Thursday, 25 April 2013

Karen Thatcher retires from US National Team in wake of Clarkson Cup triumph

Joining the likes of Caitlin Cahow and Molly Engstrom, Karen Thatcher becomes the third Boston Blades player to announce her retirement from the US National Team in 2013. A notable figure in New England women’s hockey, her first brush with fame occurred in 2002 when she was the recipient of the Boston Bruins John Carlton Award.
She would follow with a solid career for the Providence Friars women’s hockey program in the Hockey East Conference. With the Friars, she earned All-America status, the Sarah Devens Award, and the Hockey East Player of the Year Award
After a silver medal with the US team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Thatcher joined the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Boston’s inaugural game on October 30, 2010 would also signify her debut with the black and gold. Logging an assist in a 3-0 victory against the Burlington Barracudas, the October 30 contest signified a great start to the beginning of her Blades career. Her first goal with the Blades came against fellow expansion club, the Toronto Furies on December 12, 2010.
Thatcher brought remarkable experience to the Blades. She had the unique distinction of having competed in the CWHL’s inaugural season of 2007-08. A member of the now-defunct Vaughan Flames, Thatcher, along with Kathleen Kauth and Molly Engstrom constituted the first wave of the league’s American-born stars.
Like many other women in the CWHL, Thatcher also had experience in the rival Western Women’s Hockey League. Competing with the British Columbia Breakers, she would play for the Abby Hoffman Cup at the 2007 Esso Women’s Nationals. At the event, she would gain the Top Forward in Pool B along with the MVP award, respectively.
When Digit Murphy became the Boston Blades head coach in autumn 2012, it would add a new dimension to Thatcher’s CWHL career. She could boast that she had played for Digit Murphy at both the CWHL and NCAA level. During the 2002-03 season, Thatcher competed at Brown University (also in Providence). Murphy had served as head coach for close to two decades with Brown. In her only season of NCAA hockey at the Ivy League school, Thatcher ranked second on the club with 35 points.  
Valuable experience was gained with USA Hockey by participating with the United States Under-22 team from 2002 to 2004. The 2006 Four Nations Cup marked Thatcher’s debut with the senior team as she recorded one goal in four appearances. The US finished the tourney with a silver medal.
It would take Thatcher another two years before getting her first taste of gold. The 2008 IIHF Women’s Worlds marked Thatcher’s debut at the event. Her two goals in the tournament were part of a gold medal effort, the second in the history of USA Hockey. She would follow it up at the 2009 IIHF Worlds with another gold medal. Of note, both gold medal wins came at the hands of archrival Canada.
A bittersweet moment in her career came in 2010 when she made her Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. As Vancouver was not far from her hometown in Blaine, Washington, it was an opportunity to compete in familiar surroundings. While she was one of the top scorers for the US with six points, the event ended in a sullen silver medal finish.
With over 60 appearances for the US national team, Thatcher had assembled a body of work that always gave the US an opportunity to compete. Just like 2010 US teammates Julie Chu (Montreal Stars) and Molly Engstrom (Brampton Thunder), Thatcher had the unique experience of being an American on a Canadian-based team in the CWHL. Having had the chance to display her hockey skills on both sides of the border, her sportsmanship and skill should inspire many young women to take to the ice.

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