On Sunday Sunday October 18th back in season one, the 1-0 Connecticut Whale traveled to Buffalo to take on the Beauts in the franchises’ first road game. Our OW’s (Original Whales) came away with a victory. The game winning goal was scored by our #5 Kate Buesser, now Dr Katherine Buesser. And with a stellar 30 save effort, the win in goal was secured by our #78 Chelsea Laden, soon to be Dr Chelsea Laden as well. It was Chelsea’s first win, and the team's first road victory, facts that are not just part of the NWHL and Whale statistics, but history as well. Chelsea’s next game action as it would turn out would be while still wearing #78, but as a member of the Metropolitan Riveters. Chelsea ended her NWHL career at the conclusion of season one to pursue he vision of her off ice career: Optometry.
We recently caught up with a Chelsea to discuss her two careers and what connections there may be between them. Chelsea explainedit this way: “As a goalie, being able to play at the highest level possible entails training beyond the ice and weight room. While playing in college, my dad signed me up for “Sports Vision Therapy” which was novice to me at the time. Although studying pre-medical sciences in undergrad, the whole visual system was still very hard for me to understand, but also incredibly fascinating to me. Once I was finished with my professional career as a goalie I was hired for a part time position at the vision therapy clinic. I remember just falling in love with it and ended up working for an amazing eye doctor shortly after.”
Chelsea continued “It was just months after that I took my OAT and started my optometry journey at the most established optometry school in the country, Illinois College of Optometry. It was so evident that this is the field I should be in. It was one of those moments where you just kind of know you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. I love how my professional hockey world overlaps so much with my medical professional career. I couldn’t be happier!” ICO also featured Chelsea’s story in an interesting video series you can view here:http://www.ico.edu/our-students/a-day-in-the-life-2/
Chelsea hails from Lakeville, Minnesota, located about twenty five miles south of Minneapolis. It seems hockey is in the DNA of little Future Draft Picks in the State of Hockey, and Chelsea was no exception. Cetacean Nation asked Chelsea to tell us about how she formally got started in the sport. Chelsea explained “I started off on skates at a very young age. I always thought the idea of skating was so thrilling and refreshing. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that really encouraged me to get involved in sports, so I ended up trying a lot of them (soccer, gymnastics, softball). My father coached me in both hockey and softball and in order to coach both me and my older sister, I was always pushed to try to make the “older team”. Trying to keep up with my sister and that level of competition was a challenge, but I think that type of environment really set me up for success. I was fortunate enough to make the high school varsity team in hockey as a seventh grader and softball varsity as an 8th grader.”
As a youngster. Chelsea started off skating as a forward, and averaging a goal a game, but soon made the switch to goaltender. Chelsea recollected “Being a forward wasn’t a big part of my hockey career, but it definitely helped me developmentally when it came to the “skating component” of being a goalie. Although I was both a skater and a forward at first, my heart was immediately invested in being a goalie. It just felt right to me. I think one thing that helped facilitate that transition, was the fact that my father was a college goalie and he helped coach me.” At Lakeville South High School, Chelsea was a multiple time All State & All Conference performer. She was honored with numerous awards from MVP’s to Homecoming Queen, including the Athena Award. In the Minneapolis area, the Athena award goes to the top senior girl student athlete at her respective school. The criteria includes athletic and academic achievement in addition to school and community involvement. In retrospect, Cetacean Nation sees that as prophetic. In Greek mythology, Pallas Athena, known primarily as the goddess of war, seems to have had many different responsibilities, including a role as goddess of health. Although she was usually represented as a woman of great beauty carrying a lance, helmet, and shield, her healing powers were commemorated in a statue in Athens called “Athena Paeconia” or Athena the Healer. A pretty appropriate foreshadowing for the career of a combative athlete and a physician.
Chelsea shared that “All the memories I have at Lakeville South are so great. I was truly fortunate to be living in a city and attending a school that gave me so much opportunity and where the coaches believed in me in such a young age. I can’t say if I played anywhere else that my story would be the same.” (You can check out some video of Chelsea in action here: https://youtu.be/vIk7dY_BrVk) And it is a remarkable story that is still being written. After a record setting career on the ice at Quinnipiac University (nice video here https://q30tv.com/sports/q30-sports-chats-with-chelsea-laden/), Chelsea continued to set marks and be a part of the earliest history of the Whale as noted. In addition, she was involved in the first ever trade in NWHL history, joining the Riveters after nine games in season one, in exchange for our Once and Future Whale #31 Shenae Lundberg. Cetacean Nation offers a Fins Up to our OW #78 Chelsea Laden, for her career on the ice, her part in Whale & NWHL history, and her chosen career in medicine. And we know that under that long white jacket of Dr Chelsea Laden, there will always be a hockey sweater. And some days it will be ours, because once a Whale, always a Whale!