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Saying no to USAH: Q & A with University of Minnesota’s Cara Piazza

A three-time USA Hockey player on her experiences and the ongoing USWNT situation.

Gophers’ rising senior Cara Piazza during a game against Boston University.
Michelle Jay

Minnesota Gophers’ rising senior Cara Piazza is no stranger to the USA Hockey program. Years of camps and a few stints on U18 and U22 teams have her firmly in the player pool. In light of the recent boycott, The Ice Garden sat down with her to talk about her experience with USA Hockey and her take on the boycott as a current Division 1 player.

TIG: What’s your experience with the US National Team been?

CP: I’ve been involved with USA Hockey for a while now. All through high school I went to the national camps, which were just part of the USA Hockey development. Going into my sophomore year, I got invited to August camp to try out for the U18 national team. I was one of the younger players there, and I got cut from the team that year.

The next year, when I was at August camp, I made the U18 team. That [a three-game series against Canada] was the first time I played in a real game wearing USA Hockey gear. It was just so amazing. It was a really big goal of mine, so to be able to do that was really really cool.

I was lucky enough to be able to go to Worlds that year too. We got to go to Finland. It’s like the big goal for the all high school players is to be able to make the U18 team that goes to Worlds. We ended up losing in the championship in overtime to Canada. That was my first very big experience.

I made U22 team going into my sophomore year [of college] and again going into my junior year. That was my most recent experience. This past summer when I made it we got to go to Calgary to play Canada.

U22 has definitely been a really fun experience for me because I got to go with two of my really good friends. So I got to experience that with them, which is something just very special, to all have that goal and to have made that team.

TIG: What is the support like as a collegiate player in the USA Hockey camps?

CP: When you’re there, they really integrate you into what their motto is and what USA Hockey stands for. You are really involved with the older girls, the national team members. We got to know what they stood for. They have nutritionist there, strength and condition coaches. They really try to integrate you and tell you about what they’re all about.

TIG: In regards to the recent boycott, what has the communication with USA Hockey been?

CP: I haven’t heard much. They sent out an email very recently, very brief of just seeing who was interested if they had to field another team. They asked who was interested in maybe being in consideration of that team. They sent out that email because they know this boycott isn’t just, like, the women’s national team that's on the roster for Worlds. In all honesty, it’s every girl who plays hockey in the US, for the most part.

I know for me, Lee Stecklein [current Team USA player] is on my team, and we have a couple of other player who are on the national team and have big chance of making the Olympics. That’s where the most communication comes from. I know the boycott is their faces, but it’s more than just their team. For the most part, the communication comes from what I hear from Lee or other point players that are on the national team. I’ve only gotten one very brief email from USA Hockey.

TIG: I heard Meghan Duggan had been calling younger players. Did you receive a call?

CP: I did hear from Duggan. I think she called almost every player in the player pool. It’s super cool to hear from her and to know that we are all equals and we are all peers. Even though she’s the captain of the Olympic team, she’s gonna call me and make sure that I’m on the same page.

It was just really cool that she has it under control, and she’s going to make sure that people are hearing from the source. I really appreciated it.

Monique Lamoureux has been in contact with a lot of girls on my team, just keeping us in the loop. It’s really cool about the boycott because, yes they are boycotting, but at the end of the day they are doing this for future players. I’m younger than they are and there’s a lot of girls in high school who are going to feel this effect way more than they will. It’s going to only make it better for us.

TIG: Would I be correct in assuming you replied you wouldn’t play for USAH?

CP: The email I mentioned earlier that USAH sent out asking if I was interested, I responded that I was not interested.

At this point, if I said I was interested it would be something so selfish of me. I know at the end of the day I’m part of USA Hockey and this boycott is going to make it better for every girl playing hockey in the future. To be able to be part of that is so much better than like maybe making a Worlds team as a second-cut player that wouldn’t have made it in the first place.

To be able to wear the USA jersey on a national team, that is every girl’s dream and so to be able to turn that there has be a very good reason and I think the people that know the reason will say no.

TIG: Do you think your future in hockey will involve playing professionally for the Whitecaps or in the NWHL?

CP: I don’t know. I’ve thought about it. School is the most important thing to me and being able to play college hockey has been an unbelievable, amazing experience. The idea of only have one more season of hockey makes me so sad.

At the end of the day I’m going to have a career, and my career isn’t going to be hockey. That’s just a reality. As much as I do love hockey, I can’t make a living off it. I love my major and I definitely want to pursue it. If I took a couple of years off and didn’t pursue my major after I graduated I feel like that would hold me back.

They [the Olympics] are my senior year of college, and I most likely won’t make it. It’d be different if maybe the Olympics were a year or two after I graduated. Then maybe I would go out east to play professional, to keep training to see if maybe I had a chance. But the idea of not making the Olympics my senior year, I don’t want to train 3-4 years to maybe make the Olympics. For me, that doesn’t make sense.

I think the main thing is that I support them 100 percent. I think it’s very cool what they are doing. In the end of the day, what they are doing is for future generations. It’s not just for them. I think that’s why they have gotten such a big back from girls who are in similar situations like me, where we’re not going to make the USA national team but we are still in the player pool. For me, it’s so important to support them and back them because there’s no way this boycott will work if I don’t back them. So I want to do my part to help my teammates even though I’m not on the roster with them.