Ex-UMaine goalie pursuing love of game in Canadian league

Posted Oct. 22, 2010, at 5:08 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 22, 2010, at 8:59 p.m.

Mandy Cronin of York was a four-year goaltender for the University of Maine women’s hockey team before graduating in 2002. She was also a captain for the last two seasons.

She recently turned 30 years old and her passion for hockey has never died.

Cronin has compiled an impressive resume both as a player and as a goaltending instructor.

She is the director of goaltender development at the M-Power (hockey school) in Toronto and was the goalie coach for the U.S. Under-18, Under-22 and Over-22 Select women’s teams at the U.S. Women’s National Festival in Lake Placid, N.Y., last August.

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But she isn’t ready to put away the pads, glove and blocker as she will be one of the goalies for the new Canadian Women’s Hockey League franchise in Boston this season.

She played for the Brampton Thunder of the CWHL from 2006-2010 after playing for Durham and Toronto in the now-defunct National Women’s Hockey League.

The CWHL boasts most of the U.S. and Canadian Olympic Team players.

Cronin played an important role in the evolution of the CWHL after the NWHL folded. She was asked to play in a ball hockey tournament with a group of men from Birch Hill Equity and she not only helped lead them to the championship, she spread the word about women’s hockey and the unfortunate circumstances that had befallen it. She inspired Michael Salamon and Birch Hill Equity to invest in the league to get it going. They also provided the women with a business model for sustainability. The league began play in 2007.

Cronin is currently fundraising in order to ensure she can play for the Blades.

“Right now, we’re not getting paid. So I need a sponsor or a very flexible employer,” said Cronin, who continues with her duties at M-Power Hockey but would like to relocate to the Boston area until the end of the season to eliminate the occasional 10-hour drives (one way) from Toronto for practices and games in Boston. Her M-Power staff would handle her duties until she returns.

She said the league is in talks with the NHL in the hopes that the NHL will sponsor the league next season.

“They’ve been meeting with them since last January. I’m very excited about it,” said Cronin, who has been staying with her parents (Jim and Rose) in York when she has been in New England working out with Boston.

“My parents have been great. They’ve helped me with gas money,” said Cronin.

There are five teams in the league: Montreal, Boston and Ontario franchises in Toronto, Brampton and Burlington.

The Blades will play a 26-game regular-season schedule beginning Oct. 30-31 when they host Burlington at the Bright Hockey Center at Harvard University and the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire, respectively. Those two rinks are where they will play most of their games. They will also play a game apiece at Providence College’s Schneider Arena, the Spurrier-Snyder Rink at Wesleyan University (Conn.) and at the Kennedy Memorial Skating Rink in Hyannis, Mass. A playoff season will follow.

The league had a recent draft and Cronin had the option of returning to Brampton, which is a suburb of Toronto, but she explained that she would have been just a third-string goalie on call-up status.

“But Boston wants me to be their starter,” she said.

She admitted that she thought about retiring, but it was a very brief thought.

“I love (to play). I’m at the top of my game,” said Cronin. “Things happen for a reason. Boston reached out to me. I wasn’t meant to be done yet.”

She said everything didn’t pan out until last month, so she hasn’t had much time to find a sponsor or a job in the Boston area.

“I just wish I had known in July or August so I could have been working on it,” said Cronin. “It’s just the way the draft was set up. Boston wasn’t able to contact me.”

Her goaltending partner will be former Boston University standout Melissa Haber, who graduated last spring.

Among her other teammates will be four-time U.S. Olympian Angela Ruggiero, three-time Olympian Caitlin Cahow, who has a summer home in Vinalhaven, and 2010 U.S. Olympians Erika Lawler and Kacey Bellamy, sister of former University of Maine winger Rob Bellamy.

She said her goaltending style is “completely different” than it was at Maine.

“I’ve adopted the modern style of goaltending: butterfly and slide,” she explained.

She takes pride in being one of the few females running a year-round hockey school and said being able to observe and work with U.S. Olympic team goalies Molly Schaus, Jessie Vetter and Brianne McLaughlin was a joy.

“I had them at the Festival. It was a huge honor,” Cronin said.

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