Little did Hayley Scamurra know that she was fulfilling her Olympic potential while playing ice hockey at Northeastern.
“Northeastern played a huge role in my development,” says Scamurra, a Husky from 2013 to 2017 who is participating in her first Winter Olympics with Team USA.
Scamurra is among five Huskies—all forwards—who are competing in women’s ice hockey at the Games in Beijing. The other four are:
- Kendall Coyne Schofield, Scamurra’s former linemate at Northeastern. Coyne Schofield serves as captain of the U.S. team, which arrives at Beijing as the reigning Olympic champion.
- The Czech Republic’s Dinesa Krizova, who starred at Northeastern from 2014 to 2018.
- China’s Rachel Llanes, a speedy forward for the Huskies from 2009 to 2013.
- Current Northeastern star Alina Mueller, who is on leave from the Huskies to compete in her third Olympics with Switzerland.
Scamurra, Krizova, and Llanes helped build the Northeastern program around coach Dave Flint and the dynamic leadership of Coyne Schofield, who as a senior earned the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as national player of the year in 2015-16.
“We went on an upward trajectory when we started getting those players,” says Flint, who has assembled a national championship contender in his 13th season at Northeastern. “I think it helped to get the players that we have now—they saw how great those players were and it really helped us with the recruiting.”
Affirming that trend is Mueller, the senior forward who is expected to return to Northeastern in time to help the Huskies seek a fourth straight Hockey East championship in the final week of February.
“It’s pretty neat,” says Flint, who was named national coach of the year last season. “We have five different players from four countries in the Olympics.”
Scamurra, Krizova, and Llanes recorded at least 100 points each over their careers with the Huskies (as has Mueller). Each played two years with Coyne Schofield, who left Northeastern with school records of 141 goals and 249 points in 133 games. Flint saw the leadership skills in Coyne Schofield early in her career.
“She got picked by her teammates to be a captain after her freshman year, and she came to me and said, ‘I don’t think I’m ready to be a captain yet,’” Flint recalls. “It was a really mature move on her part. Ultimately, when she was ready, she became our captain and made a lasting impact on our program.”
Scamurra’s sophomore and junior seasons were crucial to her development. Not only was she learning to complement Coyne Schofield, but she was also defining her own style of play with the help of Adam Naylor, who has served as the Huskies’ sports psychologist since 2012.
“He really helped me with the mindset of whatever team you’re on, you’re going to give your all to that team,” Scamurra says of Naylor. “I remember having to write down what I thought my skills were and then getting really good at those. For me, that’s the physicality, the mental side of the game—those are my strengths, and that’s what I dialed in on to get better at.”
Two years after leaving Northeastern, the 5-foot 8-inch Scamurra’s hockey IQ and physically imposing style were helping Team USA win the IIHF Women’s World Championship.
“My role on this team is that physical aspect—being relentless on the forecheck and things like that,” Scamurra says. “I really fine-tuned that at Northeastern.”
It hasn’t been easy for Scamurra to maintain her commitment. In 2019, she joined a boycott by 200 players who were demanding full-time salaries and benefits from the National Women’s Hockey League. The ensuing COVID-19 pandemic forced her to conduct workouts at home alone in Buffalo and with teenagers of the NHL Buffalo Sabres junior men’s team. Her stubborn dedication affirmed Scamurra’s love for the sport and the power of her Olympic dream.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Scamurra says of her opportunity in Beijing. “It’s not something I pictured happening three or four years ago. So it’s exciting to see all the hard work pay off.”