AAP staff report
HARTFORD, CT. (March 10, 2012) — Three-time U.S. Olympic women’s hockey medalist and all-time NCAA women’s leading scorer Julie Chu, is now enshrined in the Connecticut Hall of Fame.
The honor came last Saturday with six other male players during a Hartford Whalers hockey game at the Sports & Entertainment complex, which houses the Hall of Fame. Chu is the first female to receive the honor with six men who played or worked in professional hockey.
“It is a surprise to be honored in that way by Connecticut Hall of Fame,” Chu said. “I did a double-take when I learned I was to receive the honor. For me it is hard to voice how I feel because hockey has given me so much.”
Chu was honored with National Hockey League Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, ex-Hartford Whalers players Blaine Stoughton, Mike Liut, Pat Verbeek, and current head coach Ken Gernander, and team founder William E. Barnes.
“It’s a big deal to me to be honored with the other recipients,” Chu said. “Brian Leach is my her and was my idle while growing up.”
Playing and coaching on teams wherever hockey is played around the country, Chu has lived in New York, Massachusetts and Minnesota. She said Connecticut is her roots and her family and is never far from her heart.
“Connecticut will always be home and it is a big part of my life in how I was brought up,” she said.
Born in Bridgeport and raised in Fairfield by parents Wah and Miriam Chu, she has an older brother and sister, Richard and Kristina. Julie was schooled at the prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall, where she was MVP in the 1999 New England Prep School Hockey Championship.
At Harvard, she was co-captain of the 2006 Women’s Hockey team and named the 2007 Patty Kazmaier Award winner in 2007 — college hockey’s highest honor for women. She made the U.S. National team since in consecutive seasons and competed in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics for Team USA.
After college Chu was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, when the team won an NCAA championship in the 2007-08 season. She is currently in her second season as an assistant coach with the Union College Women’s Hockey Team in Schenectady, NY, while also currently a member of the U.S. National Team, and seeking her fourth Winter Olympics appearance.
Next up for the National Team is the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in Burlington from April 7-14. This tournament and the Four Nations Cup are opportunities to evaluate performance and tune up against great teams.
“We have a great leadership core of five veterans and everyone plays a role,” she said. “A couple of people have the letter on their jersey but I believe the strength is with all five leaders.”
Chu said it was special to be honored with Leetch, who she idolized as a child. He was a professional hockey player raised in Cheshire, Conn., and was elected to the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. During his 18-year NHL career he became the first American-born player to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy playoff MVP in his 1994 Stanley Cup season with the New York Rangers.
Chu turned 30 on March 13, but shows no sign of wear in the competitive sport of hockey. She said the pool of women’s hockey talent improves with each year, and that is a good thing for the sport.
“I have to keep working really hard to stay on top and develop as a player with strength and conditioning and doing the right things to recover,” she said.
At age 18 she said an athlete’s workout can be punishing without much thought to warm-ups and cool-downs. Now, she said the preparation and recovery is as much a part of the process as the training.
“Before every practice I get a good warm up and take to the ice ready to go,” she said.
Once she is off the rink Chu said the process includes cold bathes, compression techniques, massages and plenty of stretching. The recovery methods ensure her body will be ready to go the next day.
Chu graduated from Harvard with a degree in psychology and women’s studies. Yet, her life has been all about hockey for the most part.
As a student she recalls the choices were simpler. She attended classes and arranged deferments to work around school to play hockey in the Olympic years.
“After graduation I was trying to find a balance and to make a living while continuing to train and push myself,” she said.
Now as a coach she said just getting ice-time is difficult. She juggles schedules to fit open-rink hours to keep in shape for her Sunday professional games with the Montreal Stars professional team. She once played for the Minnesota Whitecaps as well.
“For me every year is a reevaluation,” Chu said. “This April, I may have to make adjustments (to make the 2014 Olympic team) and step away from coaching and just concentrate on training.”
It was while in training with Team USA that ESPN Sports Channel approached the women’s players to recruit models for its athletic photo series. Chu accepted the offer and posed tastefully undressed to showcase the tone and slender, muscular build with several other professional athletes.
“To be honest I had only positive reactions when I made decision,” she said.
Having seen past issues, Chu said she understood that it was about sexuality and all the things that people might associate with it.
“It portrays power, strength and beauty,” she said. “There are different types if bodies and I was honored to be part of something that shows there is not one type of body that is beautiful.”
Her own parents said it was a powerful photo and that was all Chu needed to be sure of her decision.
Everything is going well right now, Chu said. The tournaments are close by her home, the summer hockey camp is lining up well, but she said changes happen and she must keep herself flexible
“Right now I am coaching, training and playing, seven days a week and a lot of hours,” she said. “I enjoy and love what I do, and I am fortunate in that. A lot of people dread going to work and for the most part I love every day.”