Defying odds, Brodt sisters team up this season

Brett Angel

In the Brodt family, learning to play hockey has become more than just tradition, it’s a rite of passage – and something usually taught before learning how to tie the laces on your skates.

“We all started skating when we were 18 months old,” said 24-year-old Winny, a senior on Minnesota’s women’s hockey team.

“We had to,” added younger sister Chelsey, who’s in her first season with the Gophers. “We all wore the same pair of skates.”

Older brother Vic, 36, who played college hockey at St. Cloud State, was the first to wear the skates. Sister Kerry, 30, who coached the Huskies women’s team until stepping down after last season, was next.

Not even 12-year-old brother Tony, who was born in Honduras, could escape the family custom.

“We adopted him when he was 15 months old,” Winny said, “and we had him on skates about two months later.”

Now teammates on the top-ranked team in the country, the Brodt sisters refined their skills playing street hockey on Aladdin Street in suburban Roseville with next-door neighbors Ronda and Renee Curtin. Ronda, a first team All-American and Patty Kazmaier Award finalist last season, is currently a teammate of theirs with the Gophers.

Both Winny and Chelsey played prep golf and soccer when they weren’t busy winning state hockey championships with Roseville Area High School (Winny in 1996 and Chelsey in 1999).

Both wore the same jersey as seniors, No. 5, and were Minnesota Ms. Hockey finalists (Winny won the inaugural award in 1996). Even their style of play bears a resemblance to each other.

“It’s kinda scary,” Winny said. “Sometimes when we’re watching video, I’ll look at Chelsey and say, ‘Whoa, I thought that was me.’ “

But for all their similarities, as sisters and as teammates, the odds were against the two ever playing collegiate hockey together at Minnesota.

Winny, who is six years older than 18-year-old Chelsey, graduated from high school in 1996 before the University had a women’s hockey team. She signed a letter of intent to play at New Hampshire, but a mix-up with the NCAA Clearinghouse forced her to sit out a season.

The next year, she led the Wildcats to a national title and was named most valuable player of the AWCHA Championship.

In the meantime, Minnesota had constructed a women’s hockey program of its own. And even after an extremely successful first year out east, Winny knew in the back of her mind she wanted to return to her home state.

“My heart was always in Minnesota,” she said.

Winny transferred and enjoyed two stellar seasons as a member of the Gophers. She ranked ninth nationally in assists as a sophomore and was named conference Defensive Player of the Year in the team’s 2000 national championship season.

After her junior year, Winny again left Minnesota – this time to play with the U.S. National Team. She had hopes of earning an Olympic medal but was cut from the team before the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

“I think she really expected to be on the Olympic team,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “(After that) it was best for her to mentally take a break from competitive hockey.”

Winny decided to sit out the 2001-2002 season, her third since graduating in 1996.

Chelsey graduated in 2002, and after considering playing for Kerry at St. Cloud State, she decided to attend Minnesota and join Winny wearing the maroon and gold.

The two now have a legitimate chance at wining a national championship – together. The Gophers, 11-0-1, are the only undefeated WCHA team.

“It all worked out in the end,” Halldorson said. “Even though Winny has been on the receiving end of some bad luck, she’s had a great college career and she’s having a tremendous senior year on a team full of friends.”

The only thing left to be settled now is what’s going to happen to Winny’s No. 5 jersey once she graduates.

“I think I might have to take it,” Chelsey said as they both cracked a smile.

After all, it does already have her name on it.

Three sign letters of intent

lyndsay Wall, Andrea Nichols and Becky Wacker signed national letters of intent to play hockey at Minnesota next season.

Wall, a defender from Churchville, N.Y., is considered to be among the most highly-recruited defenders in the nation, Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said.

Nichols led the state of Minnesota in scoring the past two seasons at Hibbing High School, while Wacker is a forward out of York, Maine.

Darwitz, Wendell honored

natalie Darwitz was named WCHA Player of the Week for the first time in her collegiate career for her performance last weekend against Brown and Harvard. Darwitz totaled five points, including her second career hat-trick against Brown.

Krissy Wendell earned WCHA Rookie of the Week for her play in the games, tallying two goals and four assists during the weekend.

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]