Women’s hockey team adds four-time Olympian Julie Chu as an assistant coach
What does an Olympian and professional hockey player do with her four Olympic and nine World Championship medals?
“I go to bed with all of them,” chuckled Julie Chu. “No, that would be creepy.”
Chu, 32, was named an assistant coach for Concordia’s women’s hockey team late last month, and she brings along quite the pedigree.
Growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut and learning to lace up her skates by the time she was eight, Chu could never have imagined where hockey would take her.
“Mostly because girls’ hockey was non-existent when I started to play,” said Chu. “I was the only girl on a boys team and often could go through an entire season without seeing another girl hockey player.”
Learning to play hockey with her brother and his friends, hockey was a pastime, albeit, one that she was very good at. Then when Chu was 16-years-old, women’s hockey was recognized as an Olympic sport and she knew what she wanted to do.
“[In 1998], I watched women’s hockey become an Olympic sport and my world changed,” said Chu. “ Suddenly, I could have dreams of going to the Olympics. And fortunately, with a lot of hard work and many things falling into place, I have been able to participate in four Olympic games.”
Since she was 20, Chu has been an Olympic athlete. That statement alone is an unbelievable accomplishment, one that Chu does not take for granted.
“It’s been an incredible journey that sometimes I can’t believe I have been so fortunate to experience,” said Chu.
Two of her favourite moments as an Olympian occurred back in 2002 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The first was when she pulled on her jersey with “U.S.A” scrawled across the front for the first time. Years of vigorous work and daydreaming about this moment had finally paid off. The second was when she took part in her first opening ceremonies.
“I have always been a fan of the Olympics and watching as the athletes marched into the stadium has always given me goosebumps. So being able to do it myself was an unbelievable experience,” said Chu.
By the end of her most recent Olympic adventures, in Sochi’s 2014 Winter Olympics, Chu was given an honour that even she did not expect. The day after team U.S.A lost to Canada in the gold medal game, Chu found out that she had been nominated by her fellow Olympians to be the flagbearer for the closing ceremonies.
“It’s been months since the Olympics and I still can’t process it. I’ve always thought it would be incredible to carry my nation’s flag, but it wasn’t something I aspired to [do], because it wasn’t really on my radar of possibilities,” said Chu.
While representing her country in Salt Lake City, Turin, Vancouver and Sochi, Chu learned to hone her craft. For that, she attended Harvard from 2002-07 and played for the Crimson. The prestigious university was much more than a place to earn a degree and play hockey. Harvard taught Chu life lessons that she carries with her to this day.
“The thing I learned most at Harvard was our team concept of ‘team first.’ It is the idea that each one of us as individuals has an important role on the team,” explained Chu. “It’s a culture that acknowledges the importance of individual roles, but puts the emphasis on the team success. I think it’s a mentality that can be used in all areas of life.”
During her five years at Harvard, Chu would become the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer and eventual captain of her Crimson team. After graduating in 2007, that’s when Chu took to the idea of coaching as a possible career. That year Chu took an assistant coaching job with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and realized that, even after her playing days are over, hockey will be a big part of her future.
“There were not many days that were actually work, because I was enjoying myself so much,” said Chu.
Between her own playing career, multiple coaching stints and training for her Olympic squad; Chu wanted a place to settle. She had been training in Montreal over this past summer and reached out to Les Lawton, Concordia’s women’s hockey head coach.
“I wanted to work with a team that was eager to learn and willing to work hard. The women’s team here is definitely committed to getting to the next level, which makes coaching fun,” said Chu. “For me, I just want to bring great energy to the team atmosphere and share what I’ve learned in my years playing with the national team or coaching on various teams with the players.”
Understandably overshadowed by her Olympic success, Chu also donned her American jersey at the World Championship level and is currently playing for the Montreal Stars in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
While she’s not sure about competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Chu is definitely looking forward to her time as an honourary Concordia Stinger.