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To Jennifer Botterill, an athlete of the year award for her has always been akin to a team of the year award for Harvard women’s hockey.
Her numerous records, she says, are always a reflection of the greatness of the teams she has been a part of.
“It’s great, but I think it’s because I’m surrounded by such great people every day,” Botterill said when she broke the all-time Division One women’s hockey career scoring record in February.
She goes on to spiritedly recall how on every one of her points that night against Princeton, many different people contributed.
Working well with a team is essential to being successful as an individual in hockey, and no one has done that better than Jennifer Botterill in the history of college ice hockey. That’s why she’s the all-time leading scorer, men’s and women’s, in the history of the sport.
Harvard coach Katey Stone calls her the most complete player she has ever seen.
“It’s been fun to watch Jen grow up right in front of me and see her learn to become a complete player,” Stone said. “She’s the epitome of excellence.”
Botterill is the only player ever to twice win the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding women’s college hockey player. As she won the award, she made clear what was weighing most heavily on her mind. In 2001, it was her disappointment at having been eliminated in the NCAA semifinals the night before. In 2003, it was her anticipation of playing in the NCAA championship game the next day.
Botterill leaves no doubt that among her career achievements, her 1999 national championship with Harvard and the 2002 Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada are far more precious to her than any individual achievement.
She forever cemented her place in Harvard hockey lore her freshman year in 1999 by scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against New Hampshire in the national championship game.
“Getting the goal was definitely one of my fondest memories,” she said. “But it wasn’t that I scored the goal, it was just that winning that championship game was our ultimate goal for the season, and that was what everyone wanted to achieve. The fact that we made it their together, that’s what made it so thrilling.”
Overtime goals are a feat Botterill repeated time and time again. Three times in her career, she scored in the Beanpot to beat Northeastern in overtime. This year against eventual Hockey East champion Providence, she scored on a breakaway in the final seconds of overtime.
“That was beautiful,” said junior goaltender Jessica Ruddock of Botterill’s goal. “There’s nothing like being in overtime and seeing Botts go down on a breakaway.”
Not everyone has been willing give the Harvard team credit for Botterill’s play. After the win over Providence this past season, Friar coach Bob Deraney said he felt that no one could claim that Harvard’s team has better than his—it was Botterill alone who beat the Friars.
“It took the best player in the country to beat us—it’s as simple as that,” Deraney said. “Two great individual efforts by [Botterill] won [Harvard] the hockey game.”
Botterill’s game-winning effort wasn’t exactly individual, however. It was a great pass from Jamie Hagerman that set her up. But Deraney’s comment was typical of the kind of individual attention Botterill received—the kind Stone perceived to be a distraction. The records were a part of that.
“I think it can be a burden,” Stone said of Botterill’s breaking of the Division One scoring record. “She’s an incredibly selfless player, but when everyone else around you is reminding you of those things, it takes the focus off of team, and she’s all about the team.”
If Botterill ever let such attention affect her, however, she never showed it.
“She is a great leader and very good at bringing the team together as one,” said freshman forward Jennifer Raimondi. “She has taught me so much about hockey and what it means to be a Harvard hockey player. It has truly been a pleasure to be her teammate.”
She not only brought the team together, she fed off of them herself.
“I hope I can articulate how much you have meant to me,” Botterill said upon accepting her second Patty Kazmaier Award. “Everyone on this team has put the team first. Your attitudes and passion for life are absolutely contagious.”
And they fed off her. Freshman Julie Chu, as Botterill’s linemate all year, reaped the most benefits from her presence. Chu trailed only Botterill in national scoring at the end of the year.
“Botts is a complete player,” Chu said. “She’s great on defense, on offense, in the neutral zone—there isn’t a lot she can’t do. She is one of the most poised with the puck. There can be several players all over her and she is always able to move and get away from them or to make the right pass.”
Botterill’s influence extended even far beyond her linemates.
“She has so much skill as well as knowledge for the game that her presence brings up the level of hockey even in practice,” Raimondi said. “Botts is always willing to answer questions or give encouragement where it is needed.”
This past January when Botterill missed two games for a Canadian national camp, Harvard still rolled comfortably through games against Princeton and Yale. Perhaps the greatest tribute to her success will be if her former Harvard teammates reflect her example and continue to thrive after her departure.
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at email@example.com.
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