by Bray Ketchum, New York Riveters
Like most college athletes, playing in my last home game might have been one of the hardest days of my career. I did not want to get off the ice. I did not want to take my gear off. I did not want to leave my team. And I definitely did not want to give my locker away to an incoming freshman.
February 19, 2011 would be my last game in a Yale uniform. Although we have had a few alumni games since, nothing compares to the high you experience while playing in front of family, friends, and strangers on game day at home.
This Saturday, I will be fortunate enough to get that feeling back when my team—the New York Riveters— takes on the Connecticut Whale at Ingalls Rink.
Playing in the NWHL this season has been an incredible experience. I have played in front of sold out crowds, traveled to Japan for three exhibition games, and played in Gillette stadium in the first ever Outdoor Women's Classic, just to name a few!
Now I get to travel to my alma mater and play against the Connecticut Whale (whose roster includes two Yale graduates and the current Yale Women’s Hockey Assistant Coach) all while honoring my former teammate and friend, Mandi Schwartz. Does it get any better?
Mandi and I played together for almost two seasons. I loved playing with her because you knew she was always going to work hard, she had a great sense for the game, and she was a goal scorer. Mandi had it all. She was the most genuine and humble person on the team.
My favorite story about Mandi was during the fall of my sophomore year when we had just finished our run test. Our strength coach informed us that Mandi was the ONLY person on the team that had passed. We were not surprised.
It was in December of 2008 when Mandi was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Almost right away, we knew Mandi would need a bone marrow transplant to save her life. Our team partnered with a few other Yale athletic teams and Be the Match, and started what is now the annual Mandi Schwartz Bone Marrow Drive. To this day, the drive has added 5,299 people to the registry and 29 patients have found a match.
Mandi lost her battle with cancer in April 2011. Her life and legacy lives on and will forever be a part of who I am. Mandi was an inspiration to many and the reason I am wearing #17 this season.
Please come support the New York Riveters and Connecticut Whale this Saturday at Ingalls Rink as we celebrate Mandi’s love for life and hockey. If you cannot make it, you can read more about the Mandi Schwartz Foundation and Be the Match on their websites.
See you at Ingalls on Saturday!