For one player on the Connecticut Whale, adjusting to life as a professional hockey player has been made a lot easier because of the generosity of one awesome family. After playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Michelle Löwenhielm was back home in Sweden this summer before arriving in the States for the NWHL season. Since October 1, Löwenhielm has been living with the Devillers family in Darien, Connecticut, as they decided to become a host/billet family for the 23-year-old Swede.
Their hockey-crazed kids have loved spending time with her, and the feeling is mutual as Löwenhielm explained after playing in her first NWHL game on October 7 against the Buffalo Beauts. “They’ve been great. The family, the kids are great. We’ve been playing some hockey outside. It’s been fun, a lot of fun. I’m adjusting well and they’re helping me out,” she said.
When asked if they are tiring her out and giving her a good off-ice workout daily, Löwenhielm smiled and laughed. “Yeah! They have energy, and they are good players. We’re out there shooting pucks, shooting balls. We’ve been playing a lot of hockey and that’s fun.”
One of the Devillers children with retired Riveter Bray Ketchum. (PHOTO BY TROY PARLA)
Listed as a forward, it was a bit of a surprise seeing Löwenhielm play mostly as a defender in her debut, with two of Connecticut’s regular blueliners out of the lineup (Rachael Ade, Jordan Brickner), showcasing that she was willing to do whatever it takes to help her team win. “I can play defense. I’ve played defense, center, forward; it doesn’t matter,” she confidently said, almost shrugging off the idea that it was odd seeing her on the blueline during opening day.
“I can play all of it. I felt comfortable back there (today) and I had some good D partners. We were battling hard and it felt good.” In the Whale’s second game, also against Buffalo, she was back at forward, winning 8 of 20 face-offs and blocking two shots. As the season goes on she could turn out to be a valuable asset for Connecticut on the ice, but she’s already making a difference off the ice and the community has certainly welcomed Michelle Löwenhielm with open arms.
PHOTO BY MATTHEW RANEY
If you’re a fan of the NWHL you’ve probably seen some of the Devillers kids at a game, skating out to the blueline as mini-Bray Ketchum or mini-Sam Faber. Originally from France, they’re aware of the challenges of moving to and living in a new country, and it has been a win-win for both Löwenhielm and the Devillers. “She is a great person, very well organized, very dynamic and has helped some of the other international players by driving them around,” said Marine, mother of five. “She’s very well mannered. We like the international diversity, and she has been a great example for the kids.”
For Löwenhielm, helping out the next generation is something that means a lot to her, as evidenced by her presence at a skills clinic with some of her teammates before the season even started. “I love coaching,” she said with a smile. “Coaching those girls, they were really good! Growing our game, I love clinics like that and I love to help out,” she explained, “I love to get them going and build them up, help them grow (as players) and get better.”
During her senior season, she knew she wanted to continue playing the sport she loves and the NWHL has given her an opportunity to do that against some of the world’s top players. Together they decided that playing in Connecticut was the best fit for her to take that next step in her hockey career. “My last year at UMD I felt like I wanted that (next) challenge and the NWHL has given me that challenge,” said Löwenhielm. “I’m pretty fortunate to be able to play for the Whale and to play in this league.”
“There are a lot of new faces (in Connecticut) but I feel like we’ve had a good energy during our practices and we have to come together even more,” she told us following her first game. “I have a good feeling if we keep working on this I feel like we’ll have something good. We have some good players here, we just have to come together and make it happen. We have to shoot some more on the net, crash the net, and play hard.”
PHOTO BY MATTHEW RANEY