Simard hoping for spot on Swiss National Team

Posted Jan. 22, 2009, at 9:55 p.m.

University of Maine assistant women’s ice hockey coach Sara Simard will try out for the Swiss National Team in July.

“My mother’s father was Swiss,” explained Simard, a native of Gatineau, Quebec. “And when my brother, Charles, wanted to play pro hockey in Switzerland, he needed to get a Swiss passport because you could have only four imports on each team. If you didn’t have a passport, you had to live there for six years to avoid being considered an import.

“So my mother got passports for all of us,” said Simard.

Simard said she has “always thought about trying out” for the Swiss team but never acted on it until she ran into one of the Swiss coaches on a recent recruiting trip to Germany.

“He convinced me to try out. I’m excited about it. I’ve received a lot of support from my family and everybody at Maine,” said Simard. “I’ve got nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is I find out I’m not good enough.”

The interesting twist is that Simard will have to change her training regimen.

Within the last year, she has lost 85 pounds in preparation for a triathlon.

And she readily admits if she hadn’t lost the weight, she never would have considered this opportunity.

But the workouts she will endure for her tryout will be far different than her triathlon sessions.

“I’m in good condition but I’m not in hockey shape,” said Simard. “The huge difference is I’ve got to focus on my explosiveness, which doesn’t exist right now, and my strength. I had been training for long distances.”

She will begin her workouts on Monday under the supervision of Maine strength and conditioning coach Terry O’Neill.

“He has told me he can get me into hockey shape in five months and I believe him,” said Simard. “My goal is to be the best conditioned athlete [at the tryout] when I get there.

“When I played, I wasn’t as disciplined as I am now and I didn’t know as much as I know now. I’m in a better spot than when I played,” said Simard.

Simard hasn’t played hockey since 2004 when she spent a couple of months playing in Switzerland after a four-year career at St. Lawrence University (N.Y.).

She left Switzerland to accept an assistant coaching position at the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt., for girls in grades 9-12.

The team went 42-10-10 that season.

She then went on to become the volunteer assistant coach at perennial power Mercyhurst College (Pa.) from 2005-2007.

She is in her second season at Maine.

During her four-year career at St. Lawrence, left winger Simard helped lead the Saints to two Frozen Four appearances. She had 17 goals and 46 assists in 135 career games.

One of her teammates, Emilie Berlinguette, currently plays for the Swiss national team.

Simard, who will turn 29 next week, said if she made the team, she wouldn’t be able to play in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver “because you have to be registered [on the Swiss national team] for two years.

“But if I make it, they may bring me even if I can’t play. I would be eligible to play in the World Championships beginning in 2011 and in the 2014 Winter Olympics,” said Simard.

“To represent a country at an international event is a pretty good honor,” said Simard who added that her quest won’t interfere with her coaching and recruiting at Maine.

“It’s a great opportunity for her,” said Maine head women’s hockey coach Dan Lichterman. “She’ll work hard and make us proud. She’s very determined.”

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