Drazan’s off-ice duties earning her a solid cheering section

As an assistant girls' hockey coach, Drazan has a lot of young kids looking up to her.

Austin Cumblad

Those who attended the Minnesota women’s hockey game on Jan. 26 may have noticed the loudest fans weren’t the players’ parents or University students, but rather a group of giddy 9- and 10-year-old girls from Wayzata, Minn.

And every time the puck came near junior defender Rachael Drazan, they erupted. The Wayzata U-10 girls’ hockey team was watching their coach play for the Gophers, and they couldn’t have been more excited.

Drazan is in her first year as an assistant coach for the team, but already she is having an impact on the girls she helps.

For one, having a “Gopher girl,” as team member Sophia Shaver puts it, coaching the team is fun and inspiring.

Drazan’s father Mike, the head coach of the Wayzata team, believes that just as boys grow up wanting to play for the Minnesota men’s hockey team, girls grow up hoping to play for the women’s team.

“You look up to the Gophers as the place you want to play,” he said. “That’s where you start your dreams.”

Thanks to the coaches, the girls are playing for more than just their dreams too. They’re playing for Rachael Drazan’s jersey.

And not just any jersey, but one that’s signed by the entire Minnesota women’s hockey team.

The “Hustle Jersey” is awarded at the end of each practice to the player that the coaches believe worked hardest. The girl who wins gets to keep it until the next practice and almost never leaves it unattended.

“The girls wear it out of the locker room, some of them wear it to school, and some of them wear it to bed,” Mike Drazan said. “The first girl we awarded it to, her dad said she didn’t take it off for the four days she had it. That gives you a little insight into how important it is to the girls.”

But this is just the start of Rachael Drazan’s impact on the team.

When she brought the team to the game, the girls were able to visit the locker room, meet coach Brad Frost and some of the players, and most importantly, watch their hero play.

“It was really fun to hang with the team and see Rachael play,” Shaver said. “It was just cool to see how she plays because she’s our coach and you never really get to see that.”

When her pupils are watching and hanging on everything she does, Rachael Drazan knows that the way she conducts herself on the ice is extremely important.

“I have to set a good example and not get any bad penalties or in fights,” she said. “When they’re at games I need to be a good leader and a role model for them.”

Of course, Drazan is the epitome of a good role model already, taking time out of her hectic hockey and school schedule to coach young girls and get them excited about the sport she loves.

“We’ve tried to work with Rachael to both give back to the sport she loves and the community because of some of the things she’s gotten from it,” Mike Drazan said. “It’s one thing to have someone like me on the bench who knows a little about the game and can work with the kids; it’s different to have someone who’s living it.”

Though Rachael Drazan has a lot to teach the girls because of her skill and experience, she says she has learned as much if not more from them.

She is currently working toward her teaching degree in early childhood, so the chance to work with 9- and 10-year-olds gives her valuable experience to apply toward her future career.

“They’ve taught me better ways to communicate and about the different ways people learn,” she said. “Not everybody’s a visual learner, not everybody’s an auditory learner. I’ve learned little things that maybe I wouldn’t have picked up if I was in the classroom and not on the ice.”