When she is not captaining the league-leading team in the National Women’s Hockey League, Boston Pride’s Jillian Dempsey is leading a different team.
Her 5th grade class.
The Winthrop, Massachusetts native has been a teacher in her home town since 2016. Dempsey has also been with the Boston Pride since their inaugural 2015-2016 season when the Pride won the league’s Isobel Cup.
As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, professional sporting leagues began to shut down either completely or suspend their seasons. It was also declared that only essential businesses were to remain open, which meant schools in MA and around the country were to close as classes moved online.
There was only one game remaining in the NWHL’s 2019-2020 season; the Isobel Cup Championship between the Boston Pride and the Minnesota Whitecaps. It was scheduled to take place on March 13.
The game has been postponed to a date to-be-announced, which means no hockey in the near future. And because schools have moved to online learning, it also means no in-person teaching.
While the two jobs that Dempsey has have not been entirely taken away due to the pandemic, they have been modified.
“The past five weeks have been something called ‘remote learning’, so they are using online sources,” Dempsey said. “[We] are reviewing all the skills that they have learned so far this year, but we have very little interaction. Sometimes [we] have zoom meetings with the kids, so that is always great to see them and check in on them. I go from seeing them every single day for a good chunk of the day to now not having seen them for the five weeks. Any kind of interaction, whether it is via zoom, has been great to see how they are and check in on them and their families. I miss my classroom, and I miss being in there and teaching my students from there.”
It is difficult to determine when and whether any sense of normality will come back, but Dempsey is optimistic that she will be able to see her students once again.
“These are unprecedented times,” Dempsey said. “It’s really strange having abruptly ended my time with my students. We are still hopeful we will be able to go back for a little bit of time before the school year officially ends.”
Virtual teaching is not the only change that Dempsey has made to her everyday routine. When it comes to keeping shape just in case the NWHL does play its championship game in the future, there is hardly anything that can mimic the skating that is done at practices.
While rollerblading has become a popular alternative for hockey players, Dempsey has added assault biking to her workout for conditioning. In her home gym, one will also find kettle bells, medicine balls, and basic gym necessities.
“I have the basics that I need, so I’ve been able to get in a great workout 6-out-of-7 days,” Dempsey said. “That’s obviously something for us athletes and hockey players to go from all the working out and the skating that we do to nothing would be crazy, so this is definitely not the ideal situation but I’ve adjusted to a new routine and I am pretty happy with how that turned out.”
Another addition to her new schedule, Dempsey has found a new love for cooking.
“I wasn’t much of a cook before, and my family makes great meals,” Dempsey said. “I didn’t have to do a lot of the cooking. Finally I said ‘it’s time’, so [McKenna Brand] has been helping me with meals each week. That’s been a great thing to have. Now I have staples that I can cook, while before I pretty much didn’t have much.”
Among the food that Dempsey has learned to cook, she says that roasted vegetables–Brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli– along with bun-less, turkey burgers, and asparagus and sweet potato fries are her favorite meals that she has made.
Another hobby that Dempsey has picked up, is reading. Whether it is reading the chapter books that she has assigned for her students or chapter books, reading has become more frequent for the star forward.
This pandemic has been a challenging time for all of us–from professional athletes to college students who were forced to fly home to those on the front lines and declared essential workers– but we are all in this together.
“It’s a very weird adjustment, but it’s coming along,” Dempsey said. “We are all learning as we go.”
[Photo Credit: Michelle Jay/NWHL]