Cetacean Nation used a center ice trap to slow down our #25 Juana Baribeau just long enough to talk some hockey and a hectic off season. The two way Whale forward has appeared in thirty games for the Pod over her first two seasons, and recorded an impressive seventeen blocked shots. But Juana, like several of her teammates, was a little snake bitten in terms of scoring. Despite launching fifty one shots on goal, only one made it past an opposing goaltender. That happens sometimes to a team or player. But with Juana’s impressive scoring history during her career at Clarkson, the fans of Cetacean Nation are sure that the Juana will put a lot of biscuits in the basket for the Whale moving forward.
Cetacean Nation asked Juana to tell us a little about her hectic offseason. She obliged, telling us: “This off-season has actually been pretty busy. My wife and I are planning our wedding for June 23rd.We got married three years ago, but never got to celebrate with Friends and Family. Since March we’ve either been planning, traveling to meet up with vendors or building decoration items. We’re both looking forward for the planning phase to be over and just enjoy our big day.” But as exciting and busy as this off-season has been, Juana is still.finding time for sports. We asked about her off season athletic activity and she replied: “Training wise it’s been a little lighter than usual. Just want to make sure I still fit in the dress! After the wedding, training will pick up. My wife and I are taking part in our first Spartan Race (probably going to need some Boost Oxygen for that day! ;) ) and I’ll also be helping out more with summer practices for the girls U16 Hartford Wolfpack.” Cetacean Nation thinks that a Spartan Race is a pretty cool sort of honeymoon! Also very cool of Juana to give a shout out to Boost Oxygen, one of the major corporate sponsors of the NWHL:(https://www.nwhl.zone/news_article/show/878961-boost-oxygen-forms-corporate-partnership-with-the-nwhl)
Juana is from the town of Amos in northwest Quebec. Located along the banks of the Hurricana River (famous for fish and Fairy Stones). the area was formerly owned by the Hudson Bay Company and lies three hundred miles above Ottawa, and roughly the same distance below James Bay, southernmost point of the Arctic Ocean. The annual snowfall in Amos is about 250 inches, compared 30 inches outside of Terry Conners Ice Rink. Cetacean Nation asked Juana about the beginnings of her athletic career, and she explained: “Growing up I was fortunate to have parents encouraging my siblings and I to try sports. I started with swimming, gymnastic and violon before finding my way into hockey. During the summer, I would play soccer. I think it is good for young athletes to try other sport. Each sport brings an additional set of skills and also helps you get your mind off of hockey during the summer. At least that is what I needed. Some kids can be playing all year long and they love it! Each kid is different in what they need!” Cetacean Nation is familiar with how often young athletes “burn-out” in their previously favorite sport, and sports participation falls at each level not solely because of the competition, but because of the grind as well.
Cetacean Nation wondered if having played the violin, or violon to use the French Canadian terminology, fit in with Juana’s other activities. She said: ”Both music and sports requires dedication. You can’t expect to perform at 100% if you don’t put in the work during the off days. I was not the greatest at reading music, so I had to put in more time. When I started hockey, violon classes would fall so close in time to hockey practices, that I would keep my bottom equipment on for my violon classes. After a year, I had to make a choice between hockey and violon, which was a hard decision, but looking back it was a no brainer!” Skating for a university developmental league with the Dragons du Collège Laflèche in Trois-Rivières, Juana collected forty points in twenty three games, including twenty-three goals!
Juana continued her hockey at Clarkson University near Albany, New York, selecting a major in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. And she also continued her goal scoring there as well, and it didn’t take long. As a freshman, Juana scored all four goals in. 4-2 win over Vermont, displaying as her coach said “ a rocket of a shot”. Juana told her college newspaper, the Clarkson Integrator, that: "I chose Clarkson because it's a good school for business students and also because the Knights have good team spirit and work hard. It makes it easy to join the team." Juana left her mark on Clarkson hockey, graduating as their 3rd all-time scoring leader with 118 points over 150 career games, including fifty-six assists and sixty-two goals. And of those goals, none was bigger than the goal still referred to at Clarkson as “ The Shot”.
In Clarkson’s NCAA Tournament Game against Minnesota, Juana unleashed a rising slap shot from the red line that went top shelf to send the game into overtime. She beat Noora Raty with the shot, a Bronze Medal winner in the 2010 Olympics with Finland. We asked Juana about that memory, and she reminisced: “Yes,the shot is a pretty good memory for my time at Clarkson. That year was a big one for the program, making it to the NCAA for the first time, and they’ve just been on a role since I graduated!” True enough, as Clarkson just won it’s third NCAA title in five years this past season!
Her years at Clarkson also provided Juana with her now famous nickname of “Juice”. Although she’s probably been asked about the origins of the name as often as people ask Tom Brady or Sue Bird when they are going to retire, we asked anyway. Juana graciously explained: “The nickname started in College. My first name isn’t easy to pronounce, so it first started with “Ju”, then came along the comment that I must have been on “juice” to be this muscular (which I have never, just to be clear! ;) ) and the nickname “Juice” ended up sticking.. just wishing the story was better!! Hahah!” Cetacean Nation thinks that it is both a pretty good story and a pretty good nickname.
One thing that Juana did not have available during her years at Clarkson, or upon graduating, was a career in professional hockey, as no pro leagues existed for women at that time. We asked how Juana views the dawning of the NWHL, and she replied: “With the Whale, the whole experience is amazing. When I graduated from college, I never thought I’d be playing again in a highly competitive league, but here we are. The NWHL was created and gives players the platform to keep competing and play the sport they love and have always known.” Juana also serves on the Board of Directors of The National Women’s Hockey League Players’ Association with fellow Whale teammate Keira Goin. The NWHLPA, headed by another of our Whale, Executive Director Anya Battaglino has a stated mission to: “strive to protect the rights of all players in the NWHL while promoting the growth of professional women’s ice hockey. The NWHLPA seeks democratic involvement of its members so that it may collectively decide its goals and communicate in one unified voice.” Juana commented at the time: “ I take great pride in being a member of the NWHLPA. I look forward to being part of the pioneers that will help bring this league to its full potential and cultivate young girls’ dreams of being a Professional Women’s Hockey Player.”
We also asked Juana to weigh in on the league’s recent, and possible future expansion. She stated: “The addition of the White Caps is a really big step for the league and hopefully it generates more interest for other partnerships. A next place I think that could be a great spot for an expansion team is Pittsburgh. The fans response has been amazing for the events that were held there and the facility is great!” Other members of the Pod that Cetacean Nation has presented that question to, have likewise been unanimous in their prediction of the Steel City as the likely next location for a NWHL expansion franchise.
Cetacean Nation enjoyed getting to know our #25 Juana Baribeau a little better, and we again wish her all best on her upcoming wedding day celebration. We look forward with great anticipation to a lot of pucks rocketing off her stick and lighting the lamp next season. Fins Ups Juice!