The Womenís Frozen Four will take place on March 20-22, and while Harvard wonít be among the teams competing for the national title, the Crimson did have one of the NCAAís best players this season in senior co-captain Jenny Brine. The 10th leading scorer in school history, Brine finished her career at Harvard with 77 goals and 144 points. A native of Truro, Nova Scotia who is also a member of HarvardĎs golf team, Brine is the sister of Florida Panthers prospect David Brine.
David Laurila: Youíre a multi-sport athlete. What differentiates hockey from the others?
Jenny Brine: I guess that what I like about hockey is that it is so fast-paced. The difference between it, and say golf, for instance, is that youíre making decisions, split-second decisions, when it comes right down to it. I think thatís one of the most exciting parts of the game.
DL: What differentiates hockey culture from other sports?
JB: The culture of hockey? Yeah, definitely. It becomes a lifestyle, especially here at the University, where youíre constantly eating, sleeping, and breathing the sport. It becomes a part of who you are, for sure.
DL: How does womenís hockey differ from the menís game?
JB: On the ice, I think one of the biggest differences that an audience would see is the physical play. In menís hockey there is obviously body checking, where in womenís ice hockey it technically isnít allowed. But, depending on who the referees are, a little more will be let go, but Iíd say thatís the biggest difference.
DL: Is that a good thing, or might it be a better game if more checking were allowed?
JB: I understand both arguments to it, but IĎm a proponent of no checking. I think it adds a bit more to our sport, and it differentiates it from the menĎs side. It allows players to show off their skills in other areas, like skating and stick handling. I think thatís one of the main reasons weíre able to attract our audience, because weíre different from the men in that sense.
DL: What are some of the most common misconceptions about womenís hockey?
JB: I donít think a lot of people give the sport a big enough chance. I feel like they see it as being lesser than menís ice hockey, but I see it as us providing something different. Like I said earlier, the speed, the stick handling, the systems; they vary from menís hockey where there is a lot of body contact. In some games there can be a lot of fighting, and I think weíre a different game than the men play. I donít think a lot of people realize that.
DL: Unlike men, women arenít playing for an opportunity to advance to a high-profile level like the NHL. Do you think that impacts the mindset and style of play?
JB: Yeah, Iíd say that it definitely does. Coming from a big hockey family, growing up sometimes it was more exciting to watch college hockey as opposed to minor league professional hockey because college players are playing for their school. Thereís maybe more dedication, when it comes down to it, because theyíre not playing for money; theyíre there truly for the love of the game. I feel thatís what you see in womenís hockey, weíre playing purely for the love of the game. There are no aspirations of becoming a professional and making millions of dollars in salary each year.v
DL: How similar are you and your brother on the ice?
JB: Pretty similar, actually. Weíve had a lot of comments on our styles; weíre very much kind of gritty players. We like to go hard to the net, we have similar skating styles, and we think about the game in similar ways. I guess thatís probably because of our upbringing. Our father coached both of us for many years, so we have kind of the same philosophy when it comes to the game.
DL: Youíve been quoted as saying that growing up in a hockey family helped you with the strategic part of the game. Just how strategic is hockey?
JB: Itís very strategic. A lot of times it comes down to -- letís put it this way, a lot of players possess the same skill set. Youíre all pretty much the same speed and your shots, for the most part, have the same accuracy and strength behind them. What really distinguishes players, especially in my mind, is how well you think the game. If your coaches are giving you systems, whether it be forechecking, or D-zone, the players that can transition what theyĎre taught in practice to a game -- I think that makes all the difference.
DL: Do you think hockey is more of a cerebral sport than it is an emotional sport?
JB: Thatís an interesting question and I think itís a combination of both. Emotions do run high in games and that can definitely play a role -- which players have the most emotional control, I guess.
DL: In which ways are hockey and soccer similar?
JB: Theyíre similar in the sense that they are very fast-paced. Fitness-wise they are two of the most demanding sports Iíve ever played. Of course, there are similarities in that youíre trying to score in the open field with your teammates; itís a real team sport. Strategically, a lot of the offensive techniques are similar, like give-and-goes. Defensively, youíre picking up players in your zone.
DL: Youíve played on the Harvard Womenís Golf Team. How bio-mechanically similar are a slap shot and swinging a golf club?
JB: Not as similar as a lot of people might think. Thereís actually a tendency of ice hockey players and baseball players, when they transition into the sport of golf, to bring characteristics with them. You can see their other sport in their golf swing, and that isnít always the best thing, but it kind of works because some of it is the same. Youíre getting your hips through in a slap shot and a golf swing; there is a lot of the same rotational movement. So some stuff does carry over.
DL: The popularity of hockey in the United States isnít as widespread as it could be. What needs to be done in order for that to change?
JB: Following a sport like golf, one of the key things is when you have players that you can relate to. Thatís something the menís side is starting to do more with their promotions of Ovechkin and Crosby so that people can have more of a connection with the players that theyíre watching. Thatís something that golf has been pushing for, with someone like Tiger Woods. I think that helps to bring in a bigger audience.
DL: Can you talk a little about the demands of being a student athlete at Harvard?
JB: There are a lot of time constraints. A typical day is classes all morning, then Iím rushing to the rink to practice. At this point of the season [late February], there is a lot of traveling. Weíre playing three games this week, and you miss a lot of classes when youíre traveling for weekend games and leaving on a Thursday. The players definitely need to be committed, because there are high standards here at Harvard for the grades you have to get in order to be able to compete with your team. Thatís always in your mind, so itís not purely hockey like my brother gets to do playing professionally. We have a rule on this team where thereís a bridge we have to cross to bring us to the athletic facilities, and once you cross that bridge itĎs all about how you can make the team better, and how you can make yourself better. It becomes hockey time. Once practice is over, and you cross back over the bridge, you can start thinking about your academics again. That separation is really key, when it comes down to it, because every player here has enough on their plate that it can be overwhelming at times. Finding that separation allows you to perform.
DL: Hockey fans are extremely passionate. Do you think they take the game maybe a little too seriously?
JB: No. I think itís a great pastime from a fan perspective, being able to follow a team and really commit to their success and follow the playersí stories. In the NHL, theyíre training day and night, in the summertime and wintertime, which I see my brother going through. I can really appreciate what theyíre doing, and how they really get into their sport.
DL: Who would you like to see win the Stanley Cup this year, and who do you think will win it?
JB: Well, Iím obviously partial to the Florida Panthers, but I was actually born and raised a Boston Bruins fan. Those are the two teams Iíll be supporting. As for who is going to win the Stanley Cup, I think Iíd have to say the Bruins. Theyíve really turned around their season from last year and I think theyíre going to stir things up in the playoffs.