Not Ready To Hang Up Her Skates
By Lilly Overmyer
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Former Holy Cross student-athlete Nicole Giannino (‘15) has never let a busy schedule keep her off the ice. While at Holy Cross, Giannino balanced her ice hockey commitments with a rigorous academic schedule double majoring in biology and psychology. Now living and working in Boston, Giannino works extremely hard to pursue her medical career and hockey dreams. Working full-time at the Cambridge Eating Disorders Center, Giannino also plays professional hockey as a member of the Boston Blades.
Giannino has loved playing hockey since she was young. “I began playing when I was little, and the more I played, the more I loved the game.” But Giannino wasn’t just a passionate player, she was talented. Throughout high school Giannino played on several teams during any given season, winning prestigious awards, national titles and international championships including the 2011 NARCH National Tier 1 Championship. Before attending Holy Cross Giannino played two seasons of varsity ice hockey at the National Sports Academy for Bill Ward.
Once at Holy Cross, Giannino became an immediate asset to the team. As a freshman she played in 23 games, and never saw the bench after her first season. Although she is one of the strongest players to skate for the Holy Cross women’s ice hockey team, Giannino has always been humble about her skills. “I’ve been very lucky to get the training and coaching that I’ve had because it has allowed me to play at the top level, which pushes me to give even more.”
When her senior hockey season had come to an end, Giannino was excited to begin her journey to becoming a nurse, but sad to have to say goodbye to hockey. Like many other student-athletes, she had always dreamed of playing professional hockey, but it was never an expected reality. “I remember right when I graduated I was so upset my hockey career was over. I thought to myself,‘ What am I going to do with my life?’”
But Giannino did not have to stay upset for long. Just after graduation the general manager of the Boston Blades contacted her and offered her a position on the team. Giannino was the 10th draft pick in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), and did not hesitate to accept the offer. “The sport had always made me so happy, I wasn’t ready to give it up!”
The Boston Blades are a professional women’s hockey team in the CWHL. There are five teams in the CWHL, and the Blades are the only team in the league located outside of Canada. In the 2016-2017 season, Giannino played in all 24 games. In addition to her many achievements on the ice, Giannino has been a member of the USA Inline Hockey team for the past five years and will be competing again this summer in Nanjing, China at the Women's Inline Hockey World Championship. When Giannino is not traveling across Canada for games and practices, she attends training camps for her Inline team that can be anywhere from Washington to New Mexico.
Giannino explains the dedication and organization it requires to be a professional athlete while also working in the healthcare industry. “With all of the practices, international games and workouts in addition to your usual work schedule, you aren’t left with any free time. I have work from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at the Cambridge Eating Disorders Center, which is mentally and emotionally exhausting, but then straight after work I have hockey practice and lift, which is physically exhausting.”
While Giannino is passionate about hockey, she does not let it deter her from becoming a registered nurse. Giannino applies lessons learned from Holy Cross women’s head ice hockey coach Peter Van Buskirk to her busy schedule now. “My coach always told us, ‘Know your role and give it 100 percent,’ and I apply that to everything I do in life. My role right now is to help the women at the Cambridge center and to be a teammate on the Blades; so when I’m at work that is what I am focused on, and when I’m skating I give it my all. I have dreams to play hockey forever and to be a nurse, and you have to be dedicated to make your dreams happen.”
Giannino says it can be difficult navigating two work schedules, but that she gives both professions equal attention and dedication. “I work extremely hard to make up my missed time when I’m at the Cambridge Eating Disorders Center and try not to take advantage of their flexibility with my Blades schedule. I don’t prioritize either job because they are both equally important to me.”
Traveling across Canada for Blades games and flying to California and New Mexico for Inline training camps leaves Giannino with practically no free time, which can be difficult for her friends and family. Giannino explained how helpful it is to have teammates who also struggle to balance ice hockey with their social lives and careers. “Most people just don’t understand our love for hockey because our passion for the sport is on another level. My Blades teammates understand me and support me, like no one else can.” Former Holy Cross and Blade's teammate Taylor Mcgee ('16) admires her passion and dedication. "Nicole is a strong leader on the team because of her enthusiasm for hockey and her skills. She is a great player and encourages everyone else to push themselves."
While Giannino makes it look easy to juggle a packed schedule, she attributes her success to her supportive family, friends, teammates and coaches. “Playing hockey gives me the greatest joy, and I am so thankful that I have been able to continue skating while also meeting my career goals; none of this would be possible without the support and help from my family and coaches.”
With humility, passion, talent and dedication on and off the ice, don’t expect Giannino to hang up her skates anytime soon.