By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports
Katie Zimmerman seems very excited to coach the first Western New England women’s ice hockey team, which is scheduled to play its first contest during the 2020-21 school year.
“Being able to start my own program at the college level is very, very special,” said Zimmerman, who arrives in Springfield after assisting the Amherst College women’s ice hockey team since the 2014-15 season.
“I have categorized it as a life experience (because) it is going to be both exciting and challenging, but also a full-circle feeling to build a program and help grow the game at the next level.”
Zimmerman was named the program’s initial coach earlier this month when the institution announced they would be adding a women’s ice hockey program.
A forward for the Hamilton College women’s ice hockey team, Zimmerman led the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) in goals scored during her junior and senior seasons, while also earning a pair of all-league selections.
In addition to assisting coach Jeff Matthews at Amherst, Zimmerman has prior coaching experience with USA Hockey and SUNY Cortland.
Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Zimmerman to discuss her excitement for starting the women’s ice hockey program at Western New England.
On getting a startup program started: The very first thing to do is to make sure people know about the program. So, what I have done is introduce or reintroduce myself to former colleagues and coaches at both the youth and high-school level, as well as camp directors and advisors to educate them about this new program. I have let people know that this is an exciting opportunity, not just for myself, but for so many people that are going to be able to support it, including the first-ever student-athletes that will have a chance to write the first chapter of the program’s history. Besides spreading the news, it is also time to begin building relationships with prospective student-athletes, too.
I am really excited about this opportunity. I believe in this program, and I am looking for recruits who are just as excited as I am.
On learning from prior startup women’s ice hockey programs: I do have contact with coaches that have started their own NCAA Division I and III programs, so it is very interesting to speak with them and learn how they got their programs started. There are so many interesting aspects of building an inaugural team.
On spreading the word of the new program to the entire country: The midwest and northeast are hockey hotbeds. Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Michigan are the three top states for girl’s hockey, so those are target areas, but I am casting a wide net for potential student-athletes that want to join our program. I have seen some impressive players come out of California, Colorado, and even Texas and Florida, so I am definitely spreading the news outside the northeast and making sure to focus on bringing in individuals that will set the tone for the program’s culture. I have been really lucky to chat with so many people that have provided me with ideas as to what I should do with recruiting, to the hockey x’s and o’s stuff as well, but it has been very helpful learning more about how my colleagues and coaching friends have started their respective programs.
On publicizing the news through social media: I recently launched a WNE women’s ice hockey Instagram account and plan to follow up with Twitter and Facebook soon. Social media is a primary mode of communication for so many people these days and I am excited to get some good content out there.
On falling in love with the sport of hockey: My love for hockey began in the driveway. I grew up on a street with many other young kids, and I would jump into street hockey games whenever I could. I loved ripping around the neighborhood on my roller blades that I had my seventh birthday party at an inline skating arena. I vividly remember going to the arena with my mom and seeing a roller hockey game being played, and I asked my mom if I could play. She signed me up on the spot. I was one of only two girls in the roller hockey league for three years before I transitioned to ice hockey at 10-years-old. I grew more and more serious about ice hockey as time went on, and my love for the sport only grew.
Some of my all-time best friends have been former teammates and many of my favorite moments revolve around hockey. And when I’m not coaching the sport, I’m a passionate follower of the National Hockey League (NHL) and a loyal Detroit Red Wings fan!
Some favorite memories of the game: I could write a book about my favorite memories. When I was a senior in high school I played for a team in Michigan called Victory Honda, and that year alone holds so many of my all-time favorite hockey memories. The best part of that year was that it felt like we were all best friends, both on and off the ice – I still keep in touch to this day) – which made every moment at the rink so much fun. I also had a blast playing in college, where every game-day felt like a holiday.
Zimmerman’s all-time favorite hockey player: Pavel Datsyuk, who used to play for the Detroit Red Wings. His nickname was “The Magician” because he could do unimaginably creative things with the puck. I thought he was the most entertaining player to watch and a really strong two-way player, too. To this day, I’ve never seen another player that plays the game like he did.
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