Life After Hockey

Kelsie Fralick seizing new days with Old World tongues

Kelsie Fralick
Goalie-turned-Classics teacher Kelsie Fralick has explored four continents, including the Roman and Etruscan ruins of modern-day Italy. (Photo courtesy of Kelsie Fralick)

Attende, quaeso. Nunc goaltending pro superbia Boston: una numero, Kelsie Fralick. (Your attention, please. Now goaltending for the Boston Pride: No. 1, Kelsie Fralick.)

Fralick terminatur ad tres salvet ad tres shots ad eius debut in superbia. (Fralick finishes with three saves on three shots in her debut for the Pride.)

Kelsie Fralick and John Garrett have much to discuss. Should they ever meet, their choices of site, subject matter and speech would be equally flexible.

Fralick, a former backup goalie for the 2016 Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride, now grooms aspiring Classics sages. Garrett, the Vancouver Canucks goalie-turned-TV color analyst, ranks fifth among the greatest scholars in Floyd Conner’s Hockey’s Most Wanted.

Fralick, a product of Connecticut College’s Division III program, made one regulation relief appearance in her one-year professional career. But she also had a best-selling NWHL jersey.

Garrett never sparkled on the stat sheet in his 16-year WHA/NHL journey, but had one unmistakable moment of glory. He landed a 1983 NHL All-Star Game roster spot by default when Vancouver’s No. 1 netminder, Richard Brodeur, withdrew due to injury. When he went, he came away with the showcase’s MVP honors.

Garrett’s fascination with Latin was more instrumental in securing his mention in multiple hockey books. As quoted in Conner’s 2002 tome, he reasoned that the so-called “dead” dialect was still relevant. In typical goaltender eccentricity, Garrett quipped, “If I meet an ancient Roman, just think of the great conversation I can have with him.”

Fralick, a first-year Classics teacher at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., has her own defense. At times she even needs to convince those who have already enrolled in her class.

Kelsie Fralick

(Photo courtesy of Kelsie Fralick)

“Just because it isn’t spoken doesn’t mean that there is any less value in learning it,” she told Pucks and Recreation. “We don’t speak like William Shakespeare or Chaucer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any value.”

Fralick has fed her craving for Classical cultural understanding through ample national and international travel. While she has yet to encounter a centurion, she has found a Latin-speaking sanctuary.

Every summer, the North American Institute of Living Latin Studies conducts a variety of Rusticatio seminars. Most workshops are weeklong, adult-only immersion experiences where fluency is an understood prerequisite. While bonding in a virtual, modernized Rome, goers talk as the Romans talked.

“There are people speaking Latin out there,” Fralick said. “You just have to know where to look.”

With its protocol, Rusticatio is a refreshing change of pace for those who Fralick affectionately dubs “Latin nerds.” It is akin to an intensive hockey camp for pucksters whose communities and schools undervalue their sport.

As an academic discipline, Latin is foreign even among foreign languages. Its long-ago fade from the catalog of official languages lends it a mystique that does not touch French, Spanish or Chinese.

It comes in handy for Dead Poets Society-style speeches, old-fashioned Catholic masses or time-honored government or military slogans. Otherwise, Americans are generally inclined to sneer at its use as archaic or pretentious.

There are exceptions to that norm, but it is a norm all the same. Likewise, in most U.S. localities, baseball and football interest perpetually supersedes that of hockey the way French and Spanish do Latin in schools. For the youngest organized athletes, the offerings are practically a steady diet of soccer outdoors and basketball inside.

Conversely, much like with Fralick’s second language, you need to know where to look for high-end hockey development. The game comes from a foreign land (Canada), takes place on an uncharted surface and requires extra equipment.

“Just because (Latin) isn’t spoken doesn’t mean that there is any less value in learning it. We don’t speak like William Shakespeare or Chaucer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any value.” – Kelsie Fralick

“I think the stereotypes that go along with Classics and hockey perpetuate themselves because people think they don’t belong,” Fralick mused. “So they don’t try.”

Fralick has had the fortune of attending and working at schools that appreciate and accommodate both of her passions. Her scholastic alma mater — Hotchkiss in Lakeville, Conn. — doles out Classics diplomas to qualified graduates. Her first employer — St. Paul’s in Concord, N.H., (alma mater of Hobey Baker, who ranked sixth on Conner’s list of skating scholars) — has a similar offering. It also ices boys’ and girls’ hockey teams at the varsity, JV and club levels.

And while Blair has no rink to speak of, it handsomely caters to Classical interests. Fralick is instructing Latin at three levels and introducing Greek to her most learned pupils.

“If you go into a Classics classroom and take a look at the students,” she said, “there is no way you’d be able to say that the children of the one percent are the only takers.”

“Same with hockey,” she continued. “You walk into a locker room, and there is no way you’d be able to say that all the girls in there are from middle-to-upper-class families.”

Fralick’s own narrative screamed blue-collar on the ice, then added a worldly twist off it. She took up hockey at the relatively late age of 10 in her home Philadelphia suburb of West Chester, Pa.

Fralick stayed in Chester County through middle school, attending Upland Country Day, before enrolling at Hotchkiss. She remained in the Nutmeg State for four more years after the Connecticut College Camels signed her on.

In between, her family and various schools took her on journeys to South America, Europe and both polar caps. As one of those excursions, she spent six weeks exploring the Etruscan and Roman ruins of Orvieto, Italy. She also has a nosebleed’s view of the hallowed Colosseum as her Twitter cover photo.

Kelsie Fralick

(Photo courtesy of Kelsie Fralick)

At Connecticut, she was a can’t-miss two-in-one phenomenon and philanthropist. Early in Fralick’s sophomore season, Bettina Weiss of Her Campus dubbed her “one of the friendliest faces on Conn’s campus.” As an upperclassman, she would land consecutive Hockey Humanitarian Award nominations.

Studying Classics and anthropology, she sustained her longtime long-term teaching ambitions while dazzling the Camels’ crease. Once she assumed the starting job, the team’s struggles to get above .500 magnified her individual output. She twice finished a season with a goals-against average below 2.00 and mustered a 2.20 average as a junior. Over her final three seasons, she never retained a save percentage below .929, and stamped a career .932 success rate over 76 games.

The NWHL launched after Fralick graduated in 2015. While far from the lone Division III product to enter the revolutionary paid circuit, she was Boston’s only signee of that ilk. Two months after the inaugural draft, she signed to join Brittany Ott and Lauren Slebodnick in the Pride goalie guild.

While teaching in Concord, she would see action in a fraction of one game. On Jan. 10, 2016, she played a de facto closer role for Ott, stopping all three shots she faced in an 8-1 rout of the New York Riveters.

But her defining individual athletic moment came two months earlier. Before play commenced, Fralick learned via the blog Stanley Cup of Chowder that her jersey was among the NWHL’s top 10 selling replicas. With its Boston focus, the post’s title stressed Fralick, whose thread was No. 9, and Pride teammate Hilary Knight (second).

“To be mentioned in a headline with arguably the best player in the world was an incredible honor,” she said. “That said, I come from a big Italian family, and my colleagues at St. Paul’s School were very excited about my being part of the league. So I knew that pretty much all of my jerseys were sold to friends and family while Hilary’s were likely purchased by her fans nationwide.”

“To be mentioned in a headline with arguably the best player in the world was an incredible honor.” – Kelsie Fralick

Come what may, she had several supporters flocking to the Hub from north and southwest of the state border alike. Many of them reaffirmed the web reports by sporting her sweater in the stands.

Fralick’s answer to Jim Morris’ MLB pitching stint culminated in Boston’s Isobel Cup run. She retired a champion, returning to St. Paul’s as a teacher-coach rather than a teacher-coach-athlete. She briefly reapplied the student label en route to a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania.

“Without sports, I wouldn’t be where I am today, hands down,” she said. “Playing hockey really prepared me to be the best student I could be and the best person I could be. I had to manage my time efficiently, I had to be organized and I had to give 100 percent in everything I did if I wanted to go anywhere or accomplish anything.

“I developed some good habits throughout my athletic career that have helped me become an efficient teacher, a good coach and a person with whom my students can relate and feel comfortable.”

As of this year, Fralick has a field hockey team to tutor in Blair’s fall sports season. She will likewise coach lacrosse this spring. On the surface, that makes for a lighter yearly load than what she bore in her two years at St. Paul’s. But she knows as well as anyone that her labors of love pale in comparison to, say, the 12 Labours of Hercules.

For motivational Classical literature, Fralick recommends “not the entire story, the actual story of Hercules is pretty sad. But I would say that people should read the part where he performs the 12 labors.”

In most versions of the tale, the majority of the labors bear self-explanatory glamorous benefits. Hercules must slay three creatures or monsters, capture three others alive and acquire five objects. In between, the fifth assignment — the start of the second period, if you will — entails cleaning the Augean stables.

Kelsie Fralick

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Fralick likes to separate the labors into “mundane” and “crazy” categories. The mixture of grunt work and heart-stopping missions ought to hit home for student-athletes, especially those playing rugged sports.

“Hercules doing all of these tasks is pretty inspirational,” Fralick said. “There was doubt that he’d be able to complete them all in the allotted time.”

Somewhat paradoxically, one of Fralick’s toughest tasks as a rookie coach was remembering to eschew drills with a Herculean feel. St. Paul’s appointed her to the JV post in both ice and field hockey.

For the former scholastic sensation, regal collegian and major-league mainstay, the objective had long been Ws over development. It was far less complicated than, say, distinguishing deponent verbs from the passive voice.

At St. Paul’s, Fralick needed to remember that she was not running a Rusticatio for athletes. Some players had varsity aspirations. Others wished to further involve themselves in school, to extend their learning in a different manner.

“It took me a little bit of time, and a lot of frustration and soul-searching,” she said. “But I finally got to a place in my head where I would push them to be the best they could be, but to also remember that they are playing because they have to and because they want to have fun.

“I have loved JV sports ever since because now I understand the mindset and can push them when I need to. But I can have fun with them when they need it.”

It bears noting that the freshman Camels from Fralick’s senior season are now skating into their own swan songs. She has logged associations with academic and athletic institutions in four other states in the interim. But the relative brevity of her now-completed transition from student-athlete to teacher-coach cannot escape her.

“I am able to draw on not-so-distant memories to high school and college and think of a drill that would address a theme I want to work on with the girls,” she said. “You also have to acknowledge that, in this day and age, students are quick to Google their teachers and coaches. They are able to see what I’ve done to get me where I am today.

“So the girls respect me a lot more knowing that I was just in college and just finished pro, so they know that I know my stuff. And the boys think it’s cool that their Latin teacher isn’t really such a nerd.”

Fralick’s pedagogical principles stem from influences as old as nearly two-and-a-half millennia. At Connecticut, she took to YouTube for a testimonial on the ancient Greek author Xenophon. With her joint focus on Classics and anthropology, Fralick was drawn to the frank, firsthand account of a Spartan military campaign in the Anabasis.

“He wrote without frills, and you can immediately see that he was definitely a military man,” she remarked.

Of the genre, she added, “Ethnography is the readers’ way to step into the shoes of the people who are being documented. Xenophon was writing a combination ethnography-military exploits book. So Xenophon was the author my brain needed for my sanity, but he was also writing something that I genuinely wanted to read.”

Having pushed off her plunge into Greek until college — “biggest regret from my high-school days,” she said — Fralick lauded Xenophon’s style for easing her introduction. And her enthusiasm for expert experiential writing gives her yet more company from the broader goaltending family.

Case in point: The Game by Ken Dryden, who placed second on Conner’s aforementioned ranking. One more: Open Net by the late George Plimpton, Conner’s single-most wanted scholar to have played the sport.

As for Conner’s No. 5 man on North America’s opposite coast, Fralick admits she was unfamiliar with Garrett until recently. But now she knows there are at least two people who could lobby for a rink-based Rusticatio if they wanted.

“Actually, to that same point, the goalie who came in after I graduated Conn studied Classics as well,” she said. “But in terms of (Garrett’s) quote itself, I totally agree. The material we read in Classics would lend itself to a really interesting, deep, educated discussion from literature to military to everyday life. It really would be an amazing conversation.”

Al Daniel

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