FORT WAYNE – Gracen Hirschy was just a tyke when she began to attend Komets hockey games with her grandfather.
I was about 3 years old, and I strung along, Hirschy said. And I loved it.
She loved the game so much, she began to play it – first as the only girl on the Komets Squirt team. Throughout her days at Highland Terrace Elementary in New Haven, then into New Haven Middle School, she developed her talent. She left home so she could play on the Culver Girls Academy team, where she is a senior.
She will play collegiate hockey at the University of North Dakota.
But there is another stop for Hirschy, 17, and it begins the day after Christmas when, as a member of the United States team, she will play in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Heinola and Vierumaki, Finland, beginning Saturday through Jan. 5.
It’s indescribable, to be honest, said Hirschy of making the U.S. team. You work so hard for something for such a long time, it’s like, wow. It’s crazy.
The 5-foot-9 offensive-minded defenseman, who is the only Indiana player on the team, participated in a one-week camp in July, then returned for a hockey festival in August. From 26 players, 22 were chosen to play in the world championships.
Hirschy had been close before.
Last season she attended the same camp but didn’t make the team.
I got cut two days before the games against Canada, which were in August, she said. This year, going to camp I knew I could do it if I worked really hard.
She has played in Canada several times with other teams, but this will be her first trip overseas.
I’m just kind of winging it, she said of her mental preparation. There are multiple people who are given me tips. It’s going to be a whole new experience for me. I don’t know how to prepare.
She’ll prepare like she did as a little girl going up through the ranks: Play hard, don’t give up, don’t let up.
And no, she says, no one ever took it easy because she was a girl playing hockey with the boys.
Actually, they took it harder on me, she said. They didn’t want me to feel sorry for myself.
The travel tips she’s gotten?
They told me not to complain about the food; make sure to try everything; take in the whole experience.
The U.S. will face Russia, the Czech Republic and Sweden in pool play.