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Seizing the moment

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Some opportunities in life are just too good to pass up.

For Jenny Scrivens, the wife of Canadiens netminder Ben Scrivens, the chance to play competitive women’s hockey again after a six-year absence meant far too much to ignore. Scrivens, who hadn’t donned goalie equipment for real since her collegiate days at Cornell University in 2009, returned to the game she loved over the summer on two fronts, joining the newly established National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) as both a player with the New York Riveters, and as a member of the league’s media and public relations team at its head office in Brooklyn, NY.

Photo credit: Troy Parla

“I think it was a culmination of things, including really good timing and just feeling like it was the right move for me. It started off with the chance to use my communications [and business] degree to be able to grow women’s hockey. I’ve always been passionate about trying to get more young girls interested in hockey and trying to raise awareness of the women’s game, in general,” explained Scrivens, who signed with the Riveters last August. “To be able to kind of live it every single day as both a player and as someone who could help promote the league from the inside, I couldn’t have dreamt of a better role. When this opportunity came about, I couldn’t say no.”

The 27-year-old Camarillo, CA native actually got back on the ice in July at her alma mater in Ithaca, NY, suiting up for the Racker Rivals Big Red exhibition game at Lynah Rink alongside Ben – a Cornell grad, too – fellow NHLers Brian Gionta and Dustin Brown, and Hall-of-Famer Joe Nieuwendyk. That contest ultimately marked the start of Scrivens’ comeback between the pipes.

“That was my first foray in getting the gear back on. A couple of weeks later, I decided that I was going to play again. My first few goalie lessons were frustrating because I knew what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t built up that coordination yet to be able to maintain my balance and get from one side of the crease to the other as fast as I wanted to. It was all about building up that muscle memory,” admitted Scrivens, who sported her husband’s old Edmonton Oilers goalie gear as her training sessions got under way. “Then, it came a lot faster. It was a steep learning curve, though.”

Ben was eager to lend a hand in any way he could, helping to ease Jenny’s transition into the professional ranks along as the regular season approached. Not only did the five-year NHL veteran put his wife in contact with some of the top goaltending coaches in the business, but he also provided her with tips, advice and guidance as she re-acclimated herself to the goaltending position.

“Ben set me up with a goalie instructor, Timm Lorenz, in Colorado [where we spend our summers]. He let him do all of the work with me, then Ben and I would talk about certain things. I bounced ideas off of him all the time. I think I picked his brain every night from the first night I signed my contract. He even drew out crease movements and goaltending angles on a napkin,” recalled Scrivens, who insists the unwavering support of the Canadiens’ No. 40 played a key role in her decision to play again. “Ben also recommended another coach in Edmonton, Blair Faulkner. He had this awesome camera set up on the ice so I could record all of my goalie sessions. It was pretty high-tech. Then, Ben and I would sit down and kind of go through the footage. He would point out things I was doing really well and the things I could work on. It was almost like having a private tutor at home to help you with your homework.”

In addition to sharing his technical expertise with Jenny, Ben also helped her with her mental game. He’d been plying his trade professionally since the 2010-11 campaign, so he had a good idea of the challenges his wife would face once it came time to put on a uniform again for the first time in over half a decade.

“A lot of the things Ben taught me related to the bigger picture ideas of being a goalie. He helped me work through my mentality of going into practice and going into games, too,” explained Scrivens, who appeared in 52 games with Cornell between 2006 and 2009, amassing a 3.06 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage before graduating in 2010. “I think I've also become more of a student of the game. I never really left it completely. I just took a step back, coached some youth girls hockey and watched Ben play a lot. That all really helped me when it came time to get back into it and start training. To be able to channel my natural competitiveness once again has been really fun. As an athlete, you never really lose that competitive drive.”

Now, she’s applying that same passion to her work, drawing upon previous experience in the communications and marketing industries to give back to a game that has long been an important part of her life.

“I feel like hockey really got me to where I am today. It’s had an impact personally and professionally. I feel like it’s made my life better. I want to give other young girls that opportunity as well. I want them to be able to look up to women’s hockey players and say – ‘That could be me one day. No one can tell me that I can’t be a professional hockey player,’ stressed Scrivens, who served as the director of communications for the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton before embarking on her career change. “I want to give young girls those goals and dreams and keep pushing that envelope. I think that’s what it’s all about. I think that’s why I’m here.”

And, it just so happened that the NWHL's Boston Pride went up against the Canadian Women's Hockey League's (CWHL) Les Canadiennes de Montréal in the inaugural Outdoor Women’s Classic at Gillette Stadium on New Year’s Eve, less than 24 hours before Ben and the rest of Michel Therrien’s troops battled the Boston Bruins in the eighth edition of the Winter Classic. Needless to say, it was a big weekend for Jenny and Ben, respectively.

“It was just a dream come true to be there. Women’s hockey is something that I’ve been watching for years. I never thought that we’d be a part of it someday, that women would be competing as part of the Winter Classic,” mentioned Scrivens, who took in the women’s game with Ben after the Canadiens had wrapped up their practice session in Foxborough that day. “It just shows the leaps and bounds that the sport has grown by. I was extremely proud to be there. Ben knows how hard we’ve worked. I just think it all seemed to come full-circle.”

As for Ben’s recent move to Montreal, Jenny couldn’t be more excited about his new hockey home.

“I’ve heard so many good things about the city. I know a lot of people who’ve attended school there or who’ve gone there to visit. They all say the same thing. They talk about the fans, how much they love hockey and how supportive they are. Even my friends in the hockey community were texting me [when the trade was announced] and telling me how much I was going to love it,” concluded Scrivens, who is pleased to now be a part of the Canadiens family.

“I always see Ben moving around as an opportunity. I see it as a chance to grow and get to know new people. It’s so exciting when a team you’ve joined embraces you with open arms. I try and reciprocate,” added Scrivens. “I took a few years of French in high school back home in California, so I’m trying to dust that off. We both are. We’re trying to learn a little bit every day. As a hockey player, I thought there may be a time in my future when it would come in handy. If finally paid off.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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