Howard Herman: Amanda Cariddi playing professional hockey
Amanda Cariddi may not consider herself a pioneer, but it would be fair to call her one.
Cariddi, a graduate of McCann Tech and Syracuse University, is the backup goaltender for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, one of two professional leagues for women's hockey players.
"Leaving Syracuse, I didn't really have anywhere to play," Cariddi said the other day. "I had a career opportunity in the Boston area."
So Cariddi, who was voted the most improved player on her Syracuse team in 2014-15, took her degree — as many do — to the Boston area.
"I was playing men's pickup with some friends, when I got a call from the Boston Blades, asking me to try out," she said. "I jumped at the opportunity."
Cariddi played high school hockey with co-op teams at Drury and St. Joseph before graduating in 2011. She was voted the Don Troy Memorial Sportsmanship Award in her senior year skating for the Crusaders.
At Syracuse, she played 2 1/2 years of club hockey before trying out for and making the Division I Orange. Syracuse plays in the Division I league College Hockey America, along with Mercyhurst, Penn State, Robert Morris, Lindenwood and Rochester Institute of Technology.
"I work full time, like all the other girls on the team. You work full time, you train when you get off work and then you go to practice," Cariddi said. "You keep yourself really busy."
For the record, the CWHL came first, but it is one of two women's leagues. The Boston Blades are the only American team in the Canadian League. But there is now the National Women's Hockey League, which features the Boston Pride and three other teams in the Northeast.
Cariddi has been Genevieve Lacasse's backup all year, and has gotten into a couple of games. The Blades wrapped up their season this weekend.
"Even just skating out on the ice for my first pro warm up, it was a surreal experience," said Cariddi. "We were up in Toronto, the stands were packed. It was such a good time.
"Just to have that experience with other players at the top of their game, skating with other players at the top of their game who play for the Canadian National Women's Olympic Team and skating with gold medalists. It was an amazing experience. I was kind of in awe."
Now, the NWHL seems to be positioning itself as the American hockey version of the WNBA. Hopefully, the leagues succeed and eventually merge into one big women's league.
But until then, Cariddi is riding this train as long and as far as she can.
"It's something I've always dreamed of as a little kid. You always say you want to make it big in sports, and it only happens to a certain few," she said. "I was very, very, very lucky. It's an amazing opportunity."
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