When you meet Lucrece Nussbaum, her calm presence and soft voice is comforting. Some people say she’s shy, others think she’s reserved, but most agree it’s an inner confidence.
It’s that confidence that’s made her the rock patrolling the blue line for the St. Thomas Tommie’s women’s hockey team. Lukie—as her friends call her—is preparing to suit up for team Switzerland in Vancouver. At 23, she’s the first St. Thomas athlete to reach the Olympics.
“It’s a huge honour to be on that team. It’s mixed feelings, you’re honoured, and you’re excited,” Nussbaum said.
In her fourth season with the Tommies, Fredericton has become her home away from home. But Nussbaum says coming to Canada was a transition she wasn’t prepared for.
“It was different; it was my first time being overseas. It was my first time leaving home and it was a culture shock,” said Nussbaum, who has three goals and seven assists this season.
“It’s different language, its different food, its different climate, and everything’s different. Even the hockey is different.”
Tommies head coach Peter Murphy was responsible for bringing Nussbaum overseas. He remembers her soft-spoken personality from the day he picked her up at the airport.
“She was quiet, very unassuming… very memorable to anyone who meets her,” he said. It wasn’t long before her leadership qualities were revealed.
“She isn’t the one who is going to bang the drum in the dressing room but says, ‘I’m going to show you how hard I’m going to play on the ice, and that’s how hard you should play too’,” Murphy said.
Team Switzerland solidified their spot in the games by defeating Sweden in the quarter-finals of the 2008 women’s world hockey championships in China. They’re ranked fifth by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Remarkable, considering Switzerland’s population of female hockey players is a mere 735. Canada, on the other hand, has more than 85,000 registered female players.
Mike Eagles, St. Thomas University’s athletic director, recognizes what an asset she is to the program. He says Nussbaum’s achievements have single-handedly raised the profile of the AUS, the school and the hockey program.
“Peter Murphy has really had good success at finding European talent. It’s certainly an advantage when you can find that diamond in the rough,” he said.
Nussbaum leaves for the games on Feb. 1. She says she understands the magnitude of the Olympic tournament and wants to do Switzerland proud.
“You always want to play the best you can and especially when you get to live your dream. That is what you’ve always worked for, that’s what you’ve always dreamed about and now you get the opportunity to go there so you want to play the best hockey that you can play.”
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