing he said is, ‘How did you get here?’ I was smart and said, ‘I walked.’
“It was the first Thanksgiving I’ve been away from home, but I really wanted to see Brent since I won’t see him at Christmas. I missed being home, but I liked spending time with my fiancé.”
Jocelyn also got to see her brother, Jean-Philippe, and his wife. Jean-Philippe plays for EC VSV of the Austrian Hockey League and traveled about three hours to meet his sister and watch her fiancé play a game in the Coppa Italia tournament.
After a few days in Italy, Jocelyn took a nine-hour flight back to Boston to resume training camp in Bedford, Mass. with Team USA.
“I knew that it was going to be tough traveling, and I was going to be tired,” she said. “I tried to get as much sleep as possible on the plane.”
Aside from trying to make the Olympic Winter Games, her whirlwind trip to Italy wasn’t even the most stressful part of this fall for Jocelyn. Planning her June 20, 2014 wedding, which fittingly will be at UND’s hockey venue (Ralph Engelstad Arena), wasn’t the most stressful part either.
Instead, Jocelyn said the most stressful part of this fall was finishing her 61-page master’s thesis in kinesiology for her UND grad program. But after nine months, she recently completed her thesis on whether or not it is advantageous for young girls to play youth hockey with boys. She surveyed all of her U.S. teammates for the project.
By comparison, Jocelyn said she picked a wedding dress in about one hour during a visit to at a bridal shop in July.
“That was actually more stressful,” she said of her thesis. “We got engaged in May, so I had a couple months in the summer; I got all big things planned. … I have a few things I need to do [for the wedding], but that can all wait till March. I’m not going to get stressed out about stuff with the wedding.”
Jocelyn has a few other things to do before then, like making the U.S. Olympic Team. Later this month, the team will make the final two cuts that will determine the 21-player roster that will travel to the Winter Games in February. That roster will be announced during the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1.
And for the twins, the only thing better than making the Olympic Team would be to make it together for the second straight time.
“To be able to do it a second time would be something special for us. Hopefully it works out that way,” Monique said. “In an Olympic year it’s so much different than college, where you have that added stress of knowing some of your teammates are not going to be there. That stress can be difficult to deal with at some points in the season. It’s just something you have to handle as an individual. In the end it makes us better teammates and players. You definitely learn to handle things as a player.”
Luckily for the twins, they never had to do anything as an individual on the ice, always having the other one to motivate them.
“We have built in accountability,” Monique said. “If she’s maybe not feeling it one day or I’m not feeling it another day, we’ll both get on each other and say, ‘We have to get going.’ It’s basically like having a training partner 24/7. That’s how it’s always been.”
And while some players might have trouble motivating themselves to do individual workouts during the holiday breaks, that’s never an issue with the twins, as their training partners multiply by four other siblings when they are home for the holidays. Usually when they are all home, the family gets up early for a morning skate together at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
And this year will be especially easy for the twins to get home for Christmas as Team USA plays Canada at UND on Dec. 20, just before the team goes on Christmas break. The game will be the first of four games between Team USA and Canada that NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports Network will air before the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“We could walk from the hotel to our parents’ if we wanted,” Monique said, while also noting that they are excited to play in front of friends and family. “My parents don’t get to watch us play a lot of hockey and obviously going to the University of North Dakota and playing for the Fighting Sioux, it will be like our last game at the Ralph. It will be bitter sweet for us. There’s so much pride.”
Jocelyn said it would also be special to know they might spark an interest in hockey in youngsters from their hometown. She said they were in first or second grade when they watched the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, the first year women’s hockey was in the Olympics.
“It’s pretty cool when you’re that young seeing competition like that,” Jocelyn said. “That was fun for us, that’s one thing I remember growing up and watching. We believe we raised the caliber of hockey at the University of North Dakota, and we’re exited to show them the best caliber of hockey in the world. Hopefully we’ll get a good turnout and show them what women’s hockey is all about at the elite level.
“Something like that can inspire young girls to go out and play. That means the world to us.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Keith Kaval took his warmup lap on the ice and the only thing he could think about before officiating one of the biggest games of his career was the illness that had sapped him of energy.
The longtime official skated around HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York, before the start of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship gold-medal game and thought to himself, “This is not good.” Kaval was about to referee the championship game between Canada and Russia.
“I kind of composed myself and I ended up working the game,” Kaval recalled recently. “The game was amazing. We called what we had to call. We weren’t a direct affect in the game and the Russians came back in the third period to beat Canada, which was a crazy, amazing game. Being able to do that game here on our own soil was pretty amazing. That’s something I’ll probably never forget.”
Having the opportunity to officiate the game, and fight through his illness, is one just one of the experiences Kaval is drawing on as he has transitioned from on-ice official to the director of officiating for the North American Hockey League and North American Tier III Hockey League.
Kaval wants to use his nearly 30 years as an on-ice official to develop the next wave of officials and hopefully provide them the same opportunities he had in a career which spanned nearly every rung of the hockey ladder, including the American Hockey League, the Kontinental Hockey League and the NCAA.
“It’s a continuous thing where we’re trying to move guys up and move them on, and give them the experience that they need,” Kaval said of his new position. “They serve our league, obviously, but the end game is to get them prepared for the next level of hockey. It’s no different than our member clubs, a lot of good opportunities for our guys to earn scholarship with the various NCAA teams and no different with us. We’re trying to move our guys up and on as well. It’s pretty much, we co-exist with the teams trying to do the same thing.”
Kaval worked his last game in the AHL on Oct. 13, finally hanging up the skates after a long on-ice career. He hopes to impart some of his knowledge and experience on newer officials who are starting their careers.
While the highlight of his career might have been Canada-Russia in 2011, Kaval worked three straight IIHF World Championships. He also became the first North American official to work in Russia’s professional KHL.
“Every day was a challenge,” Kaval said. “It was a pretty cool experience and there’s another thing that I can share with our guys about being uncomfortable in different situations where pretty much the only normalcy was hockey.”
Having moved full-time into his new role, Kaval is enjoying the new experiences he faces after starting a career at age 13 while just trying to earn some money and extra ice time.
“The biggest thing for me is just learning about each individual official and what makes them tick, and then seeing what they do because they all bring different skill sets,” Kaval said. “It’s not a cookie-cutter system where this is our method or this is what’s going to work for you. Every official’s different and I’d just rather give them some perspective on what may have worked for me and they can take some of that.”
In the early-going, Kaval was traveling constantly to have face-to-face interaction with officials and teams. He’s working through the challenge of increasing numbers of total officials. He wants to train the officials on technique and help deliver tips. He also preaches accountability and communication.
“There are certain things we can control as officials; That’s being professional, that’s being good communicators and being honest and trying to work the best game we can,” Kaval said. “We’re never going to be perfect, but I think the teams are starting to realize in our league that we’re here and we’re a partner to, not only the league, but all of them in that we’re just trying to make the game better and trying to do what’s right to keep the game fair and safe.”