Beyond UND: Q-A With Minnesota Whitecap and UND Women’s Hockey Alum Amy Menke

(Photo Credit: Minnesota Whitecaps)

Since the UND Women’s Hockey program was cut in 2017, its players have gone around the world. Some have moved on to other colleges, others graduated and moved on to post-hockey academic pursuits. A few, like 2016-2017 Captain, Amy Menke, have moved on to professional hockey. She is one of the Minnesota Whitecaps competing in their first season as a member of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

I had a chance to catch up with her recently and discussed her current pursuits, some things she learned from her time at UND, and more, read on below to see my questions and her answers.So far this season,  she has nine points in thirteen games with the Whitecaps.  She finished her career at UND with 108 points (50 G, 58 A) in 146 games.

What has been your favorite off-ice moment of your pro hockey career?

“1. My favorite off ice moment from my pro career has been palling around with my teammates on road trips. We’ve got an awesome group of women, on and off the ice, so it’s been a lot of fun getting to know everyone better and making memories along the way.”

What was your favorite off-ice moment from your time at UND?

“2. My favorite off ice moments at UND included partaking in shenanigans with teammates. We’d hide in lockers or boxes to scare each other, try the shampoo in a towel trick, tape a paper cup on someone’s helmet during pregame skate so they didn’t know it was there but everyone else did, gift a hamster as a secret Santa (that was Gracen Hirschy actually and it was hilarious).[In addition] Gracen Hirschy and I once taped all of Halli Kryznaniak’s room decorations to her ceiling. A bean bag and all.”

What is one thing the NCAA could do tomorrow to better promote women’s hockey and women’s sports in general?

“3. The NCAA could promote women’s hockey and women’s sports better by aiding in TV time. I’m not sure if they have a role in what games/sports get real, quality air time, but all women’s sports could use more exposure on that platform.”

What is the biggest misconception people have about women’s hockey and your response?

“4. The biggest misconception about women’s hockey is that it is less entertaining because we can’t check each other. It’s true we play a different style than men, but that doesn’t mean the games are not physical.”

What was your favorite class at UND?

“5. My favorite class at UND is a toss up between anything Professor Munski taught, and my independent study taught by Professor Chuck Haga. The independent study was on how media impacts/portrays women’s sports.”

What is one thing the NHL could do tomorrow to grow the game at a grassroots level?

“6. Growing the game starts by having more exposure and opportunities for kids to try the sport of hockey. I know USA hockey sponsors a “try hockey for free” night in areas across the US. More events like that, or possibly helping in some way by getting kids the equipment to play. Many parents stray away from hockey due to the cost of the gear.”

At the pro level, do you think the NWHL/CWHL would support involvement of their top players in All-Star Weekend similar to the integration the NBA and WNBA have?

“7. Yes, I think that idea is awesome. Last year, some women’s players from the USA national team got to demonstrate the skills competitions on TV for the all star weekend. Hilary Knight even technically beat Connor McDavid’s time on the accuracy shooting challenge… Even that little bit of exposure was cool to see. But more involvement would always be very beneficial to the NWHL/CWHL.”

How long do you think it will be before the two leagues (NWHL/CWHL) integrate and how beneficial to the game would that be?

“8. Combining the two leagues will be huge for women’s hockey. As for a timeline, I’m not sure. Maybe in a couple years. Both leagues still need to grow and secure funding for travel and salary expenses.”

How proud are you to see the success of UND Women’s Hockey alums around the world and how often are you able to follow them on and off the ice?

“9. I love seeing my fellow UND alums succeeding in their new roles. I was able to play in Sweden last year with 4 of my former teammates for a couple months. That was a lot of fun. I also get to play with Tanja Eisenschmid on the whitecaps this season. Many of the UND girls that had to transfer schools are having tons of success on their new teams, which is fun to watch.”

10. What are some of the biggest things you learned from each coach you worked with at UND and how have they helped you?

“Coach Idalski taught me I shoot off the wrong foot. Sorry Brian, I still do that.

Coach Fabian taught me an awesome move on how to get through a D when I’m entering the zone on my backhand. [I] wish he would have taught me that freshman year instead of junior year.

Coach Elander taught me, and a few other former UND players [including] Jocelyn Lamoureux  a move called ‘oops, I did it again’ “.

An Interview with Margot Miller on the Impact of UND Women’s Hockey

We recently had the chance to talk to Margot Miller, an alumnus of the UND Women’s Hockey program. We started doing these interviews because we want to focus more on the impact of the program off the ice as Women’s Hockey is part of the recent round of athletics cuts at UND.

While we both understand the harsh reality of budgets and deficits, we feel it is important to know what the University is losing from its campus. The best way to show what this University is giving up on, from our vantage point, is by providing an outlet for everyone who has ever played for, or been associated with the program to have a place to speak out about how this severe cut will deny opportunities to not only on-ice stars, but to the next Scholar-Athlete who could use their education at UND to make the world a better place like Margot is doing on a daily basis.

Below are our questions and her answers.

What was the most useful thing you learned about yourself while being apart of the UND athletics program?

“Playing hockey at a high level has provided me with so many learning experiences and positives attributes. The most useful thing I learned about myself and now translating into my everyday life is how to handle pressure and being a good team player. I am an ER nurse, which requires me to work under extreme pressure and make quick decisions. Another huge aspect of nursing is being able to work in a team setting, being able to be a team player has helped me succeed in my life after UND athletics as a nurse.”

Do you think you would be the same person you are today if you would not have attended UND and played hockey?

“No, absolutely not. UND and Hockey has shaped me into the person I am today. I never thought I would have stayed in Grand Forks after graduation but I fell in love with the community and UND which is so supportive and tight knit. UND and Hockey have created so many opportunities for me professionally and I will forever be grateful for what UND has provided me along with the sport of hockey. Many others should have a chance at what I had.”

How do you think you have inspired other young girls to play hockey?

“Playing at the best facility in college hockey at the highest level was a dream for me and I hope that inspires young girls to dream big. Continuing to be active in the Grand Forks hockey community as well as outreach efforts to better girls hockey in our community.”

What was your favorite on ice memory at UND?

“I have several. Clinching our first WCHA final face-off birth against Bemidji in dramatic fashion in OT at Purpur arena. Sweeping the Gophers in Ridder. Making history when we made it to the NCAA tournament in 2012 my senior year.”

What do you try to teach the players you coach now?

To be a good person no matter the circumstances. At times I catch myself using the same phrases or teaching points my UND coaches taught me. To leave it all out on the ice and have no regrets. I try to prepare my players not only with hockey skills but the skills to succeed in life and in their professional careers.”

What is your favorite thing about hockey as a whole ?

“Being apart of something bigger than myself. ”

What has been your best memory with any of your teammates since you have graduated?

“I currently serve as the assistant coach for the Grand Forks KnightRiders Girls Varsity hockey team. Our team went into the state tournament in 6th place this season. The girls left it all out on the ice and we ended up finishing in 2nd place. The best part of it all was coaching alongside my former teammate Tori Williams.”