Cindy Curley was no different than any other rabid hockey fan growing up Massachusetts. She adored Bobby Orr and had aspirations of one day breaking barriers in the game she loved.
Unlike many, however, she not only met the legendary Boston Bruins defenseman on her birthday but became an instant inspiration to every female player with dreams of playing the game after earning a spot on the United States Women's National Team for the inaugural International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship in 1990.
A respect for Lou Lamoriello
Curley, who will be inducted into the 2013 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Detroit on Dec. 2, recalled one such mentor in the early stages of her career at Providence College in the 1980s.
"One of the most intimidating men I've ever met in my life was Lou Lamoriello, who was the men's hockey coach at the time," Curley said. "Boy, if you had something in your game that wasn't up to par Lou would make sure he would send a couple of his top guys to correct it."
Lamoriello served as hockey coach for 15 seasons, compiling an impressive .578 winning percentage (248-179-13) while guiding the Friars to 12 consecutive postseason tournaments, including the 1983 Final Four in his final season.
"I struggled at tipping in pucks in front of the net," Curley said. "I really didn't want to be hit with a slap shot, so to encourage my development Lou used to send out some of the guys to take slap shots at me until I would stand there and tip them in. Thank goodness he moved up to become athletic director and we got a new men's hockey coach because it got easier."
When told of the story, Lamoriello, now the CEO/president/general manager of the New Jersey Devils, laughed.
"I don't remember all of the details, but if Cindy said it, it was true," Lamoriello told NHL.com. "I didn't realize she felt I was intimidating. What she was probably saying is, 'You should never say you can't do something.' I'm so fond of her and proud to hear that she is going into the U.S. Hall of Fame. She is a quality individual and great person."
Lamoriello was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year.
"I've taken something good out of all my experiences and having expectations is a good thing and I'm grateful that hockey played such a big part of my life," she said. "The players from the men's program always came to the games and it was wonderful. No matter what sport you played at Providence, I always felt the camaraderie among all the athletes. Lou demanded a lot from all the Providence athletes personally to become decent human beings."
-- Mike G. Morreale
"I met Bobby Orr on my ninth birthday when he came to one of my practices when I was playing for the Assabet Valley Girls Hockey team in Concord [Mass.]," Curley told NHL.com. "I remember him coming in and saying, 'No autographs,' but someone told him it was my birthday and he signed my helmet and spent about an hour with us.
"I was always a horrible backwards skater, but to this day he's still my favorite player."
After that meeting with Orr she was determined to blaze her own path. She did.
"My most memorable moment was being selected to the first World Championship team and getting that USA jersey and playing with so many other great athletes," Curley said. "Playing on that team opened my eyes to more heroes like Cammi Granato, Angela Ruggiero and many others."
Curley made the most of her international debut, setting single-tournament records of 11 goals, 12 assists and 23 points in five games. It wasn't enough, though, as Canada beat the U.S. 5-2 in the gold-medal game.
"I think [Canada] was the stronger team; I think we felt we had a good team but we really were outmatched," Curley said. "I'd like to say it was just a fluke but I think that game taught us a lot about getting in shape and becoming stronger athletes. It inspired us to continue to build the women's program and move forward and was probably a blessing in disguise because we realized we still had work to do and we did it."
The former hockey standout at Providence College will add to her legacy Dec. 2 when she becomes the second woman inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, joining Granato (2008). She considers it an honor to join her good friend in the U.S. Hall.
"Cammi is a player we all would love to be," Curley said. "She is a naturally phenomenal athlete. She was a legend at Providence, where I went, and it's an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with her. She was the Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey; she could score from anywhere."
Curley will be accompanied in the 2013 Hall of Fame class by former NHL forwards Bill Guerin and Doug Weight, former Michigan State University men's coach Ron Mason and Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr.
The 41st induction dinner and ceremony will be held at the Sound Board at Motor City Casino in Detroit, Mich.
Curley, inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013, starred for the Friars from 1981-85 and finished her career with 110 goals and 225 points. She was a member of the first two Providence teams to win an Eastern College Athletic Conference championship, in 1984 and 1985. After graduating from Providence she would represent the United States four times in international competition, winning silver medals at the Women's World Championship in 1990, 1992 and 1994, and the 1995 IIHF Women's Pacific Rim Championship.
"I remember going to college and most schools in the Northeast had women's programs but they weren't as prevalent out West," Curley said. "Now there are so many opportunities for girls to play not only in high school but in college and the Olympics."
Did Curley ever feel slighted as a youngster not having the opportunities that now exist for girls?
"I guess I didn't realize what I didn't have," she said. "When I was a kid playing on the lake [in Stow, Mass.] everyone welcomed me. I never felt there wasn't an opportunity for me. From the day I started playing pickup hockey on the lake with my dad when I was 3 years old, to when I got to play in college and Lou [Lamoriello] was the men's coach. I always felt like every opportunity was wonderful."
Her finest moment during the 1990 Women's World Championship came against Norway at the Civic Centre in Ottawa when she struck for a women's-record nine points, on five goals and four assists, in a 17-0 victory.
"I just thought it was a great experience to represent the U.S.; to have that jersey on was such a thrill," she said. "I knew the future of women's hockey was going to be great. It was also nice to play with the best women's players around the country instead of chasing them around the ice."
Curley has been involved with USA Hockey in a number of capacities, including athlete director on the USA Hockey Board of Directors (1995-2006) and as a member of the organization's youth council (1999-2006), legal council (2005-07), girls/women's section (2000-05) and safety and protective equipment committee (2001-07). She also was a member of the U.S. Olympic Athlete Advisory Committee from 2005-08.
Now a partner in a large, full-service athletic club in Lancaster, Mass., Curley continues to enjoy the game in her spare time playing with friends and "having a blast."