The Road Less Traveled
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos courtesy of Buffalo State College
In this day and age of sports, it’s becoming more and more common for hockey players to travel all over the country in search of playing time and that elusive scholarship.
Gone are the days when young men and women would step on campus as an 18-year-old freshman and contribute right away. College coaches now want more seasoned players. They want freshman who are 20, 21-years old. Freshman who are more mature to handle the rigors of a college hockey schedule.
With that being said, you now see more players going off and players a few years of junior hockey or a couple of extra years in AAA. It’s a decision that isn’t easy on the family or themselves.
They have to make a decision to uproot everything that have in their town to chase a dream that might not happy. For many, the progressional ranks in a pipe dream. But, playing college hockey isn’t. To play college hockey, young men and women have to decide if the sacrifice is worth it.
Growing up in a small town of 600 people in Colorado, Buffalo State College sophomore hockey player Terah Edstrom always had the dream of playing college hockey. At an early age she would do anything in her power to get on the ice.
Even if that meant playing with boys.
“I come from a very big hockey family as I and both of my brothers have been playing hockey since age 4. When I was around 8-years old, I started playing on boys hockey teams to improve my skills and decided my dream was to play college hockey. I continued to pursue my dream, playing on up to three teams at a time (boys and girls),” stated Edstrom. “However, it was not until the start of my junior year of high school that I realized playing on my boys varsity high school team might have made me a good player, but it wasn’t getting me any exposure. So, my senior year, I made a pretty difficult decision of leaving all of my friends, family, teammates that I had played with since I was 4-years old, to move to Minnesota and finish the rest of my high school hockey career playing AAA, with hopes of getting seen by college coaches.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for Edstrom to just pack up and move to the hockey capital of the world in Minnesota. There she wouldn’t know anyone, and she was going to be on a team that she knew nothing about.
But, this is Minnesota. Hockey is God in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. If you can make it in Minnesota you must be a pretty good player. Even though she was playing AAA for only a year, Edstrom made an impression on college coaches.
Her dream of becoming a college hockey player was about to hit the ice full speed.
“Minnesota, being the state of hockey, means there is plenty of opportunity. However, I did not have more than a year of AAA experience, meaning I wasn’t very high on the recruitment list. I was worried about not having the same experience, and if I would ever get it,” stated Edstrom. “After talking to some old teammates, some who were committed DI and some who were committed DIII, I decided that DIII would be a better fit for me. This was a difficult decision, as it had been my dream to play DI since as long as I can remember, but I would not change my decision for one-second. I’ve met some amazing people, gotten to play the game that I love, and pursue my education.”
It would be a cool story if it just ended there. A hard-working girl on her own making it in Minnesota. It wasn’t, however. Her never ending journey to find that next great college hockey town saw her end up in Illinois and Aurora University.
Aurora showed interest in Edstrom right off the bat, and she couldn’t wait to start her college career. However, her college career would have one more twist and turn. One more far away city that is knows to be crazy about hockey - but also have a pretty bad reputation when it comes to the weather.
“Sadly, not long after getting to Aurora for my freshman year, I realized that the school itself just wasn’t a great fit for me. But I did not want my college hockey career to be over, even though my options were limited. I actually had a teammate at Aurora who’s sister, Cheyenne Matson, plays here at Buffalo State,” explained Edstrom. “She put me into contact with her when I started speaking of transferring, and I started looking at the SUNY schools. Being from Colorado, I didn’t really know the SUNYAC was a conference as my focus was mostly on the NCHA. Still determined, I started emailing coaches, letting them know I was looking to transfer. After receiving offers from Buffalo State, Oswego State, and St. Catherine’s university, I felt that my heart was pulling me towards Buffalo.”
Buffalo is just a few miles away from Colorado, and you could say it has some different weather. What Buffalo does have is a fan base for hockey that is rivaled only by those in the great states of Massachusetts and Minnesota.
While the Buffalo Bills get a lot of the headlines, the Sabres and hockey rule the area. Try and find a parking spot on a Saturday or Sunday during hockey season, and you won’t. The rinks are packed with little kids dreaming to be the next Patrick Kane or Timmy Kennedy.
Another good thing about the city is that it is known as the City of Good Neighbors for a reason. Coming from the Midwest to east wasn't going to be an easy transition for Edstrom to make. When she arrived in Buffalo in August her Buffalo State teammates made her feel right at home.
“Honestly, I was terrified when I committed. I barely knew one person out here, I had never seen the school or the area, and I was worried how other girls would take to a transfer. Arriving in August, I was invited to live in an apartment with our assistant captain, Maddy Kromer, who made me feel completely accepted to the area as soon as I met her,” stated Edstrom. “My first week here, she brought me to a summer league game and introduced me to a lot of the Buffalo State women’s team, allowing me to make new connections right off the bat. This was especially important to me as I have played for boys hockey teams my entire career, and sometimes have a hard time making female friends. I’ve always been “one of the boys.”
Being “one of the boys” has allowed Edstrom to fit right into a very young team. This season hasn’t gone exactly how the Bengals were hoping. But, Edstrom has shown she can fit right in.
If you are looking for Edstrom on the score sheet, look again. She won’t be lighting the lamp any time soon. What she does bring to the ice is a determination and grit that the Bengals were looking for. Everyone has different roles, Edstrom’s roll is to set her teammates up for success.
“Having had a year of college hockey under my belt, and being a first line player at my previous university, I was very confident in myself arriving here. After arriving at Buffalo State and seeing the skill and level of hockey these other girls had, I was a little nervous. I have never been the one to put all the points on the board, I’ve always been more of a playmaker,” stated Edstrom. “Having played boys hockey all my life, I’ve always been a very aggressive, offensive player, whether I’m on forward or defense. This is something I pride myself in, as I don’t have the best shot or quickest hands, but I’m always going to be the one battling in the corners, protecting my goalie, and looking for the right plays... maybe taking a few checking penalties too... In my next two years here, I hope to continue to grow as a player and a person, and continue to increase my skills being a playmaker, especially to set an example for the incoming freshmen. You don’t have to be the leading scorer to be a valuable asset on the ice, and I hope I can help other people realize that.”
One thing that Edstrom has battled with throughout her career is injuries. She is the walking “bandaid” always sustaining some kind of injuries. Her injuries has gone from concussions to fracturing her L5.
Through it all Edstrom still wants to be on the ice. She still wants to compete with the best the game has to offer. It’s in her DNA. She is a hockey player. You get a cut you go get it stitched up and don’t miss a shift.
This is how hockey players think. There are no such thing as injuries, just minor bumps and bruises.
“One thing I’ve always struggled with throughout my career is injuries. My teammates like to call me a bandaid or a walking hospital, as I have had injuries from a concussion that had me out for two months, to fracturing my L5... twice. Getting injured is probably the worst feeling in the world, not just because of the pain, but also because it means I’m out and off of the ice for a period of time. Rehabbing physically and mentally takes time, but one thing that goes through my mind each time is that I am still a part of the team,” stated Edstrom. “Whether I’m a healthy scratch or I’m injured for an entire season, this team is my family, and you don’t just leave your family. If I can’t help out on the ice, I always want to be the person helping out mentally, emotionally, and off the ice. I was out for two weeks with a mild concussion this past November. It sucked, but I always made sure I was still encouraging my teammates, lifting them up and cheering them on. Just because I may not always be playing, it is very important to me to continue to be the positive and uplifting teammate on and off the ice.”
As her first season in the Queen City comes to an end, it would easy for Edstrom to pack up and go home for the summer. After all, all her friends and family are back home in that tiny Colorado town with one stop light.
Edstrom, though, has decided to stay in Buffalo for the summer. Besides going home for a couple of weeks after the semester ends, Edstrom will be doing all of her training here in Western New York.
It’s a bold decision, and one that she has though long and hard about.
“I made the decision to stay in Buffalo for the summer, as I have loved the experience here and I want to continue it as much as possible. I will go home for a few weeks but ultimately I want to grow my friendships, my training, and my life. As much as I love and miss Colorado, it’s still going to be there when I graduate, so I want to make the most memories possible,” stated Edstrom. “It is extremely hard being 1,800 miles from home, especially with my two best friends back there. My dog and my baby brother. But at the same time, I feel that I am setting an example for my little brother, another aspiring athlete, who is looking to leave home and play AAA this upcoming season.”
From Colorado to Minnesota to Illinois to Buffalo, Terah Edstrom has seen it all. She has traveled across country to realize her dream of playing college hockey. Who knew that when she started this journey she would end up in Buffalo, NY.
But, Buffalo, and Buffalo State, are glad to have her. Now you can say Terah Edstrom is a true Buffalo girl.