The following is a letter from Jessica Koizumi, former captain of the Connecticut Whale:
It has been a whirlwind of a week. For those that know me personally truly understand that this was the hardest career decision I have had to make — to retire from playing professionally in the NWHL in what I thought would be my last season.
I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason and this incredible coaching opportunity at OSU just felt right; my time had come to hang up my skates and wear my permanent coaching hat.
For elite athletes there isn’t a universal time table for retirement. It’s purely an individual feeling. I wanted to make sure that whenever that moment came, walking away from the game was my sole decision. I never could have predicted I would be playing professionally for 9 seasons after college, but thanks to the NWHL, CWHL and my understanding bosses, I had a home to pursue my passion.
I have made so many memories and lifetime friends playing with and against some of the best players in the world. Being a part of the first paid professional league in North America (NWHL) last season is something I didn’t believe would happen in my lifetime. I hope the league sustains for generations to come because it was a dream come true. “Go Whale”!
It might sound silly, but one thing I took pride in was blocking shots and that’s something minor I will miss. My favorites were the game day routines and superstitions, the on ice celebrations with my team, and the many moments in the locker room laughing together at a Suvi Vacker, Kacey Bellamy or Kelly Babstock comment. Those three are from different teams in my career that inadvertently keep things light.
Thank you first and foremost to the Lord for blessing me with the many opportunities and strength to succeed. Thank you to my family, coaches, teammates, mentors, friends and fans for supporting and helping me reach my goals. I have become a better person and role model because of you all! A special thank you to the Yale staff and my girls for an unforgettable past 6 seasons behind the bench.
What an incredible journey to play the best game in the world for 24 seasons! I can honestly say I have no regrets and am proud of that. I am looking forward to the next chapter of giving back to the game from a different vantage point.
Elena Orlando will fill in on Connecticut’s full-time roster with a one-year, $12,000 contract. Orlando was signed by the Whale as a practice player this past offseason after playing for the New York Riveters last season. She registered one assist and 17 penalty minutes for the Riveters in the 2015-16 season. Juana Baribeau has also been signed by the Whale as a practice player. Baribeau is from Amos, Quebec and scored 52 goals and had 56 assists during her 150 game college career at Clarkson.