Our friend Zoe Hickel, an Alaskan who was a gold medal-winning member of Team USA women’s hockey squads that won two gold medals at the world championships, is taking on a new challenge in the coaching world. Hickel was named an assistant coach at Big 10 Conference program Ohio State (which participates in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in women’s hockey). Here’s some of the Buckeyes’ press release:
“I am honored to be joining the women’s hockey program at Ohio State,” Hickel said. “The standard of excellence Coach Muzerall has established, along with the commitment from her staff and the student-athletes, has proven that the Buckeyes will continue to be leaders in the women’s game. I am at a perfect place in my life to use the experience and cultures I’ve absorbed over the years of elite play, coaching and world travel to give that back to our team and to embrace the opportunity to help make a difference in this next generation.”
Hickel is no stranger to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), serving as a two-year captain during her college career (2011-15) at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Not only did she lead the Bulldogs in scoring, but was also named a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award in ’15.
“When hiring a coach you need to look at the complete package,” Muzerall said. “Yes the XOs matter but they only consume a small fraction of the everyday coaching of these young women. We are developing them to be strong-minded women for life after hockey. There was no one better for this then Zoe Hickel. Her resume speaks for itself in terms of experience playing in the top league in women’s college hockey [WCHA], numerous years professionally after and representing her country’s colors on the U.S. National Team. She possesses the technical and tactical coaching but what you can’t read are the qualifications she owns that match our culture and what we are as Buckeyes.”
Here’s a bit of our 2015 feature on Zoe, when she seemingly was destined to follow in her coaching mom Cristy’s footsteps as a coach, when even young Zoe was coaching the game:
When she wasn’t helping Cristy coach various teams in Alaska, Zoe was excelling enough on hockey rinks in and around Alaska to get the chance to head east as a teenager and attend the prestigious North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt.
A scholarship to play for the Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Bulldogs followed, where Hickel eventually became team co-captain and scored 46 career goals. She got her first taste of Team USA competition on the Under-18 teams in 2010, and she made the cut for the 2015 World Championships and has a great chance to be a member of the USA Hockey squad at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“It was amazing to just be part of that group and be in this player pool with these girls who are so dedicated and of course having the same stuff I’ve been striving for, for a long time. When I finally got my chance, I guess you can say I made the most of my opportunity that I had,” Hickel says.
“It’s fun that you’ve looked up to these girls and then get to play with them. And a lot of these girls I’ve played against or played with in the past, and women’s hockey is a smaller circle. Most of the time, at some point we’ve crossed paths. So you get at that level and it’s such a dynamic atmosphere to be involved with girls at that level.”
Zoe was such a rink rat Cristy recruited her to help her coaching duties. Considering she was jumping off the high dive at 3, teaching little sis Tori to ski at 4 and started coaching with Cristy at 9, what took her so long to start coaching herself?
“We’ve butted heads here and there, and I know it’s really hard to have a parent as a coach,” Zoe says of her mom, who’s become nationally respected as a teacher of the game. “But I have a lot of respect for her and we were able to have that kind of relationship where I was able to learn so much from her and what she was able to pass onto me.”
The influence was reflected during her senior year at UMD, when Hickel was a finalist for the NCAA’s Hockey Humanitarian Award, which honored the five men’s or women’s players vying to win the college game’s “finest citizen” award. Hickel’s nomination was due to various charitable endeavors – including coaching Alaska’s All-Star Girls Hockey teams, volunteering in Anchorage’s SPYDER (Sports Programs for Youth Development, Education and Recreation) nonprofit organization and running the SHARK (Strong, Healthy, Active, Responsible Kids) program in Duluth, Minn., to promote youngsters staying active.
“Despite the material shiny things,” Cristy says, “I would like to think of Zoe as a successful young lady who is a contributor to our youth and community.”