Nov. 13, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Nearly all siblings will say the same thing when asked about their early years and growing up: the younger one wanted to be just like their older counterpart and would do anything the older one did. Wisconsin women’s hockey senior Kelly Nash and her older brother were no different.
Once her brother Brent decided to start playing hockey, the Badger winger was not far behind.
“My brother started playing hockey when I was about seven years old and he was nine or ten,” Nash said. “I got into it because I always did whatever he did.”
Growing up in Bonita, Calif., just outside of San Diego, Nash began her hockey career somewhat unconventionally. Instead of learning to play on skates, Nash started her career on roller blades. Her Badger teammates say Nash’s roller hockey background is evident in her style of play.
“I know that they play a lot of roller hockey out in California, and it really shows with Kelly’s hands,” fellow UW senior Mallory Deluce said. “She has great hands and impresses us at least once every practice with a really nice goal.”
Watching Nash on the ice with the Badgers today, fans would not guess that she did not play ice hockey until she had nearly reached her teenage years.
“I didn’t start playing ice hockey until I was 12,” said Nash, who played hockey for the California Selects in Huntington Beach, Calif., throughout her high school years at Bonita Vista. Nash recalls that her greatest hockey memory before coming to UW was winning the 2005 USA Hockey Girls’ U16 National Championship.
However, playing hockey in California isn’t exactly the same as in other parts of the country, especially for young girls, Nash explained.
“The hockey culture in California is definitely different,” Nash said. “I think there’s an even bigger difference with the girls’ hockey culture in California compared to the Midwest, and especially the east coast and Canada; it’s just not very big in California.”
Despite the limited hockey culture she grew up in, Nash always knew hockey would be part of her future.
“I knew I was going to play hockey in college, and [Wisconsin] recruited me,” Nash said. “The program had just won two national championships as I was coming in the next year, so it was kind of hard to say no to that. I came here on a visit and automatically knew I wanted to come here. I didn’t go on any other official visits.”
Nash came in as a freshman in the 2007-08 season, along with other current seniors Deluce and Anne Dronen.
Deluce pegged Nash as a friendly, laid-back California girl when the two met for the first time as freshmen in Madison.
“I remember when we first met, Kelly was really nice and friendly,” Deluce said. “We were friends right away.”
Deluce explained that Nash’s energy and enthusiasm both on and off the ice are unmatched.
“Kelly is one of the nicest people on the team,” Deluce said. “I never hear her say anything negative, and she always has a smile on her face.
“She’s always excited when she comes to the rink, and it really makes for a great energy in the locker room. On the ice, she never takes a day off and is always working hard. She’s just a great player.”
Nash has come a long way from her days of playing roller hockey to embracing on her current role with Wisconsin. Head coach Mark Johnson praised Nash for becoming a better player over the past three years while solidifying her presence in the Badgers’ locker room.
“Kelly has worked extremely hard to make herself a better player,” Johnson said. “I think she’s had a wonderful experience here. She’s had some good things happen and certainly some frustrating things happen from a playing standpoint. But none of that affects how she goes about her business.
“In the last couple years, she’s gotten more ice time and made bigger contributions. Where she was as a freshman compared to her role right now as a senior is very different. She’s one of our leaders, and the younger players look up to her and respect her.”
Nash, who wears number two for the Badgers, has played in all 10 games this season, recording four assists and 17 shots with a plus-five plus/minus rating. In her career, Nash has made 127 appearances for the Badgers and has 61 career points on 19 goals and 42 assists.
One would think that spending so much time on the ice for Wisconsin would help a California girl adjust to the notoriously long, cold winters in Madison. Unfortunately for the Bonita, Calif., native, that has not been the case.
“I’m still working on [adjusting to Wisconsin winters] now,” Nash laughed. “I usually stay in Madison during the summer, and it’s so nice. Then winter comes around, and it just hits me all over again every year.”
But if you were to ask her coach about it, he wouldn’t notice that.
“Kelly is generally a happy person,” Johnson said. “She always has a smile on her face and just embraces life.”
UW Athletic Communications