Growing up in Western New York less than 20 miles from the Canadian border, Hayley Scamurra hit the ice when she was 4 years old, playing in boys’ leagues coached by her father, NHL veteran Peter Scamurra.
During one of those seasons, a parent made a book for the kids, and they all wrote what they’d like to do when they grew up.
“Everyone’s aspirations were on there,” Scamurra said. “All the guys have, ‘NHL player, NHL player.’ I had, ‘Olympian.’ That’s when I was, like, 9 years old. So yeah, this is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.”
Scamurra isn’t an Olympian — not yet. But after impressing Team USA coaches at the December training camp, she was added to the roster in January and is quickly making her mark.
“Hayley really blossomed during winter camp,” U.S. coach Bob Corkum said. “She picked up all of our systems very quickly, she’s very coachable. She was a real bright spot in an otherwise disappointing Rivalry Series.”
Team USA fell to perennial rival Canada at the Rivalry Series, held across both countries in February, two games to one, but Scamurra staked her claim to a roster spot. Playing wing, Scamurra’s stickhandling and shooting ability earned her a place on the team now competing at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship taking place now in Espoo, Finland.
Interviewed at Team USA’s pre-worlds training camp at Northwell Health Ice Center in Long Island, New York, Scamurra called being part of Team USA “surreal.”
“It’s all really new — winter camp was a quick invite and then I got invited to the Series,” she said. “This is my first go around for the world championship, so I’m really excited.”
“It’s still a surreal feeling, being here and getting all the USA gear,” she added. “Just being part of the team, day in and day out. We’re working really hard and it’s been amazing.”
Scamurra’s family hails from Williamsville, New York, just outside of Buffalo, and has a strong hockey tradition. Dad Peter was the first Buffalo-born athlete to play in the NHL, where he manned defense for the Washington Capitals 1975-1980. Hayley’s three brothers also played the game.
In high school, Hayley Scamurra joined Canadian travel teams in Ontario to gain stronger competitive experience. Her invitation to Team USA’s camp came after a sterling four-year collegiate career at Boston’s Northeastern University, where she played center and was named Hockey East’s best defensive forward for her senior year.
In 2016, Scamurra was drafted 10th overall by the Buffalo Beauts, her hometown team in the NWHL. Now playing wing, she blossomed as a scorer, winning the league’s Rookie of the Year Award for 2017-18 and leading the league in points during the 2018-19 season.
Discussing the differences in NWHL play, versus international competition, Scamurra cited “the speed and physicality. I mean, there was just so much hitting when we were playing Canada in the Rivalry Series. I think that’s the big difference. And the speed; everyone is so fast. It takes a bit to get used to that but I found that I can do pretty well.”
Team USA veteran Kacey Bellamy, a member of the Olympic gold-medal team in PyeongChang and a co-captain for the world championships, thinks Scamurra is a great addition to the roster.
“She has just adjusted herself in such a positive way, she’s a great teammate and she fits right in,” said Bellamy, a three-time Olympian. “We tell all of the new (players), ‘You are here for a reason, you’re one of the best in the country and obviously you made this team because of your ability, so just go out there, play and have fun.’”
The recent five-day camp, held in late March, gave newcomer Scamurra a chance to sharpen her skills.
“I am always modifying stuff, there are always things to work on,” she said. “Being able to get that quick release off is always something I’m working on, getting (shots) off at different angles. … Then there are little movements to work on, driving the net, using your body as protection for the puck, just a lot of things.”
The Long Island camp was also time for teammates to bond off of the ice, with group dinners and a few local shopping excursions. It helped that several of her Buffalo Beauts teammates are also members of Team USA.
“It’s definitely intimidating at first,” Scamurra admitted. “I think it’s good to just get to know everyone on a more personal level. You get more time (together) and then you just build that chemistry on the ice, off the ice.”
“All of the women have been super welcoming and it’s been a lot of fun,” she added. “It’s definitely a good way to start, before you get to Finland.”
Coming off the 2018 Olympic gold medal and wins at the last four world championships, Team USA went into the world championship with high expectations. The team arrived in Espoo on April 1, three days before its opening game against host country Finland. The Americans defeated the Finns 6-2, scoring five goals in the third period. Next up: Canada. The two top teams square off on Saturday.
“The coaches (emphasize) trusting in your abilities, playing within yourself,” Scamurra said of the highly anticipated Canada matchup.
The Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, three years in the offing, is still Scamurra’s ultimate goal, but the event isn’t taking center ice just yet.
“I’m taking it one step at a time,” she said. “Making this team is just such a huge accomplishment for me. I think if I keep thinking of it in small steps, then hopefully I’ll be able to reach that goal. For right now, I’m just thrilled to be a part of this team.”
Lynn Rutherford is a sportswriter based out of New York. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.