Girls Hockey: Haley signs with the GophersPaige Haley’s mind was made up a while ago about playing hockey for the University of Minnesota.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Paige Haley’s mind was made up a while ago about playing hockey for the University of Minnesota.
Signing her national letter of intent Wednesday was a formality, but the moment was still special for the Red Wing senior.
“I feel so relieved almost even though I was going there anyway,” Haley said of signing with the Golden Gophers. “I feel super privileged about it, very lucky. I don’t think many kids get an opportunity like this.”
She will join a Minnesota team that is ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 12-0 record. Haley realizes the caliber of players and coaches she will be playing for with the Gophers.
“I’m really privileged to be on a team with a group of kids that have the same dreams as I do,” she said. “That team’s going to be something.”
Minnesota’s coaching staff, head coach Brad Frost and assistant coach Joel Johnson, will help Haley, a defenseman, improve as much as possible, she said. Johnson coaches the defensive unit.
“They’re so good at what they do that I know I’m going to a place where they’ll make me better,” Haley said, “where they’ll really take what I have and expand it. I’ll leave as the best hockey player that I can be.”
Last season, Haley helped Red Wing to its second consecutive Class 1A state tournament berth and the Wingers finished fourth. Haley scored 33 goals and had 38 assists last year, including five points in three state tournament games. Haley already has 12 points in Red Wing’s first three games this season, all wins.
Scott Haley, Paige’s father and the girls hockey head coach at Red Wing, was drawn to Minnesota’s program, one of the best in women’s hockey history, and realizes it will be about more than hockey with the Gophers.
“As a parent and coach, we’ve been so overly impressed with the coaching staff and the program up there,” Scott said. “They are great mentors for these young women.”
Both father and daughter said never expected an opportunity for her to play for the Gophers and they are not taking the experience for granted, Scott said.
“I watched them growing up my whole life,” Paige said. “My dad and mom took me to Gopher games when I was little. They were always a dream but I never thought it could ever come true. It just kind of happened.”
After spending much of her high school career frustrating opponents with her ability to control the puck and spearhead an offensive attack as a defenseman, Paige will have a different role with the Gophers.
It will be difficult to be a freshman and learn a new way of playing, but she plans to showcase the skills Minnesota recruited her for, Paige said.
“I’m going to have to leave behind the rushing and stuff,” she said. “I’ll have to play the big girl hockey game, but I’m definitely willing to take that on because that’s what I have to do to be there.”
Scott said he always hoped Paige could be a Gopher.
“My wife and I feel very fortunate, but a lot of the credit has to go back to Paige,” Scott said. “Her discipline and work ethic is what’s gotten her there.”