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Lena Schroeder
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Paralympic hopes become secondary for the only woman on the ice

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In 2018, Lena Schroeder became the second woman to participate in a Paralympic hockey tournament, and the first in 24 years.

She hopes to return for a second Paralympic Games for Norway in 2022, but another part of her life takes precedent: working as a doctor, and recently fighting the coronavirus in a hospital outside Oslo.

“My plan is to continue to play hockey as long as I can,” the 27-year-old Schroeder said. “If I find out that I’m not as skilled as I was, or I can’t work out as much as I think I should, then that would be a problem. I would probably be forced to quit [hockey].”

In PyeongChang, Schroeder was on the ice for 5 minutes, 13 seconds, in one game for Norway, which finished fifth of eight teams.

The Paralympic hockey tournament is technically mixed gender, since there is no separate women’s event. Before Schroeder, no woman participated since fellow Norwegian Brit Mjaasund Oejen at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games.

Schroeder became a story in South Korea. She was featured by the BBC, Agence France-Presse (the national news agency of France) and Marca, a leading Spanish daily sports newspaper.

A nation receives an extra roster spot for a female player, but she would have earned a place on the team without the exception, Norway’s coach said.

“We said all the way that Lena was being picked for the team because of her skill level and not because she was a female,” Espen Hegde said earlier this month. “She was there as our No. 14 or 15 [skater out of 16] on the roster, but she was there on the same level as the guys.”

Schroeder, born with spina bifida, played violin for nine years but gave it up once she discovered hockey for the first time at age 15 in 2008. She soon began playing in local games with some men from the national team. By 2011, coaches knew about her and she took part in a more organized session with the national team.

“But I wasn’t ready for it,” she said. “I was too slow, and I couldn’t keep up with the guys. I had it as a personal goal to make it onto the national team. I was constantly working to get on the team.”

Schroeder seized her next chance in a 2013 tryout and made the team. She played her first game for Norway in 2014.

“We expected a smart and skillful player,” Hegde said, “and she was able to live up to those expectations.”

PyeongChang was historic, but could have been even more memorable. She spent more time doing interviews than on the ice in games.

“I wasn’t as essential to the team that I want to be,” she said. “It was great at that time, but I would really like to contribute some more to the team.”

That happened at the 2019 World Championship. Schroeder played every game, partially due to her improvement and partially because of other skaters’ injuries. Norway again finished fifth, the top-ranked team of those that missed the medal round.

“She deserved more minutes on the ice,” Hegde said.

Schroeder played all those games with the national team while taking medical school classes at the University of Oslo, or while putting them off to pursue the Paralympics. After seven years, she became a doctor last Dec. 13 (and had a game to play later that night).

An already busy life accelerated this year. She went from working as a nurse and lab assistant in a private clinic to a doctor in the cardiology ward of Akershus University Hospital on the outskirts of Oslo in April. She had planned to spend that month with the national team, preparing and playing at the European Championships, which were canceled due to the pandemic.

Then she moved to the ER for 13-hour shifts, helping identify patients who may have the coronavirus, as first reported by Paralympic.org.

“They needed extra people in the hospital because of Covid-19,” she said. “I was a bit of a wreck the first week or two, then, gradually, I began to understand my role.”

Schroeder, after finishing shifts and shedding PPE, works out as much as possible. She gathered with the national team earlier this month.

“I really want to continue playing hockey, but they know as well as I know that it’s going to be hard working so much,” she said.

The coaching staff accepts Schroeder will train less but struck a deal to keep her in mind once competition resumes.

“We’ve talked to her about her speed, which has been her biggest obstacle as a player,” said Hegde, who is now the general manager. “Of course, being a female competing with guys who are stronger, she needs to compensate by being smarter and more skillful. I’m really not worried about her smartness or her technique, but we told her, if you want to pursue being a doctor, that’s fine with us, but you need to work on your speed.”

Schroeder embraced the challenge.

“If me working as much as I do in the hospital doesn’t negatively affect my skills on the ice, then I’ll be able to play,” she said.

MORE: How the Olympics, Paralympics intersected over time

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Who makes the 2022 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster?

Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews
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NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire‘s early U.S. Olympic roster prediction for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, now that the NHL and NHLPA are one step closer to participating after skipping PyeongChang 2018 …

Goalies
Ben Bishop (Dallas Stars, 33)
John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks, 26)
Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets, 27)
Also in the hunt: Spencer Knight (Boston College, 19)

OlympicTalk notes: All of these men would be Olympic rookies. Knight would be the youngest U.S. Olympic male hockey player in the NHL era, breaking defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record from 1998. If the U.S. wants some Olympic experience on the team, it could look at 2014 starter Jonathan Quick, who is still the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 but has battled injuries since Sochi.

Defensemen
John Carlson (Washington Capitals, 30)
Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks, 20)
Seth Jones (Columbus Blue Jackets, 25)
Torey Krug (Boston Bruins, 29)
Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins, 22)
Ryan McDonagh (Tampa Bay Lightning, 31)
Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes, 26)
Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets, 22)
Also in the hunt: Brandon Carlo (Boston Bruins, 23), Adam Fox (New York Rangers, 22), Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild, 35), Jacob Trouba (New York Rangers, 26)

OlympicTalk notes: Carlson, McDonagh and Suter have Olympic experience. Carlson was the lone U.S. defenseman in the top seven of NHL All-Star voting at the end of the 2018-19 season. Carlson, Jones, Slavin and Hughes were in the 2020 All-Star Game.

MORE: Who makes the 2022 Canada Olympic men’s hockey roster?

Forwards
Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks, 23)
Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets, 23)
Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres, 23)
Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames, 26)
Jake Guentzel (Pittsburgh Penguins, 25)
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks, 31)
Chris Kreider (New York Rangers, 29)
Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings, 23)
Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs, 22)
J.T. Miller (Vancouver Canucks, 27)
Max Pacioretty (Vegas Golden Knights, 31)
Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa Senators, 20)
Matt Tkachuk (Calgary Flames, 22)
Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets, 33)
Also in the hunt: Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks, 22), Anders Lee (New York Islanders, 30), T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals, 33), Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh Penguins, 28)

OlympicTalk notes: Kane, Wheeler, Pacioretty and Oshie have Olympic experience, but the top lines will be filled with Olympic rookies. No American forwards were in the top 11 of NHL All-Star voting at the end of the 2018-19 season, but Kane, Matthews and Eichel ranked Nos. 8, 9 an 10 in points this season.

MORE: NHL players vote on world’s best female hockey player

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Who makes the 2022 Canada Olympic men’s hockey roster?

Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby
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NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire‘s early Canada Olympic roster prediction for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, now that the NHL and NHLPA are one step closer to participating after skipping PyeongChang 2018 …

Goalies
Jordan Binnington (St. Louis Blues, 27)
Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers, 21)
Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens, 32)
Also in the hunt: Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals, 30), Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights, 35), Matt Murray (Pittsburgh Penguins, 26)

OlympicTalk notes: It will be difficult for anyone to supplant Price, the best goalie from the 2014 Olympics with a .59 goals-against average, .972 save percentage and shutouts of the U.S. and Sweden in the medal round. That said, Binnington bettered Price’s stats the last two seasons and won the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2019. Canada’s goalie depth is such that the 2017 Stanley Cup winner and both 2018 Stanley Cup finalists are in the “also in the hunt” tier.

Defensemen
Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators, 23)
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings, 30)
Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins, 33)
Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche, 21)
Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets, 25)
Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blues, 27)
Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues, 30)
Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs, 26)
Also in the hunt: Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks, 35), Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers, 24), Ryan Ellis (Nashville Predators, 29), Dougie Hamilton (Carolina Hurricanes, 27), Shea Theodore (Vegas Golden Knights, 24)

OlympicTalk notes: Mark Giordano and Burns won two of the last three Norris Trophies, and Shea Weber is a two-time Olympian and all-tournament player in 2010, but they will be 38, 36 and 36 come the Olympics. Only Al MacInnis (2002) and Ray Bourque (1998) have been in that age range on Canadian Olympic teams in the NHL era. Enter the new generation, led by Makar and Chabot.

MORE: Who makes the 2022 USA Olympic men’s hockey roster?

Forwards
Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins, 34)
Anthony Cirelli (Tampa Bay Lightning, 22)
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins, 32)
Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers, 27)
Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche, 24)
Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins, 32)
Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs, 23)
Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers, 23)
Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis Blues, 29)
Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning, 24)
Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets, 27)
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning, 30)
Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights, 28)
John Tavares (Toronto Maple Leafs, 29)
Also in the hunt: Mathew Barzal (New York Islander, 23), Taylor Hall (Arizona Coyotes, 28), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers, 27), Alexis Lafreniere (QMJHL, 18), Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars, 28)

OlympicTalk notes: Eleven of the 14 forwards on the predicted team play center in the NHL, but Canada is known for versatility in meshing superstars. Another center, Jonathan Toews, is one of Canada’s greatest all-time international forwards. But he will be 33 come the Beijing Games, trying to make the most competitive team in the Olympics at its deepest position. Crosby, who will be 34 come 2022, might be looking at his last Olympics. But a fourth team in Italy in 2026 would be storybook, given he was controversially left off the 2006 Torino Games roster at age 18 (and Canada ended up losing in the quarterfinals).

MORE: NHL players vote on world’s best female hockey player

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