This Saturday, April 7, the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship begins in Burlington, Vermont. The U.S. Women’s National Team will be trying to capture its fourth consecutive world championship. Two-time Olympian Caitlin Cahow kindly agreed to speak with AfterEllen.com about the upcoming World Championships, Team USA’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show during the Vancouver Olympics, and what type of atmosphere an out hockey player would find in the National Team locker room. Caitlin graduated from Harvard University in 2008 and is currently attending Boston College Law School. While she is sidelined with an injury for the World Championships, she will be in Burlington with her sponsor Easton Hockey and would be happy to talk to any fans who want to stop by.
AfterEllen.com: First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk with me, I know you must be busy with school. The last that thing in most people’s minds about the USA Hockey team is the Vancouver Olympics. Could you give me a brief overview, for those who don’t follow Team USA obsessively, of what’s been going on both for you and for the team since the Olympics?
AE: You and your teammates are spread all over the place, how do you keep hockey going and keep in touch in these periods between major competitions?
It’s sometimes difficult to stay on the same page when we’re so far apart but the great thing is that we get along really well and we stay in touch. Facebook always helps to keep track of what people are doing. The Lamoureauxs posted that they went to the Elton John concert the other night so I had to give them a hard time on their Facebook wall. [Laughs] Stuff like that just to keep us going. In order to compete and to stay ready for the world competitions we have to make sure that we’re competing with our own team.
I play for the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). We’re the only American team in the league right now. I play on the Boston Blades with Kacey Bellamy, Gigi Marvin, Kelli Stack, Molly Schaus, and Erika Lawler. Molly Engstrom plays for a team in Canada, she plays for the Brampton Thunder. Julie Chu plays for the Montreal Stars and those are the “post-graduates. ”Of course you have college players who play for University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, and Harvard. We’re really all across the map. It’s really fun to see those people on the ice and to be able to compete with them. Any time I’m playing Brampton or Montreal I know that I’m going up against Julie or Molly I know I have to push myself and it’s the same for the college teams. Those players know when they see another member of the USA family playing on the opposing squad they know they are going to have a run for their money. I think that’s the best way that we can keep each other accountable and to push each other on and off the ice.
AE:That totally makes sense. It’s nice that there’s a league. It was probably in its early days 100 years ago when I played.
AE: I do! I remember you as one of the nicest campers. My team was filled with … I had some nice campers, I also had a couple who weren’t and who were a little sassy with me. I remember you as one of the nicest campers around. [Laughs]
AE: Thank you very much, most people think that we’re a crazy bunch and aren’t to be trusted.
AE: [Laughing] Fair enough. There’s nothing a goalie loves more than a good defenseman.
AE: Let’s take you back to the Olympics again. We really loved the stuff with your team on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
AE: AfterEllen.com did a write-up about it and posted some of the video. Can you give me some insight as to how that all came about? Were you guys just goofing in the locker room and it just blossomed?
So Gigi Marvin, who plays on the Boston Blades with me and actually is one of my roommates, she started corresponding with someone [at The Ellen Show]. She told them about who we were and how much we loved Ellen and she started carrying around, you’ve seen it before probably, people carry around pictures of Ellen and take pictures with her in various places?
AE: Sure, yeah.
So I ran and found Gigi down the hallway and we were falling over giggling with excitement. I passed [the phone] over to Gigi. They asked her a bunch of questions, they asked me a bunch of questions and we got Erika on the line and there it was. We filmed live from Vancouver from the top of this random building. It was a great experience.
[Ellen] made this deal that if we won a gold medal we could come on the show. But, of course, it didn’t work out that way. We tried, but it didn’t work out. But [Ellen] was kindhearted enough to extend the offer even though we didn’t win a gold medal. So she flew us all in to go on the show. I have to be honest, any preconceptions you have about Ellen, she absolutely lives up to them in the best possible way. We all went in not knowing what to expect, and she was just the consummate hostess. Everything from having our favorite snacks in the green room, to hanging out with us backstage, she played ping pong with us, we even danced with her backstage. She was just awesome. She spent a ton of time with us and was so welcoming and she was great on the show. It made us all more effective ambassadors for our sport. It was the best experience of my spring by far.
AE: That’s great. I loved watching it and I loved watching the Olympics. My older daughter, at the time was basically not allowed to watch television but there was an exception for the Olympics. It’s a pleasure to watch you guys play. You have been fantastic ambassadors for sports in general and certainly for getting little girls, and even grown-ups like us very excited about sports and women’s sports in particular.
AE: It comes through that you and your teammates love what you do so much and it certainly stokes interest everywhere and particularly with little kids. Angela Ruggiero, who was one of the older players on the team, retired this year. Could you introduce us to some of the younger players who we might not be as familiar with but that we should be looking out for at the World Championships?
As far as defense, obviously my favorite position, I really like Michelle Picard as a player. She’s a young, lefty defenseman. She’s not very big, kind of like me. I really carry a lot of stock in the not so big defensemen because we do make a difference. She’s just so solid and so smooth out there. She plays her position impeccably and has so much ice wisdom for someone who is just coming off of her freshman season at Harvard. She is just going to keep getting better and she’s going to be scary good. For young players out there if you want to know how to play defense watch Michelle Picard and watch how she sees the ice because she’s great at it. She’s definitely an up and comer.
AE:We’re lucky enough to have the World Championships in the United States this year. What should fans that are able to come out to the rink be looking for and what should they look forward to from the World Championships?
It’s also way more accessible than the Olympics for fans because you’ll see us; we’ll be around town, we’ll be at the rink. All of the players want fans to enjoy our game so there’s no problem with walking up to a player and asking for an autograph or asking a question. Players want to grow the game and this is a really great outlet for us to be able to do that. These are the games you want to watch if you’re a women’s hockey fan and to have it on home soil is a huge treat for hockey fans.
AE: To be in a place like Burlington, Vermont, that’s not a huge city will contribute to players being around because it’s not so big for players to get lost in the crowd.
AE: That’s great and something to look forward to this weekend and next. Switching gears a little bit. When I played hockey in college, my team was incredibly welcoming and supportive of me and the other players on the team who were out. Can you talk a little bit about what kind of atmosphere an out athlete would find in the National Team locker room?
I think you join a team because you want to be successful at whatever the team goal is. You can measure success in two column; the wins and losses and the having fun. I feel like your odds of being successful in both those columns are tremendously decreased if the team that you are involved in fosters notions of hatred, bigotry, [and] intolerance versus if your team is the kind of team that asks for respect and love and acceptance from its players.
I think women’s hockey is a really family-oriented game. I say that because in my experience of being on the National Team, the National Team especially, we have Jenny Potter who has two kids and they are always around the locker room, they’re always around the team and we foster that kind of caring and that understanding that our lives are all very different. I am not [married] and I do not have two children, nor does anyone else on the team right now. But we all have our own personal lives that we recognize fulfill us and make us better people, better players, and better teammates. In our locker room there’s tremendous respect for however you live your life because we know that each of our teammates is doing the best she can to be happy, to be motivated, to be fulfilled, and to bring all of those best qualities into the locker room and onto the ice every day. It’s really not a question about how you live your life, it’s more are you happy in how you live your life and can you bring that to us because we embrace happy, contented people on our team. It’s important that the family atmosphere, that welcoming atmosphere is in our locker room.
AE: Any last thoughts?
AE: Thank you again for taking the time out from everything. Good luck to you and to Team USA.
The World Championships open in Burlington, Vermont on April 7 and the Gold Medal game will conclude the tournament on April 14.