Looking for gold-medal redemption

Courtesy of Julie Chu

Julie Chu, who plays for the Montreal Stars, jokingly drops in on the Boston Blades' team photo at the Clarkson Cup. Montreal lost to Boston 5-2 in the finals on March 23.

Last April, my teammates and I walked away from the World Women’s Hockey Championships with a silver medal after losing to Canada in overtime in a hard-fought final. Losses are never enjoyable, but this one involved falling short in extra time against our biggest rivals in front of a home crowd in Burlington, Vt. As tough as it was to swallow, that history adds some fuel to the fire as we head into this year’s worlds in Ottawa.

After a crazy few weeks, we’re all well prepared for our opener against Canada on Tuesday. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) season wrapped up with the Clarkson Cup; my team, the Montreal Stars, lost in the championship against the Boston Blades. After a day of rest, many of us hopped onto a bus to Lake Placid, N.Y., where we checked in and got ready for a short camp leading into worlds. A lot of my USA Hockey teammates are on that Boston team, so I got to hear plenty of celebrating during the ride!

Harry How/Getty Images

Julie Chu and the U.S. hockey team are aiming for gold at the world championships in Ottawa this week.

Because many of the CWHL players were coming off four games in four days and college players had just finished up the Frozen Four, we really focused on recovering well at this training camp. One of the things a lot of us use after games and practices is called NormaTec -- basically, big plastic sleeves that cover you from your feet to your thighs. The sleeves are connected to a machine that compresses different parts of your legs. “Norma,” as we affectionately call her, does an amazing job of promoting blood flow, flushing out our muscles and making us look like oversized blue marshmallows!

But, of course, we were at a tryout camp, which means it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. With only four days to earn a spot on the world championships roster, there were definitely more nerves involved than at our usual training camps. None of us thought we would be guaranteed a spot, and that’s a good thing. Camp ended Friday, and then came the wait until the roster announcement Saturday morning. Let me tell you, your mind can definitely play with you during that time. It’s something we all want so badly, but we also know the coaches are looking for specific players to fill specific roles.

When we gathered for our final meeting, the roster was read alphabetically. So it wasn't, thankfully, a long wait for me to hear my name. While it’s great to make the team, I dreaded saying goodbye to other players who have worked just as hard as I have. I’ve been a part of three Olympic tryouts and I bawled my eyes out after every one. As hard as it is, those days always remind me of how lucky I am to have another day in a USA jersey.

It was also great to learn that I would be captain again at worlds. It’s such an amazing honor, though I know it officially makes me the old lady on the team.

Going into our opening game against Canada, we all want to make a statement. We haven’t forgotten about last year, but at the same time, we’re competing with a new group of players. We’ll be 100-percent focused on competing in the present, and we're ready to go!