By Bob York
Jamie Haddad has been playing hockey nearly her whole life. She learned to skate when she was 2 and played on her first team when she was 3. And she gives her older brother, Joe, a lot of the credit for her early introduction to the game.
“I always tagged along with him and his friends,” said Haddad, whose treks with big brother would often find her following in his footsteps – literally – through the snow banks that lay between their home in Wilbraham, Mass., and the nearest frozen pond. “I’m sure he hated me,” added Haddad, who admitted to doing her best to blend in. The key being: “When you’re a 3-year-old girl and you’re playing hockey with a bunch of 6-year-old boys, you play the way 6-year-old boys play.”
After all, the last thing Haddad wanted to hear from her brother or any of his buddies during those formative years was “you play like a girl!” So, that meant playing rough and tough and giving as good as you got. And if you didn’t, there was just one thing for a 3-year-old girl to remember: There’s no crying in hockey.
There are certain times, however, when it’s OK to shed a few tears of joy. And there may have been some streaming down Haddad’s face earlier this month when she and her Assabet Valley teammates captured the 19-and-under Tier 1 National Championship.
“It’s been a fantastic experience to play both with and against some of the best hockey players in your age bracket throughout the country,” said Haddad. And the Deerfield Academy senior has been putting that experience to good use for the Big Green, as she has led the team in scoring during each of the past four years. It should also afford her a head start on a collegiate career, as Haddad will be taking her uncanny ability to light the lamp to Yale University next year.
“Jamie’s one of the most talented hockey players I’ve ever been associated with,” exclaimed Big Green hockey coach Genevieve Triganne, “and playing at the elite level as she has for Assabet Valley for the past six years has definitely helped her become a very polished player.
“She can handle a puck like very few players are able to,” added Triganne. “Once she gets the puck on her stick, it’s like she glued it on there … she has total command of it until she decides to either shoot or pass. And when she shoots on goal, she’s able to put the puck in the upper corners of the goal with regularity and that’s difficult to do for many players. ”
The Deerfield mentor also praised Haddad for contributions to the team other than those that ended up on the stat sheets.
“In addition to her athleticism, Jamie has proven to be an outstanding leader in this program,” added Triganne. “She wasn’t the rah-rah type … she led by example, and that included an outstanding work ethic.
“During her four years here at Deerfield, she was playing for Assabet Valley as well. And what that meant was that she played two games and skated in four practices for us every week of the season … Monday through Saturday. Then, on Sunday, her one day off a week, her parents would pick her up and drive her to just about anywhere in New England for a practice at noon, then an early afternoon game with Assabet.”
“And no matter where we’d end up, I’d always make it back here to Deerfield on Sunday evening in time for supper and study hall,” quipped Haddad.
“Just qualifying for the Nationals is a big deal,” explained Haddad, who finished her storied career at Deerfield at the 100-point plateau. After tallying a team-high 38 points in just 25 games this winter on 28 goals and 10 assists, she closed out her four-year score sheet right on the century mark thanks to 67 goals and 33 assists. “To make the Nationals, you not only have to be considered the best team in your age bracket, but the best team from your state or region as well.”
Going up against the best of the best “is something really special,” said Haddad. And as far as winning it all is concerned, “it’s just an awesome feeling … it’s something you and your teammates can really be proud of accomplishing.”
And Haddad knows of what she speaks. She has not only become a familiar face at these National showcases, with Assabet having qualified in her age bracket five times in the past six years, but she’s no stranger on the medals podium, either. During those five trips to the tourney, Assabet has never returned to it its home base in Concord, Mass., empty-handed. This marks Haddad’s third National championship, having also won in 2008 and 2009 in the 14-and-under age group. She also earned a silver medal in 2007 in the 12-and-under bracket, and a bronze in 2010 in 16-and-under competition.
This winter’s showcase, which was held in nearby Marlborough, Mass., “and allowed my brother Joe to watch me play in the Nationals for the first time,” according to Haddad, saw Assabet capture the gold medal following a perfect 6-0 tourney record. A three-game round robin affair opened the tourney, followed by the medals round, which Assabet capped off by defeating the Chicago Mission, 3-2, in the finals.
“Not to take anything away from our win in the finals, but our semifinal win in overtime over Shattuck-St. Mary’s meant an awful lot to us, too,” said Haddad of a 2-1 victory. “They were the defending National champions, plus the two hockey programs are huge rivals and whenever we meet, there’s always a lot at stake.”
Assabet bested Little Caesar’s in the quarterfinal round, while it defeated the Washington Pride, 5-2, the Connecticut Polar Bears, 3-0, and Honeybaked, 2-1, in round-robin action.
Although ice hockey is far-and-away Haddad’s first love, she will depart Deerfield later this spring having participated in five varsity sports. She played both ice hockey and field hockey for four years, while her springs were a bit more hit-or-miss, doing crew her freshman year, lacrosse as a sophomore and softball as a junior and senior.
And Haddad has become someone you might want to avoid if she happens to have either a stick or a bat in her hands. In addition to her exploits in ice hockey, she hasn’t been too shabby in field hockey or softball, either. She led Big Green field hockey in scoring last fall with 14 points on nine goals and five assists and finished her career with 64 points on 36 goals and 28 assists. In softball, she lugged a .295 batting average to the plate last spring.