We’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go. — Bruce Springsteen “Born To Run”
Hockey. Hawaii. Punahou. Usually, those three words don’t have a lot in common.
But they all blend together nicely for Linda Desruisseaux, who moved to the Aloha State at 14, graduated from the famed high school, and learned to play ice hockey at the Ice Palace.
And then, she made it happen. Her dream. It came true. She wanted badly to play Division I college hockey and wound up doing so as a walk-on at Northeastern University in Boston.
Things there were not all rosy in that realm, and her hockey biography does not end with her scoring the winning goal in a championship game.
Aye, there’s the rub — to steal a line from Billy Bob Shakespeare. Linda’s hockey biography hasn’t ended at all. And that winning goal thing? Was never going to happen in all probability, anyway, since she’s a stay-at-home defenseman.
No, Linda Desruisseaux is STILL playing hockey. And still YOUNG at age 37 and having a blast taking trips with her San Francisco area teammates to compete in competitive tournaments.
Linda Desruisseaux accepted a player of the game award during a recent tournament. (Photos courtesy of Linda Desruisseaux).
And, get this!!! She LOVES hockey more now than ever.
Grinding through a college hockey career was no easy chore, but it had plenty of rewards, Desruisseaux said during a cell phone interview with Bedrock Sports Hawaii last week. She is mighty proud to have done it and super honored to say that she is a Northeastern University, Division I college hockey alumna.
That particular distinction of being a former Northeastern hockey player was ridiculously pertinent last Thursday, the actual day of the phone interview. For a reporter, this type of stuff is called GOOD TIMING!!!!!
Linda Desruisseaux skated with the puck during a pond hockey tournament.
Here is Desruisseaux’s text just a bit earlier that day: “Hi Nick, It’s Linda. Northeastern, my alma mater, is actually in overtime right now in the semis of the (women’s) Frozen Four. They’re ranked No. 1. So as soon as they hopefully win, I’ll be free for the interview!”
And just as I got close to logging into the ESPN streaming app to see the end of the game, she wrote: “They just won with 26 seconds left in the first overtime. This is their first Frozen Four and their first go at a national title.”
Linda Desruisseaux is the only Ice Palace youth player to make it as far as Division I college hockey.
Yup, proud. And rightfully so.
Two days later, however, the Huskies lost in the title game to Wisconsin, 2-1 in overtime.
Linda grew up in South Jersey, where she became a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan.
She was a figure skater from ages 4 to 10 and then switched to hockey.
“I never liked it (figure skating),” she said. “I started playing ‘D’ because I could skate backwards from figure skating, though.”
After working her way up to play a few seasons for a youth travel team, Desruisseaux’s family — father George and mother Ellen — told her they were moving to Hawaii.
“After my freshman year in high school, I thought my life was ending,” she said. “How was I going to play hockey in Hawaii?”
For the most part, it turned out that the move wasn’t bad at all.
“It was great,” she added. “I got to live with my grandmother and live with my mom’s side of the family. But I became a rebel and lost a little bit of that (hockey) drive.”
Enter the Ice Palace and coach Ken Perel.
“Coach Ken worked so hard for us,” Linda said. “He would hand pick a group of adult players to play against us (the top juniors). He picked guys who were going to make us better and develop. I would not have stayed in hockey if Ken was not running that program.
“It was definitely awesome playing in Hawaii. I was the only girl at that time. We took those games with the adults seriously. We dressed up in ties and shirts to come to the rink. It was a lot of fun.”
After three years at Punahou and the Ice Palace, Desruisseaux went to a post-graduate year at the highly acclaimed Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where she continued to hone her skills. At that time, she also would fly to many places for tournaments with the Lady Ducks, a high-caliber youth travel team based in Anaheim, Calif.
The dream of playing college hockey remained strong, but only one team — Providence College — offered her a scholarship.
But instead of going to play for the Friars, Linda opted to walk on at Northeastern, where the academic part fit better for her plans of becoming a nurse.
And the aforementioned “not so rosy” part of her hockey pursuit kicked in almost right away.
A Northeastern assistant told Desruisseaux not to bother to try out because she wasn’t going to make the team.
Author’s note: Boo, boo, hiss, hiss.
“I trained really hard that summer as the only walk-on,” she said. “I was at the top in off-ice training and conditioning. All of the girls on scholarship, as expected, made the team. They told me that even though there was really no room, that I would be on the team because of how I performed. It was super stressful the night I made it because they put placards above your locker with your name on it if you made it. There was no placard for me, so I didn’t know I made it at first, but then they told me they were going to have one made.”
Instead of staying at ‘D,’ the Huskies staff moved Desruisseaux to fourth-line center, a spot she had never played before.
Going from Hawaii to Northeastern was not easy, but Linda Desruisseaux will always be proud to have been a part of the Huskies.
“I am not an offensive defenseman,” Linda said. “To this day, I might rush the puck once a game.”
Desruisseaux’s first shift in college hockey was a memorable one, but only because it was against some elite talent.
“Coach told me to go,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Go where? I’ve been sitting here on the bench for two hours. I might pull a muscle.’ Then coach said, ‘On the ice.’ It was a face-off against Harvard’s Jennifer Botterill (the first player to twice win the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in women’s college hockey and a future Olympian for Canada) and Angela Ruggiero (another Kazmaiaer award winner and Olympian for the U.S.) was also out there on defense. I was like, ‘This is a joke. Can I get off the ice now.’ We were losing 9-1. And I lost the face-off.”
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During her sophomore year, the naysayers were still chirping.
“I wasn’t seeing playing time so I went into the coach’s office to find out why,” Desruisseaux said. “(A coach) said that I wasn’t from a place where hockey thrives and that’s why I wasn’t playing: ‘This person X is from Massachusetts and this person is from Minnesota. They have more experience than you.’ I was looking for a more tangible reason like, ‘You’re not playing well’ or ‘You’re not strong enough.’ So being from Hawaii ended up being a disadvantage.”
Instead of the option of not dressing for games during her senior year, Desruissseaux quit.
“I never regretted that decision,” she said. “I did real well in school, made the Dean’s list and was able to focus on my career and I ended up getting a great job.”
Another college highlight for Desruisseaux was her experience playing three times in the prestigious women’s Beanpot tournament (the all-Boston competition involving Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College and Boston University).
“At that time, the BU women’s program was only a club team, so only players on our third and fourth lines would play,” Linda said. “The others on the team would say, ‘It’s their turn.’ I scored goals in all of those games.”
And after about five years away from hockey, she returned to the sport she loves and focused on being an able defenseman and passer
“I’ve always been known as a playmaker and I love my stance of being a stay-at-home defenseman,” Linda said. “I see myself as a great passer, even in the beer leagues. As an ICU nurse (at University of California, San Francisco Medical Center), we’ve had a lot of COVID patients all year and I get a couple of text messages a day saying how short we are. So I’ve been so busy and just started playing again last week. I love hockey more than I ever have. After college, I was so burned out. D-I sports is intense. We were on the ice six days a week from October to February and in the gym four to five days a week. And we had captains practices in September.
“On our travel team (Club Cindy), we have a great group of friends, the best friends I’ve ever had. My whole life is built on hockey.”
Club Cindy is named after a character played by Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live skits. Cindy likes her French Fries and gets very angry if you mention that she might be trying to lose weight. See below.
Desruisseaux said that all of the teammates call each other Cindy, and, somehow, there is very little confusion in communication from one particular Cindy to another.
“If someone says, ‘Hey Cindy,’ you can tell who they’re talking to. We’re all Cindy,” she added.