Wonderland Wizards, City of Bridgeport Honor Connecticut Hockey's Own Julie Chu

By Gerard Carney
April 28, 2014

More than 300 fans, friends and family flocked to Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport, Connecticut on Sunday to honor one of their own. Since first lacing up a pair of skates in 1990, Julie Chu has turned heads and captured hearts as a trailblazer and patriot for women's hockey in the U.S. and as a role model for young athletes everywhere.

Julie Chu After a stellar career that has seen Ms. Chu recognized as the nation's best female collegiate hockey player while at Harvard, four Olympic trips and just as many medals, and her latest honor as the U.S. flag bearer in closing out the recent games in Sochi, Julie Chu returned to the place where it all started on Sunday, April 27th.

She returned home to Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport, CT where that City's Mayor, Bill Finch honored Ms. Chu with the Key to the City of Bridgeport and the Fedick and Ferguson families, who operate the rink and oversee its many programs, awarded Julie with the "Keys to the Rink."

Now the home of the Wonderland Wizards, one of the largest youth Hockey programs in Connecticut, Wonderland of Ice can also boast of a long roster of NHL and other Olympians including Chris and Ted Drury, Martin St. Louis, Paul Kelly, Eric Boguniecki and many others who have glided on its ice.

"It's an absolute honor for me to come back to Wonderland and to have a day like today," said Ms. Chu who began her career on the ice at Wonderland as a figure skater, not a hockey player. "In 1990, I started here as a figure skater and then got involved the Learn to Skate hockey programs here and stuck with it right through the Pee Wee levels. I'm grateful for all the support I received from the Wizards right on through to Connecticut Hockey and onto USA Hockey."

A lot has changed since the early 1990s and women's programs in Connecticut and across the country have taken off in a major way since then. "Back then, there weren't many women's programs and even for a girl to play on a boys' team was kind of unheard of, but the atmosphere at Wonderland and across the programs in Connecticut were incredibly supportive and welcoming. If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't have developed my strong love for hockey and been out of the sport pretty quickly."



Luckily, that wasn't the case, and women's hockey in both the State and across the country continues to flourish. According to USA Hockey, in 1990 there were approximately 6,336 registered female players. That number has swelled to more than 65,600 female players today. Brian Burke, GM of 2010 Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team and one of hockey's most prominent executives , calls women's hockey the fastest growing segment of the sport. "No sport has developed more in the past 20 years," Mr. Burke has said. "If track and field for men had kept pace with women's hockey, Usain Bolt would run a 7-second 100 meters."

And, those involved with youth hockey organizations credit Ms. Chu for a significant part of that growth.

"I can think of no better role model and leader," said Lisa Fedick who oversees the operations at Wonderland of Ice and also served as Ms. Chu's first skating coach. "From even the youngest of ages, Julie demonstrated such passion, excitement and dedication about hockey. When you combine that with her natural grace, intellect and leadership you have a natural role model who inspires others to follow suit. We were and are lucky to have her at Wonderland and as part of both CT Hockey and USA Hockey."

For her part, Ms. Chu, who announced on Sunday that she will begin conducting camps at Wonderland of Ice this summer, credits hockey for more than just Olympic medals, White House trips and other accolades.

"Growing up playing hockey taught me that only hard work would be rewarded and that I had to prove myself every day. I also learned a great deal simply by having the chance to compete, and to operate in a nurturing team environment and organizational structure, and also through the inherent communication which is required in sports. All of these intangibles prepared me for life, gave me confidence and helped inspire success. For that, I'm thankful."

Judging by the significant turnout at Wonderland of Ice this past Sunday, many others were thankful too.

Julie Chu

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