NORTH BRANFORD, Sept. 12 – The first captain of the Connecticut Whale and the first woman to score a goal in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) has retired.
Jessica Koizumi, 31, was named the associate head coach of the women’s ice hockey team at Ohio State.
“It has been a whirlwind of a week,” Koizumi said in a personal letter posted on the NWHL website. “Those that know me personally truly understand this was the hardest career decision I have had to make to retire playing professionally in the NWHL before what I planned would be my last season.
“I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason and this incredible coaching opportunity at the Ohio State University just felt right, that my time had come to hang up my skates and wear my permanent coaching hat,” she said.
Koizumi had the first goal in league history in Connecticut’s 4-1 win over New York last October, scoring a goal just 2:28 into the first-ever game at Chelsea Pier in Stamford. She finished her only NWHL campaign with two goals and five assists in 18 regular season games, helping the Whale to a 13-5 record.
She played collegiate hockey at Minnesota-Duluth and won a gold medal with the United States at the 2008 IIHF world championships. From 2009-15, she played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with the Montreal Stars and Boston Blades, helping Boston win the Clarkson Cup championship in 2013 and 2015.
“I have made so many memories and lifetime friends playing with and against some of the best players in the world. Being a part of the first paid professional league in North America (NWHL) last season is something I didn’t believe would happen in my lifetime. I hope the league sustains for generations to come because it was a dream come true,” Koizumi wrote.
“It might sound silly, but one thing I took pride in was blocking shots and that’s something minor I will miss. My favorites were the game day routines and superstitions, the on ice celebrations with my team, and the many moments in the locker room laughing together at a Suvi Vacker, Kacey Bellamy or Kelly Babstock comment. Those three are from different teams in my career that inadvertently keep things light.”
Elena Orlando, who played for the New York Riverters last season, was moved off the practice squad and onto the active roster to take Koizumi’s spot on the team.
The second season of the NWHL begins Friday, Oct. 7. The Whale open the season in Buffalo on Sunday, Oct. 9 and have six games on the road before playing their first home game at their new home in North Branford on Dec. 10.