Our #12 Jamie Goldsmith in action against the Beauts in the season opener. Photos courtesy of Dan Rice.

TRUE GRIT

Cetacean Nation caught up with our gritty center #12 Jamie Goldsmith recently, and talked some hockey, sports and life. Grit can be defined in several similar ways, but usually courage, fortitude, perseverance and passion for long term goals, tenacity and focus are mixed in the equation. And those are the ways gritty pertains to Jamie’s approach both pn and off the ice. But, there is also a new Gritty on the hockey scene, and Jamie is from the Philadelphia area and has tweeted about the orange manifestation on South Broad Street. So Cetacean Nation had to get Jamie’s definitive take on the Flyers new mascot, the aforementioned Gritty. She told us “ I am willing to go out on a limb and have what I am sure is a very unpopular opinion that I think Gritty is great. I was 100% skeptical at first, but he has really started to grow on me. He is a great Philly guy.” Cetacean Nation definitely seconds that motion. Jamie added “And it is a compliment to be considered a gritty player! Thank you for that.”

 

Jamie grew up just outside of Philadelphia, in Media, PA in Delaware County. We suspected that there may be some other Flyer influences in her early life, and there were, as we found out when we asked her about her hockey roots. Jamie told us “ I do not have a cognitive life without hockey in it. It really was a perfect storm of multiple influences that lead me to the game. My mother grew up outside of Philadelphia, she has lived in 3 houses on the same street I grew up on, and she was a big Philly sports fan. In particular she loved the Flyers, better known as the Broad Street Bullies and back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions of the 70s. I grew up watching the 90s Flyers with the Legion of Doom line and idolized Eric Lindross, which is probably a big reason I play center. Another big influence was my brother, who I still idolize. He is 7 years older but I often tagged along with him and his buddies when they went to play street hockey. He eventually played organized hockey as well. I got my first pair of roller blades during Christmas of ’93. A pair of blue Fisher Price wheels that hooked on to your sneakers. I played a ton of street hockey on my patio with my brother.” Jamie continued to discuss the multiple influences that coalesced to create her love of the sport, saying “Another piece of the perfect storm, the first “Mighty Ducks” movie came out in ’92..I was obsessed with it. “ Cetacean Nation understands, and there isn’t a player or coach who has ever laced up a pair of skates that doesn’t agree with what Gordon Bombay said to his charges at one point in that movie: “A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.” A young Jamie Goldsmith heard, understood, and remembered.

 

Jamie continued “ The last big piece of my hockey influences is really one of story books. My first time skating on ice was up on Beaver Lake in Ware, MA. Every New Years we went up there to visit my parents’ college friends who lived on the lake, so every New Years I looked forward to skating on the lake and playing in an annual pond hockey game. All of these things lead to me first playing organized hockey in ’95. I played for boys teams up until I was 12 when I first learned there was organized girls’ hockey. I loved playing boys, but I fell in love with the game even more when I started playing with the girls. I had finally found my people. There was something really special about being in a locker room of girls who loved hockey just as much as I did. I remember it feeling very empowering, and something that still holds true today. Coming back to the game after taking some time off, and having the privilege to be in a locker room with my Whale teammates is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. The locker room is really a sacred place.” Growing up in a family that loved sports, Jamie’s early athletic career included multiple sports in addition to her hockey. She told us ”I played a ton of sports growing up. Soccer, baseball, basketball, gymnastics..you name it. I mostly played organized soccer and baseball. There was a time I really loved soccer and idolized the women’s national team. Mia Hamm in particular, of course. I played baseball all the way up through 7th grade. I went all the way through little league and played a year for my middle school team and Babe Ruth league. I stopped playing organized soccer and baseball when I made the choice to go to NSA and really focus on hockey, which was in 8th grade.” NSA stood for National Sports Academy, a unique boarding school in Lake Placid, New York. She added “ I did play a season of boys’ lacrosse as a goalie while at NSA. It was an experience I am glad I did, but there really is no glory to being a lacrosse goalie…it is painful! I will block hockey shots all day long over getting back in the lax net. There’s far more protection in hockey.” We also asked Jamie if she has continued with any other sports, and she acknowledged her attraction to the links. “ I didn’t pick up golf seriously until after college. I really enjoy playing golf now and wish I started when I was younger. If I could drop everything I was doing now and pursue a new dream, it would be to be on the LPGA tour.” Given a marked proclivity of hockey players towards golf, and given Jamie’s gritty approach to challenges, Cetacean Nation would not bet against it. We’ve seen her swing a hockey stick!

 

Jamie had a legendary career at NSA setting the school record for career goals, assists, points and games played. She amassed 89 points in 72 games, with 40 goals and 49 helpers. During her career at NSA she was s US National Camp invitee and as a senior Jamie was presented with the Coby Wheeler Award for sportsmanship and leadership. The entire concept of a sports centric secondary school is fascinating, and we asked Jamie to tell us more about that. She explained “ As mentioned earlier, I learned that girls’ hockey was a thing at 12 years old. My whole Little Flyers ( her youth hockey club in Aston, PA) team was going to a two-week hockey school at Hamilton College so I went with them. There I learned about the prep school/boarding school landscape. At the time, I was going into 7th grade. I was really intrigued by the idea of going away for school and hockey having spent several summers at a 7-week wilderness camp in the Adirondacks. In doing my own research of schools online, I came across National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, NY. They offered an 8th grade program that New England boarding schools didn’t have. I sent the coach an email, who then cold called my mom. My parents had no idea I had done all of this. We visited the school in February and the rest was history. The movie “Miracle” had just came out that year so it was a dream come true for a 13 year-old to think about playing hockey in a town like Lake Placid. We practiced everyday at the Olympic Center and played on the very same ice as the 1980 team. Even got bagged (skated to exhaustion) numerous times on that ice, it is a very big sheet of ice.The first year I was at NSA was the 25th anniversary of the 1980 Olympics, the whole team came back to town to celebrate except for Jim Craig. Over my 5 years there, I met many of the team and got to eat cake with Mike Eruzione, which was very cool. We also got to meet both Buzz and Billy Schneider at a corporate event we helped out at. Billy played his dad Buzz in the movie.” Cetacean Nation did not realize that, pretty cool!

 

Jamie, who graduated second in her class academically, continued with her heartfelt recollections of NSA. “ Life at NSA was a dream world. The schedule of the day was very non-traditional. We woke up and got to practice and train in the morning. We started classes at 1:00 after lunch and went to school until dinner. Then had study hall at night. Most people are unaware that NSA had their own classes, it was not independent learning like the hockey academies of the present. I had some of the best teachers and coaches. We had awesome relationships with adults there. We really learned how to be good people there and care for a community both within our own walls and the greater Lake Placid community. It went so much farther beyond the game. Hockey has been my road map to so many amazing experiences. My time at NSA is probably the sole reason I am doing what I do now, coaching and working at a boarding school.” There were a couple of other very interesting aspects of NSA that Jamie discussed with us, including additional NWHL connections. She revealed

“ A few NSA alum have been in the league. Beth Hanrahan and Celeste Brown who both played for the Riveters were my teammates there. Celeste even spent a season with the Whale (Celeste was our #42 in the ‘16-‘17 season) Savannah Harmon now plays for the Beauts, snd she spent some time at NSA as well. Rebecca “Moose” Morse plays for the Riveters, we were there together at NSA. Kallie Flanagan, who I am sure will be in the league once she is done at BC, went there too. She just won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team USA. I coached Denisa Krizova at NSA for a brief period of time, she just graduated from Northeastern and is playing for the Pride, she is also on the Czech national team.” Jamie also explained that the athletic excellence at NSA extended beyond the rink. In addition to hockey, the school had all sorts of winter sports between alpine skiing, snowboarding, luge, figure skating, ski jumping, biathlon…you get the picture. This past Olympics, I want to say the school had 6 former students competing. Of note is 2018 luge silver medalist Chris Mazdzer. He was a defenseman on the lacrosse team I played for. Since the Olympics, his life has been turned upside down..he spent some time on Dancing with the Stars and has been to all sorts of award show ceremonies. It is awesome to see such a great guy doing so well and achieving his dreams.” Jamie concluded her remarks about NSA saying “I could go on about my experience at NSA. Those years were incredibly formative for me, and again, are a big reason why I am doing what I do now, working with young people.“

 

The National Sports Academy had to be a difficult act to follow for any college to draw Jamie’s attention. But she told us a fascinating story about how that came about. Jamie explained “It is funny how things work out sometimes. I could not have been more fortunate to land at St. Lawrence. I was familiar with the school because of the big camp connection between people at Tanager Lodge (the camp where my parents met, and where I was a camper for several summers) and SLU. My family has a summer cottage in the Adirondacks so we were always running into SLU alum. St. Lawrence traditionally also had a very successful hockey program, it was like all of my worlds were colliding. One of my NSA teammates ended up there and when I started to go through my college process, I was invited to spend a night with her on campus and with the team. It immediately felt like home. Truly, I didn’t go see other schools. I committed there my junior year of high school. When I first got there, I was naive to think I was there for hockey. What I learned quickly was that I was going to learn a whole lot more about myself. It was a great fit for me because of its small size and attention to community, especially coming from NSA where we had 90 students in the whole school” Playing for the Saints on the ice was a tale of two ends of the spectrum in terms of wins and losses. It started on the downside and worked its way up from there. That’s a task that requires grit, as we previously defined the term. That type of struggle both measures and defines the grittiness of athletes that can accomplish such a turn around. Jamie elaborated “ Athletically, in my time at SLU we went through the gamut of experiences. The team had made the NCAA tournament something like 8 times in the prior 10 years. My freshman and sophomore years were two of the worst years in SLU hockey history. However, hindsight being 50/50..without those two bad years, I truly believe we would not have turned it around to win an ECAC Championship in 2012, my junior year. We had to hit rock bottom to grow up a little bit. As a coach now, that experience was extremely valuable to see what a team has to go through to be successful both on and off the ice. I was lucky enough to have the coaching staff I did there too, who valued us as people first. That is very much something that carries over into my coaching now. They were also creative thinkers. I had to play defense one year after never having played defense..ever..I talk to my players all the time about that experience now and just being open minded to doing what is best for the team.“ By the time Jamie ended her playing career at Saint Lawrence as the team’s Captain, she had led them to the NCAA Championship Tournament berth and earned ECAC All Conference Academic Honors.

 

We had also asked Jamie to tell us about her decision to study for a degree in Philosophy, and how that came about. She revealed “Academically, I always thought I would follow in my dad’s footsteps and be a psychologist. So going into SLU I thought for sure I would study Psych. I was one of those kids that got weeded out in the intro class process. I took three psych courses and bombed all of them. I was always a good student so that was a big blow to my ego for sure. What I realized was that I could be more successful in classes that were more discussion and reading/writing based. My brother at the time was in the Philosophy PhD program at Northwestern, so I was intrigued by Philosophy. My freshman year advisor was the Philosophy chair, so I ended up taking a few classes with her and loved it. My studies focused mainly on race, gender, and sports. Generally though, we talked a lot about “living the good life” and our responsibility as individuals to the world around us. I hear over and over again, what are you going to do with a philosophy degree? The answer is truly anything. And I feel like I am getting the most out of that degree doing what I do now. I have to problem solve everyday and think outside the box as a coach and admissions officer.” 

 

Cetacean Nation thought that Jamie’s remarks on coaching also reflected some of the definition of grit we had mentioned earlier, specifically “perseverance and passion for long term goals” By example, when we asked Jamie about how her coaching career developed, this is what she told us. “ I really just think deep down I always knew I would coach, or at the very least work with young people. I am very much a people person. Both of my parents worked in professions in which they helped people (psychologist and school nurse). I love hockey, so naturally when I thought I was done playing, coaching seemed like the next logical step to still be a part of the game. Through all of my summers in high school and college, I worked hockey camps or worked with kids to some capacity. The real “foot in the door” to the boarding school world was a summer job in Wolfeboro, NH at a summer school called Wolfeboro: The Summer Boarding School. That is where I really figured out I also wanted to be in boarding schools.” Jamie continued “Additionally, I was really very lucky to have had the coaches I had throughout my time playing. I have been able to pull something from all of them and use it in my own coaching. The most influential was my high school coach, Bill Ward, who I now coach against as he is at the Hoosac School in New York. He has this unwavering ability to stick to his morals in addition to being an incredible motivator and skill development coach. Our teams were always close in large part due to his philosophy about respect and in his words “treating people BETTER than you expect to be treated.” That is a big one I have carried over to my kids. The staff at SLU is more of the same. Boomer (Ted Wisner), Wellsy (Chris Wells), and Mare (Mare And MacDougall Bari) have been together for at least a decade now. It is rare in the college game to have a coaching staff as close as they are. SLU hockey alum are all really bound by them, whether we played together or not. As their former players we are very much like their children, if they ever were to move on from SLU it’ll feel like mom and dad are getting a divorce or something. I now have Wellsy’s two oldest children at The Gunnery, it is awesome to be able to see them at this stage in their lives when I have known them for so long. It is also great to be able to see Wellsy what seems like every two weeks or so just being a dad. He was always relating his coaching back to being a parent. The two roles are very similar, as coaching is very much about figuring out how to get the best out of your kids..and every kid is different, so you have to approach every kid differently. That is something I really have taken away from the SLU crew.”  Jamie also added this fascinating “side track thought” as she put it. “ I gamed a little bit as a kid, so when the EA Sports NHL games added the GM mode I was obsessed with the logistics of that — planning practice lengths, figuring out how the team would travel, how to use resources, making trades, creating lines and power plays..that was all really fun to me.” Cetacean Nation wonders how many of the little Future Draft Picks standing in the autograph lines this season, might be on a similar path: Player/Coach/General Manager?The NWHL and the inspiration from players like Jamie have made their dreams into real possibilities.

 

Cetacean Nation also solicited Jamie’s opinions and thoughts on this year’s Whale squad we are following. She presented them this way “For the Whale, it is no secret and we understand that we are not perceived to have the depth as some other teams in the league do talent wise. But the old adage goes, talent doesn’t necessarily win games, especially at this level. The margin of talent at this level is so much closer together than any level I have played before. There is not a huge huge difference between the Olympians, and the players that just miss the cut for their respected national teams, and the players just below that. What the league has done is give women the opportunity to continue to develop beyond college. So that is why we are seeing players that had considerably average college careers, or players rising out of the Division III ranks, succeeding at the pro level. As a believer in development through hard work, the right priorities, and attitude, it is awesome to see. What I am getting at is team chemistry can make all the difference at this level. We understand that concept in our locker room. So we are really striving to connect on another level beyond the rink, and as a group we are committed to building trusting relationships with each other. It is important to do that now when it is still early so that when things do get hard, we can lean on each other and trust that we are all pulling the same rope for the same purpose. I have been a part of what feels like a million teams, and I really get the sense that this team is doing just that. Hockey is a game of peaks and valleys. The quicker we can get out of the valleys the better team we will be. When things get hard we will be able to turn it around more quickly. I think we saw that in our first games against Buffalo. I am excited to see what this team does and get the feeling we are going to surprise some teams this season. You can’t count us out, but we love being the underdogs.” You not only see a lot of Jamie’s grit in these words, but a little of her Philadelphia heritage in that last sentence!

 

Jamie wears several different hats in her work at The Gunnery, and unabashedly loves her jobs! We asked Jamie to tell us about that and how she came to be there in the first place. She said “ Like any other job I have gotten, I landed at The Gunnery in large part because of someone else opening a door for me. In this case, my coach from SLU, Chris Wells, is good friends with the AD here. He gave me the tip that the job was opening up and put me in touch with people here. As a quick side note, this is exactly why I tell my players that hockey is not a means to an end, it is a great avenue that opens up more opportunities beyond the game. I was a coach by trade prior to coming to The Gunnery. Previously I spent several seasons with a junior and 16u full season program out of New Hampshire. It was all hockey there. Kids moved to New Hampshire from all over the country, went online for school, and played a ton of hockey. All I did was coach. I loved my work there but needed something more. Coming to The Gunnery, I added admissions to my responsibilities. Really that is what takes up most of my time here. In addition to admissions, I coach from November-February, and I am also being a dorm parent. Working in a boarding school is amazing because your community is built into your job, and because of that I get to be my complete self in my work, which I love. It is also incredibly time consuming.” A busy and fulfilling career as a coach and school administrator, can leave you stretched pretty thin to find time to continue your own playing career. But a gritty personality, by our introductory definition, trades in focus and tenacity, so they find a way. Jamie related “ Playing on top of working at a boarding school is definitely a lot. When it came down to it, I knew I wasn’t ready to hang them up yet. I wanted to give playing another shot and was given the advice by Cassie Turner (Head Coach at Quinnipiac) to keep playing until I can’t anymore. That advice really hit home. I couldn’t be happier to be back in the locker room with this group. I also get to put myself back into my players’ shoes and as a young head coach I am learning a ton from Ryan (Equale) and Cyd (our #21) and even my teammates who also coach. It has just been an amazing opportunity to grow. Some of my Gunnery colleagues are in grad school while they work here, but I like to consider playing for the Whale my grad school.”

 

Cetacean Nation also chatted with Jamie about how she views the landscape of women’s sports moving forward. She replied with a very personal reference. “ It feels like the women’s sports market is just about on the brink of exploding. While we have made so much progress, when I put it in perspective, it really was not all that long ago that women didn’t have these sorts of opportunities. My mother is a perfect example. I think she really encouraged sports on me early on because 1. I was an incredibly active kid and needed the outlet and 2. Because she needed the outlet herself but her opportunities were suppressed. I think she carries that around to this day. She did play field hockey, tennis, basketball, and skiied..but her own mother was very discouraging of her being an active girl. And those were really the only sports that were acceptable for girls to play at that time. AND the rules were so incredibly different than they are now, simply because they were girls. Now my mom is a retired school nurse, and she spends a majority of her retired time in the gym. She’s a beast!”

 

Jamie concluded her remarks with these spot on observations and hopeful predictions. “But think about the job opportunities that would open up if we allowed women’s sports to really become a competitive market. At this level, Title IX no longer protects women to have the same athletic and educational opportunities as men. At this level, women’s sports is part of the capitalist world where money talks. Like I said before, it feels like we are on the brink of exploding on the scene. But there are still perceptions to break through in order for us to be considered a true market. I am excited to see how Buffalo does under the Pegula’s ownership..they are doing an incredible job of giving the Beauts visibility. Buffalo is already a girls’ hockey hot bed, but just watch the numbers take off there within the next 3-5 years. You heard that hot take here first.” Since Jamie made a couple of cinematic references in her narrative, Cetacean Nation will too. In the film(s) “True Grit” Maddie Ross was looking for help in her quest, from someone with true grit. She found Rooster Cogburn. Similarly, the Whale were  looking for someone with true grit in their quest. The Pod found Jamie Goldsmith. Point being, if you’re headed into a challenge, you want a gritty partner by your side, right in the middle of things. Like at center on your hockey team for example. Fins Up to our #12 Jamie Goldsmith, and the awesome content she has shared with us