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Still Her Game: Dartmouth Grad Apps Can’t Stray From Hockey

  • Canada's Jayna Hefford (16) and Gillian Apps (10) celebrate after Canada beat USA 2-0 to win the women's gold medal ice hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

  • Canada's Gillian Apps scoring her third goal of the game against Sweden during a 2006 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006, in Turin, Italy. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • Dartmouth’s Gillian Apps, left, and UNH’s Taylor Palazeti fight for the puck last night. Valley News - David M. Barreda

  • Dartmouth senior forward Gillian Apps, left, admires the ECAC championship trophy she and teammates earned yesterday with a 7-3 win over St. Lawrence. Valley News - Geoff Hansen

  • Former Winter Olympian Gillian Apps, shown in a 2014 photograph, is a Dartmouth College alumnae and is currently a student in the Tuck School of Business at the college. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Gillian Apps of Canada, top, loses her stick against Nicole Bullo of Switzerland during the third period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

  • Winter Olympian Gillian Apps holds her nephew Syl Apps during the 2014 games. Apps is a Dartmouth College alumnae and is currently a student in the Tuck School of Business at the college. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 09, 2018

Hanover — Gillian Apps left the game of women’s hockey on her terms, with an Olympic gold medal from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It seemed like the right time to hang up her skates, she said, before someone else made the decision for her.

But Apps, a 2007 Dartmouth College graduate and former standout for the Big Green, will never fully be detached from the game, even if she’s not entirely sure what the future holds.

“I just think the game has given me so much,” Apps said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve met so many amazing people through my experiences in hockey, I’d just like to stay connected in it, maybe give back to the younger kids the same experiences I had.”

Apps, 34, is back in the Upper Valley following a career that has included three Olympics, eight IIHF World Women’s Championships and a professional stint with the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She retired from hockey after the Sochi Games in 2014 and is currently enrolled in Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, pursuing a masters of business administration degree that the Unionville, Ontario, native hopes will assist in her transition to the business life ahead of her.

“I had an amazing experience at Dartmouth as an undergrad,” she said. “It’s been great to come back to Hanover and experience it as a graduate student.”

Apps graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in psychology, wrapping up a four-year collegiate hockey career with 113 games, 90 goals and 68 assists. She captained the Big Green in her senior season, posting a career-best 30 goals and 16 assists. She was named ECAC player of the year and the New England Hockey Writers Association’s most valuable player. (She also departed as Dartmouth’s career leader in penalty minutes with 281.)

Her first Olympic Games were in Turin, Italy in 2006, where she helped the Canadian national team win its second consecutive Olympic goal medal with seven goals and seven assists. Apps later won Olympic gold in 2010 at Vancouver and in 2014 at Sochi.

In between, she helped Canada win three world championship gold medals and five silver medals. She also played six seasons with the CWHL’s Thunder, helping the club win the 2008 CWHL title in Apps’ rookie season.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the incredible career I’ve had,” said Apps, who also tried her hand at coaching last winter as a member of the Boston College staff. “I was able to stay away from injuries, too, even going into my third Olympics. … I was part of three amazing Olympic teams. Being able to play the sport that I loved for eight years after I graduated, and be a hockey player full-time, I’m fortunate to have it end on a high note after Sochi.”

Part of that fortune has been thanks to the rise of women’s hockey on the international and professional stages. The CWHL, the first pro women’s hockey league ever established, started in 2007, one year before Apps joined the Thunder.

Since then, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) has sprouted up in four American cities (Boston, Buffalo, New York and Hartford, Conn.) and has continued operation since 2015. It was the first women’s professional hockey league in North America to offer salaries.

New Jersey Devils owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer invested in the NWHL’s New York franchise in October and rebranded it as the Metropolitan Riveters. The Devils became the first NHL team to hold an ownership stake in a women’s hockey franchise.

Last April, the NHL announced it would not be participating in this year’s 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, much to the chagrin of international players under NHL contracts. Its absence puts women’s hockey, and its professional athletes, under an international spotlight.

“(Women’s hockey) has grown substantially, with new people joining and lots of kids playing,” Apps said. “With the exposure that’s been given to the NWHL and the CWHL, it’s a big year. It always is for an Olympic year. But a lot of people are really interested in the sport, a lot of people are following it. I only see it getting better.”

The next step, Apps said, is to get countries outside of the U.S. and Canada on the same competitive level.

“Canada and the U.S., it’s an amazing rivalry,” she said. “I know both of those programs, know people behind the scenes. I think they’re trying to work with some of the other countries, at the grassroots level, to grow the game internationally. … I hope we can see some of the other countries compete soon. It’s time to show the world our sport.”

For the first time in a long time, Apps will be watching the Games from the comfort of her own home. She’s gets her hockey fix playing for Tuck in the Upper Valley Hockey League, an adult league out of Union Arena and Campion Rink, and has a year and a half left at Dartmouth before she can take the next step in her professional life. Where that future might take her, and how hockey fits into it all, is still up in the air.

“I’m trying to figure that out right now,” Apps said of her uncertain future. “I’m more focused on my time here.

“I think after business school, I’ll always be connected to the game and giving back in some way to the younger generations, whether it’s coaching, summer camps. I’ll be involved somehow.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.