Alex Carpenter (25) nets a goal against Switzerland's Florence Schelling in what ended as a 9-0 game during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. (Photo / Courtesy Getty Images)
Growing up, Alex Carpenter had many homes around the East Coast. From Massachusetts, to Albany, New York, to New Jersey and eventually back to Massachusetts. She went where her father’s hockey career took the family.
No matter where the Carpenters moved, it was clear that where there was an ice rink, there was a home.
For two weeks this past February Sochi, Russia was considered home. It wasn’t her father, Bobby Carpenter’s, career that brought her there; it was her own. Alex made her way to Russia as the youngest member of the United State’s Women’s Ice Hockey Team.
The forward has been playing hockey since she was seven years old, learning the game as her father remained part of the New Jersey Devils organization. However, her goal of being a member of an Olympic team was formed years before.
“It even started before I started playing hockey. When I was four or five, I was watching something with my dad, a hockey game, and I asked him if I could play in the NHL [because I said] I want to be just like you, and he said, you can’t girls don’t play in the NHL,” Alex reminisced. “So I asked, ‘What I could do? Is there anything else?’ He said you could play in the Olympics, so I was like, all right I guess I can do that then.”
|Alex, proudly wearing a New Jersey Devils jersey, skating at her home's backyard rink with her younger brother, Robert "Bobo" Carpenter. (Photo / Courtesy of Alex Carpenter's Official Twitter page) |
Growing up with a dad who had his own lucrative career, and a younger brother who also played the sport, hockey seemed like a natural fit for Alex. She began playing on a Mite D team along side her brother, Robert ‘Bobo’ Carpenter.
During her time playing in New Jersey, she played for the NJ Colonials Hockey Association and even after all this time she hasn’t forgotten the start they gave her.
With the girls 12 & U team, Alex won bronze at the USA Hockey National Championships. Despite her young age her talent shined through. In that tournament alone she led the team with six goals and took home the win in the catch and shoot Easton Skills Competition.
“All that watched her skate ‘back in the day,’ knew she would be a force to be reckoned with,” said Dede McMenamy, COO of the Colonials. “[She was] very dynamic, even at a young age, very strong on the team.”
“The Colonials were a great organization for me. I was there for both boys and girls and I never had any problems. It was one of the greatest organizations that I ever played in … New Jersey, even though I didn’t live there that long, it definitely was a turning point in my hockey career,” Alex said.
Partnered with USA Hockey, Alex was able to give back to the Colonials this year. Each member of the Women’s team was given 12 sets of OneGoal hockey equipment to donate to a youth association of her choice and for Alex it was clear that her donation was going to the Colonials.
“We were able to donate that equipment to wherever we wanted and the Colonials had such a great influence on me when I was younger, that I only felt that was right.
It is unbelievable, any time you are able to give back to someone who helped you in your past it is quite special, so I am really glad that I had the opportunity to donate to them.”
|Alex played for the NJ Colonials while living in New Jersey. She recently donated 12 sets of OneGoal hockey equipment to the organization. (Photo / NJColonials.com) |
Her hockey career came full circle when she was named to the Olympic team in Lake Placid because not only was it at the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ rink, but it was where she traveled to with her team all those years ago.
“I was almost eight and I played with my brother on the Mite D team and that’s when I really first started playing,” said Alex. “It was great, we travelled up to Lake Placid, and played in the 1980 rink, which is the rink I actually made the Olympic team in so it was pretty special.”
Alex realizes that she has given up a lot in order to chase her dream of Olympic gold, including sitting out a year at Boston College, but in the end it has all been worth it.
“I think the most important thing to me about hockey is my teammates, just being around them everyday. You learn a lot from them on and off the ice, so I think that’s the most important thing that kept me going every day. [Just] knowing that I have 20 other teammates, 20 other family members waiting for me at the rink,” Alex said about her love for the game.
Playing in the gold medal game with her teammates on Team USA against America’s number one hockey rival, Canada, and walking away with silver taught her a lot about herself. It has given her something to work towards over the next four years looking forward to the 2018 games in South Korea.
|Alex makes her way down the line of teammates after scoring Team USA's second goal against Team Canada. (Photo / Courtesy Getty Images) |
“The opportunity to even play in the gold medal game, it is something we’ve all worked for all our lives. To be able to put that jersey on for that last game was unbelievable,” Alex said with a hitch in her voice. “Everybody kept telling the team we have nothing to lose, they are the three time defending champs. So we just went in there knowing that we worked so hard all year and that we deserved it, but things don’t always end up the way we want them to. We’re just ready to look forward to the next four years.”
Alex’s mom and youngest brother made the trip with her to Russia and even though Bobby Carpenter couldn’t be in Sochi with his daughter she made it a point to continuously FaceTime him, because he is after all, her biggest influence.
“Probably the most important thing he taught me was to keep working hard,” the 19-year old explained. “Probably the second most important thing is to stay humble. When we were younger we would always want to talk about me, me, me, but I think he drilled that into our heads from a young age, it’s not all about you its about other people.”
Back in Massachusetts with her family, Alex is looking forward to reconnecting with friends she wasn’t able to spend time with while preparing for the Winter Games. However, before her break she has one last important game to play in.
On March 5, Alex will travel back to New Jersey to play in the Legends Classic Charity Game at Prudential Center. Skating alongside her father and other New Jersey Devils alumni, such as former NJSIAA player Jimmy Dowd, Alex will help raise money for Mikey Nichols. Nichols, a Monroe senior is currently recovering from a severe neck injury that occurred during a hockey game in January.
Puck drop for the charity game is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. on Wednesday at the Rock. For more information please visit the New Jersey Devils website.
For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.