Stott Pursues Love of Hockey Abroad

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Jessie Stott on the ice Danielle Bazely

Dreams, for some, are just casual and momentary wishes tucked away in our mental hope chest. For others, dreams become the inspiration to accomplish great things. Jessie Stott is the latter, and she’s accomplished a lot for a 22-year-old woman from small-town Manitoba. 

Stott has spent the last four years playing women’s hockey for the University of Connecticut, where she graduated in June with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Since that time, she has joined the Neuberg Highlanders, a professional all-women’s hockey team based in Austria.

During her 2017–18 contract with the Highlanders, Stott will be playing against teams from Italy, Denmark, and a number of eastern European countries as well as other Austrian squads.

“There’s a lot of different leagues in Europe,” says her mom, Crystal Stott. “Most Division 1 athletes have to find their own way whereas Team Canada players get scouted.”

With the Connecticut Huskies, Jessie Stott played at a Division 1 level. For these young women, there is no easy path to the next opportunity. With the help of the Huskies’ assistant coach, also a hockey scout, Stott completed paperwork and sent performance tapes to the Austrian team coaches, hoping to continue her passion for another year in an exciting European locale. Typically, only a few U of C graduates apply and get accepted each year.

“Throughout my years of playing in college there have always been players that have gone on to play hockey across Europe,” says Stott. “I initially thought I was ready to hang up the skates once I graduated and, since I had a small senior class, no one else was interested in playing anywhere. After talking to one of my former teammates who continued on to play in Munich, I realized that passing up on this opportunity would be one of my biggest regrets.” 

Once she was accepted, the Austrian team made her transition relatively simple. Stott has been supplied with a fully furnished apartment that she shares with two other Highlander teammates in the Austrian town of Spital Am Semmering. They also receive the use of a vehicle, as well as subsidized gas and groceries for the season.

“She loves it,” says Crystal. “She never got to travel a lot in the last few years because everything was about school and hockey. She didn’t have a social life. Everything was about training, studying, and playing, so this is kind of her reward.”

Stott says her daughter has a lot of free time in Austria and she hopes to spend much of it seeing places she’s always wanted to visit like Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. Her teammates provide great travelling companions while navigating Europe’s rail systems.

“Although I was nervous about doing this on my own, I have some pretty awesome teammates who made this little town feel like home instantly,” says Stott. “So far, it’s been an amazing experience living in such a beautiful country. But being able to travel across Europe while playing the sport I love at a professional level has been so surreal. It’s a dream that I never thought would come true.”

While the majority of the team’s players are Austrian, two other Canadian girls round off the roster. The Highlanders’ coach is fluent only in Finnish, creating an obvious language barrier. Thankfully, many of the team’s Austrian players are multilingual and have been able to successfully bridge the language gap for the Canadian players. A translation app on Stott’s cell phone is also there to aid her.

As for her future aspirations at the end of this one-year contract, Crystal can only speculate. 

“I think the whole point of this year was to take some time off,” says Crystal. “The level of pressure in what she’s doing right now is quite reduced from being a student athlete, [which] was quite an intense workload. So, this is really nice. She still gets to play, which she wasn’t ready to give up yet because she loves the game. She can actually have time now to experience different things.”

At some point, Crystal says, she expects her daughter will return to Canada and pursue the career she was trained in. Until then, this mother will continue to encourage her daughter to chase her dream while she can.

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