As was mentioned in our first profile of Erica Kromm, it’s going to be a year of transition for the Inferno after Olympic centralization pillaged the roster of many of the team’s best players. If the Inferno are going to maintain their illustrious standards, they’re going to need internal growth and some fresh new faces to contribute right out of the gate.
The second edition of our Inferno profile pieces features one of those new faces, Taryn Baumgardt, the Inferno’s fifth overall selection in the 2017 CWHL entry draft. A recent graduate of Quinnipiac University, Baumgardt was a two-time ECAC All-Academic team selection and won gold with Team Canada at the 2013 U-18 World Championships.
When asked to describe herself as a player, Baumgardt explained:
As far as my playing style I would like to think that I am a player that can contribute defensively and offensively. However with a new team comes new roles and I am happy to do my best to fill any role that the coaches believe the team needs to be successful.
In my senior year at university I have to give credit to my teammates who were extremely easy to play with. They made my job simple and fun and as a result I was fortunate enough to contribute offensively as well as defensively.
Baumgardt may have played her NCAA hockey in Connecticut but she’s no stranger to hockey in Alberta. Born in Innisfail, Baumgardt also represented Team Alberta three times at the Canada Games, including the gold medal-winning squad in 2010. Baumgardt touched on her return to Alberta and the changes to Alberta women’s hockey during her time away:
I have been extremely fortunate to have had so many opportunities to travel with hockey and meet new people. I had been away from Innisfail for about five years and I always enjoyed coming home whenever I could. After graduating university at Quinnipiac I was of course in shock and a little sad that four years flew by so fast; however, I was excited to come home and start a new chapter with life and hockey. The hockey culture in Alberta for young female athletes had definitely grown since I’ve been away.
There are more and more young girls playing hockey every year which is amazing to see. It’s growing the game and as a result the game is becoming more and more competitive every year. There are also so many more opportunities for girls in today’s game to go and play competitive hockey after high school. The Inferno have been a huge part in growing the game. Young female athletes now can come and watch the Inferno play and say, “I’m going to be there one day.” It definitely inspires girls to continue to play, which is so important in growing the game.
It’s always interesting to gauge the perception of the Inferno from players who are new to the organization. It gives us a better impression of how the team is viewed in women’s hockey circles. I find that sometimes, an organization that is consistently successful can obscure a fanbase’s perception of the team, perhaps dulling the magnitude of the accomplishments for casual fans. I asked Baumgardt about the Inferno’s culture and how she perceived the mixture of veterans and rookies.
The Calgary Inferno have definitely made a name for themselves in women’s hockey over the past few years, which is a testament to the past players and coaches who helped to build the program to where it is today. With only a couple of weeks under my belt with the Inferno I can say that we have a culture of pride and accountability with the players and coaches. We are a very determined group who want to put our mark on the Inferno program and make Calgary proud and excited about women’s hockey.
There are quite a few new faces in the locker room this year, myself included. Everyone that came to training camp was extremely talented and competitive which made for a great camp. All of us rookies are looking forward to the season starting and we definitely look up to the veterans. All of the veterans have been so welcoming to the new members of the team. They also set an example for all of us as their work ethic is second to none and they have a drive and determination about them that inspires us to be better. I truly couldn’t ask for better individuals to look up to.
As has been mentioned before, Baumgardt will be making a pretty significant jump this season from the NCAA to the professional ranks. Whether it’s hockey, basketball, baseball, or football, adjusting to life outside of the regimented world of collegiate athletics can come as a bit of a shock to athletes. Baumgardt acknowledged the time constraints unique to a professional women’s hockey player as well; even with the introduction of player salaries, it is a far cry from a comfortable income. Many players having to train, practice, and play alongside other employment creates what must be a truly hectic lifestyle:
The transition between Quinnipiac and Calgary has definitely been a new experience for me. At school we had to focus on our studies and we were on the ice everyday practicing. We did everything as a team including practicing and working out.
With the Inferno, we practice and work out together twice a week in season and we work out on our own two to three times a week. Playing with the Inferno is a little different because everyone has jobs and you have to find time to work out and keep yourself motivated, because your teammates sometimes aren’t there to push you.
From the outside looking in, the elephant in the 2017-18 locker room is the question of centralization and its effect of the roster. Unsurprisingly, Baumgardt was not concerned about its impact on the Inferno’s expectations this season:
The Calgary Inferno players that were centralized for the upcoming 2018 Olympics will definitely be missed as they are all phenomenal hockey players and individuals. The program and the team are very proud of all of those girls and know that they will do an outstanding job of representing our country.
As far as our team this season I don’t believe that the expectations have been altered as a result of the centralization. Our group of players and coaches are excited about the year ahead. There are a lot of new faces and everyone has a very positive attitude as we continue to prepare for our opening games against Boston. We all have the same goal and are thrilled to have the opportunity to work towards it together.
Lastly, I asked Baumgardt about the changes she’s observed in professional women’s hockey during her career and the impact that the CWHL’s expansion and player salaries have had:
The number of changes and the growth that has occurred in women’s hockey even over the past few seasons is simply outstanding. The league is always looking to expand and grow and contribute to the development of women’s hockey. The league expansion to China and the introduction of players’ salaries is huge for the growth of the game globally and in North America.
This is something that is pretty special because 10 to 12 years ago many people didn’t believe it would ever be possible for women to be paid to play hockey. The league has done an amazing job and I believe that it will only continue to grow from here. The future generations of women’s hockey have amazing opportunities to look forward to.
With established veterans like Erica Kromm and new faces like Baumgardt, the Inferno will attempt to maintain the high standards set by the previous two seasons this year.
The Inferno will start their season on the road on Oct. 21 in Boston. Their first home game is Oct. 28, as they host Kunlun Red Star at Max Bell Centre.