Staying Out of the Neutral Zone

Call it a drive to excel, her competitive nature, or an intense form of stress relief, it doesn't matter to Sophomore Karen Celmer because she takes her ice hockey seriously. The equine science major finds herself on the ice in Minnesota after growing up on hockey in North Liberty, Ind., a small town located along the northern border of the state near South Bend.

celmer_k_3_years_hockey.jpgShe started skating when she was two years old graduating to hockey skates by the time she was three or four. "When I was learning to skate, you could not find small enough hockey skates," Celmer explains. "Now you can, but I had no choice but to start skating on figure skates."

Playing hockey meant regular trips to South Bend where she would play with and against players from Michigan and as far away as Valparaiso, Ind. She grew up playing in a wide variety of venues from an old munitions warehouse to the Joyce Center at Notre Dame, but most important, Celmer grew up playing on teams with rosters that were primarily boys.

As she made her way through hockey programs, celmer_k_high_school_hockey.jpgCelmer played for the Irish Youth Hockey League, Riley High School, and John Adams High School, all located in South Bend. She was one of three girls playing hockey until around her sophomore year of high school when the other girls left the team, and she was advised against continuing. In fact, she was told she could be a "liability to the team."

 "I switched teams at that point," Celmer says. "I wanted to play hockey, and I wanted to play for a team that believed in me enough to give me a chance."

When she was a high school senior, she helped to start a traveling girls' hockey team known as the Indianapolis Racers. She is proud of what the young team has accomplished in such a short while. Last March, the U19 team won the Mid-American District Championship to earn a berth in the national tournament in only their second year of existence.
As a college student, Celmer continues to play hockey with the Hockey Club at the U of M, Crookston. It took special permission from the league's commissioner, but she takes to the ice with the rest of the guys three nights a week for practice and twice during the weekend for games.

DSC_2107.jpgWhat she loves most about playing is when she knows she is playing well and outskates a competitor or manages to take the puck from them. "When I find myself playing well, I have a very deep sense of gratification," she smiles. "It makes it all worthwhile."

Outside of classes and hockey, Celmer represents the Hockey Club at full board meetings of the Crookston Student Association and plans to coach mites as part of the Crookston Youth Hockey Program this winter. She is also a member of the Collegiate FFA at the U of M, Crookston.

Celmer loves hockey; that goes without saying, but it isn't her only passion. Her horse, Bleu, is the other. She has been involved with horses since she was in grade school, and they are the reason this one time nursing major transferred to Crookston to earn her degree in equine science.

"I grew up in a small town, and I wanted to go to smaller college," she reflects. "Finding a place that had the degree program I wanted along with the chance to play hockey helped me decide."

While Celmer isn't certain of what is next in her future, she is considering her options. "I know I want to work in the equine industry or maybe go to veterinary school," she states. "I will have to see."

Right now though, it really doesn't matter, Celmer is too busy with hockey and horses to contemplate very far into her future. Whatever tomorrow holds, she will bring to it all the intensity she can muster because that's who she is.

Contact: Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director, communications, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)

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