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Hockey standout signs pro deal to play in Sweden

Community ProfileHockey standout signs pro deal to play in Sweden

After five years of developing into a complete player at the University of New Hampshire, Emily Rickwood is looking to start the next phase of her career as a pro for the AIK team of the SDHL (Swedish Women’s Hockey League) for the upcoming 2023/24 season.

Rickwood initially signed with the Montreal Force of the PHF (Premier Hockey Federation) until she got the news the league was brought and all players’ contracts were voided. “[It’s] my first year out of college [so] I didn’t know if I would get drafted or get invited to a camp. I figured it would be best for me to go get a year of professional under my belt somewhere else, play a full season, and then hopefully come back here within the next year and try and get on a team if they expand.”

Rickwood continues, “So I’m now playing in the SDHL and that’s the top league [in Sweden]. When everything happened with the PHS, my agent [recommended the] SDHL or the Swiss League. Those leagues were full because as soon as that happened, everybody was trying to start to get over there. I’m very thankful to have gotten a spot in that league…There are a lot of great players that I’ve seen that have been signed there. I’m excited to get [into] a different style of play over in Europe.”

Rickwood has been playing competitive hockey for a big part of her life, garnering accolades across junior, international, and collegiate levels, however, it all began in Brantford. Rickwood, who originally started as a dancer, reminisces, “I come from a very big hockey family [and they] had enrolled my brother to learn to skate and [after] the first few [times], he wasn’t really enjoying it. So, my dad [asked me if I] wanted to go out and try it and I did and I fell in love with it.”

Emily Rickwood standing for the National Anthem while playing for the Brantford Ice Cats U18 AA team. Photo courtesy ESSO CUP.

Rickwood, who has developed into a solid two-way defenseman, continues, “I started [playing] with the boys and for the Brantford 99ers…and then when body checking started…I ended up switching to girls. I [then] played for the Brantford Ice Cats U18 and then I went to the Oakville Hornets for junior.”

During this time, Rickwood’s play was being noticed. Various women’s hockey programs started to reach out—trying to recruit her. “I first started getting recruited when I was with the Ice Cats; when I was about 13 or 14. [Recruitment] starts very young for girls…and it was all new to me when I initially started hockey. I had no idea that it was even an option for someone from Brantford; to go play hockey in the United States …that was never in my mind. So, when I started getting interest at such a young age, it was a surreal feeling…you know at 15 you really don’t know what you want to do with your life or what you want.”

Emily Rickwood looks on from Team Canada’s bench as officials review a goal during action against Sweden at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in Russia. Photo courtesy Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images

Rickwood had to balance many elements of her life at a young age to accommodate her growing success in hockey. Along with being heavily recruited and playing junior hockey, she had the distinct opportunity to play for her country during the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in Russia. “[It was definitely] an unforgettable experience. I think anytime you get to put on the maple leaf and represent your country, it’s a surreal feeling. And especially with that tournament being in Russia, [it’s] somewhere I never would have traveled if it wasn’t for hockey, just because it’s so far away, and obviously very expensive. But being able to go to Russia and just experience everything over there…I don’t even have the words to explain it. It was just an unreal experience to be able to see something other than just playing in Canada. And that was my first time going far to play hockey, and just being able to be with your team. We got to travel around [and] got to see Moscow. And then obviously the tournament itself when we played against Russia. It was definitely an experience that I’ll never forget.”

Emily Rickwood releases a slap shot from the point. Rickwood recorded 47 total shots during the 2022/23 season, however, Rickwood is known for her strong defensive play. Photo courtesy UNH Women’s Hockey.

One of the most successful times in Rickwood’s hockey career thus far has been her time with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats where she has not only dominated on the ice but also excelled academically, with a perfect 4.0 GPA for the last two years, which has garnered her Hockey East Women’s All-Academic Team honours. She explains, “The biggest thing for me was to get all my work done by Thursday so that I could just have the weekend to play hockey. And that really kept me on top of my assignments. And I still had that enjoyment of being on the road with my teammates and not having to stress about writing a paper on the way home from a game. So that was one way that I really prioritize my time.“

Rickwood, who set a school record for career games played with the Wildcats with 164, notes, “After my five years at UNH I can confidently say I have grown my game. I came in very offensively minded and then as I got older and became upperclassmen my responsibility defensively grew. I was on PK and out in the last minutes of the game and ended up leading my team in blocked shots. Overall, my time at UNH helped me become a better 200-foot player…on both ends of the ice.”

Emily Rickwood on a rush against Merrimack Warriors. Rickwood played in all of UNH Wildcats’ 36 games while tallying four goals and six assists. Photo courtesy Stu Horne Photos.

As well, Rickwood’s time at UHC has helped her focus on other aspects of her career including her passion for teaching. “[In] picking my major, I knew I wanted to do something around sports. And I always loved [that my] mom’s a teacher. I always wanted to teach as well. I like passing on my knowledge to other people and helping others. It just seemed like combining the best of both worlds. Once I saw that UNH had that specific program, it felt like it was meant to be. I definitely think like being able to teach and continue to play sports throughout, like physical education was [my] dream job.”

Rickwood continues, “I definitely am interested in coaching. I’ve been helping out around Brantford in some camps and skill sessions…I definitely want to get into coaching, whether that’s at a prep school or college level. I can be a physical ed. teacher and coach. But I definitely want to continue to stay in the sport of hockey and pass my knowledge on to the younger generations as long as I can.”

Along with Rickwood’s academic and athletic success, she has also become a social media star. Rickwood explains. “It actually all started during COVID…Everybody else was at home because all of our classes were online. There was a lot of free time. And my roommate and I, we worked at the arena just cleaning up. We [asked ourselves] ‘Why don’t we just start making TikTok’s?’ It was a joke [at first], we were bored…[and] we made videos regarding something around hockey. And it just blew up! Within two weeks, I had gained 5000 followers. And we just started making [more videos]. And then we eventually got to 10,000 followers. And then we did that for about two years. After [my friend] transferred…I was still interested in doing this [as] I’ve always been interested in making videos…and then over the last couple of years…I’m up to almost 39,000 followers.”

Emily Rickwood celebrates a goal with a teammate. Rickwood established a new team record with a total of 164 games played across five seasons with the UNH Wildcats. Photo courtesy UNH Women’s Hockey.

However, Rickwood has continued doing social media because her posts have had a tremendous impact on many of her followers. Rickwood notes, “I think the biggest thing for me is inspiring the younger girls…I’ve [gotten] so many who will message me [saying they] look up to me [and I am] like a role model to them. And that is the whole reason why I do it because I didn’t really have a lot of people to like female hockey players to look up to when I was younger…So now if I can do that for the younger generation that makes it all worth it.”

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