As widely reported about five weeks ago, Laura Halldorson resigned as head women’s hockey coach at the University of Minnesota. She was their first coach and had a decade-long tenure which included three national championships and five consecutive Frozen Four bids (the only coach to ever do so). Her bid for the hat trick in titles was spoiled by the University of Wisconsin (head coach Mark Johnson of 1980 Olympic fame). The problem with creating excellence in women’s hockey is that Laura’s work created competition, and as the women’s sport grew so did demand for players and the demand on coaches. I’ve suggested here and to The Hockey News that a career like Laura’s deserves respect as one of “power and influence.” Sadly, I think that window of recognition has closed. She leaves some big skates to fill. Laura coached five Olympians and 2005 Patty Kazmaier award winner Krissy Wendell. I can’t imagine a greater thrill than to have one of your own players win an award named in honor of a former teammate (Patty and Laura played together at Princeton).
If this entry sounds as if it’s written with first-hand knowledge of Laura Halldorson as a coach, it is.
I’m probably one of the only men she ever coached, and “coach” is used with great literary liberties. Laura and I were members of Princeton’s Colonial Club, and while I hacked away on our intramural hockey team, she offered insights, instruction, and basic clues about life on skates. She introduced me to her teammates that she brought over for lunch; she gave a stick wave during the few games I managed to catch at Hobey Baker Rink. If you can imagine a Heismann Trophy winner sitting down to talk about short pass routes with some nerdy guy who played tag football to get out of Phys Ed, you’ll appreciate the dichotomy in skills and perspective. But never once did Laura bring it up; she only offered her fun laugh, some gentle encouragement, and an occasional hint that my lack of stopping ability might not be due to a skate sharpening but rather to the lack of pressure on those sharp edges. Some things never change.
I, like so many players in the First State of Hockey, am most proud to have called her “coach.” Good luck with whatever comes next, coach.