Cadence Sorg’s love of hockey started with her father, who used to be a professional hockey player.
“I started when I was really little,” said Cadence, who’s 11. “It’s always been really fun for me to do. I used to do it when I was little and now I’m on a team. I love going to tournaments with my friends. … It’s really fun to watch myself as I improve.”
Cadence is attending AMP Hockey Camp in Stowe, run by Amanda Pelkey, a Vermont kid who grew up to become a gold-medal winner on the U.S. Olympic hockey team last year. It’s an intensive training camp for girls ages 9 through 18.
Pelkey grew up in Montpelier and attended Stowe’s North American Hockey Academy her junior and senior years of high school. Pelkey graduated from the University of Vermont in 2015 with a degree in exercise science and an excellent hockey resume that helped earn her a spot on the Olympic roster.
Pelkey showed off her gold medal at the camp, believing that the evidence of her success and passion for the game could inspire the next generation of Olympic athletes.
Her heroes include Cammi Granato, a 1998 Olympic gold medalist, and National Hockey League player Martin St. Louis, who also went to the UVM.
“I’m still looking up to them. I will always look up to my idols my whole life,” said Pelkey, 26, and the idea that she could be just as inspirational gives her pause.
Her camp offers intensive hockey lessons, extensive ice time, and lessons in nutrition, sprinting, agility, body movement, yoga and sports psychology.
“Basically, learning how to be an athlete, aside from just a hockey player,” she said.
She encourages campers to try every position on a hockey team, and said she experimented with a few before settling in as a forward who keys the offense
For Pelkey, playing hockey feels like home.
“It’s such a community sport, where you become a family with your team because you’re with them so much. The physical part of actually playing hockey is this free feeling. For me personally, I feel the most like myself when I’m playing,” she said.
She says camps like AMP are important for girls getting into the sport, because seeing women in hockey’s upper ranks gives them something to shoot for.
“Regardless of if you’re female or male, to succeed to the highest level … it’s challenging for both,” Pelkey said. “It’s never easy to get to the top. The biggest thing for females that we struggle with is experience and exposure. I think that starts at the grassroots level all the way up to the Olympic team. If you can’t see something, you can’t really believe in it, and you can’t reach that goal if you don’t see it with your own eyes.
“With guys, it’s almost like their vision of succeeding is a lot wider. There are more options that they have,” Pelkey said. She says many male hockey players don’t regard the Olympics as highly as female players do, since many of them want to play in the National Hockey League, whereas for female players, the Olympics is a career peak.
“Taking that vision of seeing someone who has succeeded and using it to help your career and fuel the fire to keep wanting to achieve your goals” is what Pelkey wants to pass on to her campers.
And they say it’s working.
Cadence, the 11-year-old hockey hopeful, is from New Jersey, and came to Stowe for a week for Pelkey’s camp.
“Every week I work on my skills and stuff with my dad,” she said. At camp, she’s working on puck handling and fakeouts, and she’s hoping to learn to shoot higher.
“It’s hard to shoot high for me right now, so I’m practicing my shot,” Cadence said. “I’ve learned ways to calm myself down if I get nervous before a game. That negativity can bring down your whole team, and you have to try to be positive and it helps you as you play, because your mindset can help. When you practice your skills, you get better. … It’s been a really cool experience to skate with Amanda and get to learn some new skills.”
Alyssa Frazier, 12, of Berlin has been playing hockey since she was 3, and says she’s in it to win it.
“If you win, that joy” — that’s what keeps her in the sport, she said.
“I like when you win a game, your team’s really happy and it makes you really happy, and when you lose, your team is still happy because you tried your best,” said Abby Booth, 10, of Burlington.