Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ
By: Melissa A. Kay
The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) has only been in existence since 2015, but when it comes to people’s passion for the sport, the few years seem like lifetimes. Founded and led by women, with 100 players now part of the program, women from all around the world are interested and involved, taking what they have learned, loved, and longed for to the ice…finally. With a loyal base, new fans flocking to see games and follow the sport on social media, and go-getter girls who now get to grow up watching their role models make history, the NWHL – the first pro women’s hockey league in North America – is creating a wave of women-powered puck-slapping action. While it took much longer to come to life than hockey fans had in mind, there’s no time like the present to celebrate.
And speaking of celebrating, one young woman who is taking the sport by storm and is already heading towards success is 22-year-old Kendall Cornine, of Kinnelon. Her athletic talents and drive make her a standout, something the NWHL noticed and needed. A 2015 graduate of Morristown Beard School and currently a college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, Cornine has been playing hockey since the tender age of five. And it is not lost on her that the NWHL was established the very year she graduated high school.
Coincidence or a calling? For teens who often question what their future holds as they set foot into “the real world,” surely Cornine had her sights set on one day being part of a women’s hockey team – something that was not even a blip on the radar when she first stepped onto the ice as an active little girl. She never imagined she would have the opportunity to make a career in hockey, “…but the women’s game has grown tremendously,” she excitedly explains. The promise of landing a job based on one’s passion is not something everyone can count on. But Cornine is counting her blessings.
Although she put in years of patience and practice, “Around my freshman year of high school I realized I had a special talent,” Cornine shared. The four years in high school took that gift to a new plateau, soon impressing the powers that be at the NWHL. “I was drafted on December 20th (2018) in the second round and was ecstatic.” Naturally, Cornine is “extremely grateful for the opportunity.” As for her family and friends? “They are all really happy, proud, and excited for me,” she beams. Surely the folks from her hometown of Kinnelon are equally in awe of Cornine’s noteworthy accomplishment, proving a hometown girl can go places.
So, what’s in store for the superstar athlete? She is still in school in New York, but come August, seasonal training will be underway and grueling at that. On- and off-ice training, and plenty of practice, practice, practice will be Cornine’s new normal, but with her lifelong love for hockey, getting fitter, faster, and more focused is sure to be lots of fun. She was selected by the team in New Jersey – the Metropolitan Riveters – so upon graduation, Cornine will be happily headed back home for a family reunion as well as a rigid regimen. The other teams in the NWHL are Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, and Connecticut Whale, rounding out the “Founding Four” franchises, as well as the Minnesota Whitecaps.
The hockey season runs from October through March, so those few months leading up to the first games will require stamina, strength, and plenty of sweat, not to mention support from friends, family, and her new teammates. But Cornine is more than ready for the challenge. “The speed and competition of the game and the people it has brought me close to,” are what pushes her to persist. “Dedication and passion for the game” gets Cornine pumped up and ready for realizing her dreams.
She is only 22, but Cornine is already encouraging girls and young women to pursue their sports-based aspirations just like she has. It can be trying and tough to get to her level, but Cornine advises, “Stick with it; do not let anyone take your passion for (the sport) from you.” Her “If you don’t succeed, try, try again” mentality is exactly the state of mind she must exist in, whether it is during a practice session or a big game. Every moment makes a difference – there is no time to even think about throwing in the towel when there is a team counting on every player to put her best foot forward. But Cornine has no issue with keeping her head held high and her confidence soaring. And she anticipates great things to come for the future of the NWHL. “I hope that (the NWHL) only continues to grow and become as popular as men’s. I hope it gives women the opportunity to make a career out of playing professional
hockey.” Fans of the sport couldn’t agree more.
While hockey obviously stands out as Cornine’s core obsession, she does find time to dabble in other interests as well. “I’m very passionate about health and fitness. I enjoy competing in triathlons and exercising in general. I also enjoy cooking and spending time at the beach.” And as far as any special diet to keep her hockey game (and her physique) on point… “I just make sure whatever I’m eating is right for my body,” she says. Simple, but smart.
And smart is just what Cornine, as well as all the NWHL players embody. All NWHL players are college graduates.As per the NWHL, “On the rosters of NWHL teams are teachers, medical professionals, engineers, financial analysts, coaches and trainers, marketing and communications executives, and entrepreneurs.” Since practices are held at night and the games are generally played on weekends, the women in the league can have the best of both worlds. Along with these successful professional women, the NWHL has seen United States National Team Players as well as Olympic stars join their teams on the ice. These women are inspirational, exceptional, and are showing the world it’s about time women’s hockey is held in high regard. Cornine is a perfect example of such excellence, and she’s just getting started.