Sometimes, late at night, Lyndsey Fry thinks about Elizabeth Turgeon and the tears will start to flow. She’ll think about all the good times they spent riding to and from the rink, the nights they would stay up until 2 a.m. talking and laughing and the vow they made to one day play for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team.
And then she will think about how the person that she still considers a sister is no longer around to share that dream.
It’s at those moments, when all those thoughts and emotions boil back up to the surface, that the strangest thing will happen. Out of the blue, she will receive a text message from Elizabeth’s twin sister Alexandra, or her mom will drop a note on Facebook. It’s as if those bonds formed so long ago and only strengthened through the devastating news that came on that fateful night just before Christmas are reaching out and letting her know that everything is going to be all right.
And now, as she battles to keep that Olympic pledge alive, Lyndsey Fry wants the Turgeon family and everyone else to know that Elizabeth will never be forgotten.
“I do like it when she gets brought up, even two or three years later,” Fry says. “It means that she’s not forgotten by other people too, and that’s really important to me.”
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Fry can still remember her first pair of skates, the kind that strapped on to the bottom of her sneakers on her 4-year-old feet. She spent hours skating up and down her driveway in Chandler, Ariz., until one day her father added a hockey stick to the ensemble. Soon after an ice rink opened nearby and she ditched the roller skates and never looked back.
Through the years, Fry kept improving, playing on boys’ teams until she was a freshman in high school. She loved the physical side of the game and gave as good as she got. But along the way she knew that if she was going to play college hockey, a farfetched idea at the time for a girl from the desert southwest, she was going to have to seek out better competition, and play with other girls.
Her hockey odyssey took her to Denver, where she joined the Colorado Selects. The competition was good and the training was even better, thanks in large part to the Selects new coach. Pierre Turgeon had finally hung up the skates after 1,294 games played over 19 seasons. He finished his NHL career scoring 515 goals and adding 812 assists while living up to the notoriety that comes with being a No. 1 overall draft pick.
After playing his final seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, his sixth team, Turgeon settled in the Denver area with his family, which included his wife, Elisabeth, son Dominic, daughter Valerie and the twins.
“Playing for her dad was so much fun. He was fresh out of the NHL and we were all kind of star struck by it all until we learned what a big goof he was,” Fry laughs.
“He really was an unbelievable coach, but a lot of what he told me when I was 15 I didn’t really process until I was 20.”
Eventually Fry grew weary of the travel, enrolled in an online school and spent more time in Denver, much of it with the Turgeons.
“I built not only a strong relationship with [Elizabeth] but also with her family,” she says. “The kids would be away at school and I’d be hanging with the parents all day. I consider her mom not only like a second mom to me but also a really good friend.”
While the two girls became inseparable at home, they started to create a trend at the rink. Turgeon made the first U.S. Under-18 Team that took home gold at the inaugural IIHF World Championship in 2008. Fry would make the next two teams.
“She was probably the most competitive person I’ve ever met, but to this day I have never played with someone who I clicked so well with on a line,” Fry says.
But no matter who made what team, the pledge made inside the locker room after a loss in the semifinals of the USA Hockey National Championships in Green Bay remained. While they may have played their last youth hockey game together, some day they would reunite to lead Team USA to Olympic gold and glory.
Fry was accepted to attend Harvard University while Turgeon was planning to join Amanda Kessel as part of a bumper crop of recruits committed to the University of Minnesota in the next fall.
“I think she would’ve loved it at Minnesota, and college in general, she would’ve absolutely loved it,” says Fry, who wrapped up her sophomore year at Harvard.
And then came that fateful December night, just two days before Christmas. According to published reports, on a fog-shrouded road 60 miles southeast of Santa Fe, N.M., the pickup truck Turgeon was driving collided with a tractor trailer just after midnight, killing the 18-year-old and seriously injuring her passenger, Brittany Kraemer.
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Even though both her parents were Canadian citizens, the thought of playing for the maple leaf never crossed Elizabeth’s mind. And so she was a member of the first U.S. Women’s Under-18 Team that captured gold in of all places, Canada.
“I’ve lived in the U.S. all my life. I think I’m an American,” Turgeon told the Canadian media. “I’m really proud to wear it [U.S. team logo], it’s a privilege, and I’m just glad to be a part of the team.”
At 15 years, 4 months, Turgeon was the second youngest player on the gold-medal team that was coached by Katey Stone, who will lead the 2014 Olympic Team. Six players here in Lake Placid were also members of the team that won the inaugural IIHF event.
Years later at yet another USA Hockey camp, Fry overheard some girls talking in the locker room about that Under-18 Team. As they ticked off the roster, they were stuck on the name of the last forward. And then it hit them. It was Turgeon.
“It’s those moments that are a kick to the face, a kick to the heart where you remember everything,” Fry admits. “It’s a good feeling to miss her when I’m at these things because it means that every bit of that promise is still important to me.”
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The Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., seems like a million miles away from that fog-shrouded New Mexico highway for Fry, who is among 41 of the best female hockey players battling for a coveted roster spot on the U.S. Women’s National Team. From that team will come the 21 players who will eventually wear the red, white and blue in Sochi, Russia at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Most of the campers who packed for the weeklong camp brought with a lucky shirt or good luck charm that they hope will give them a little boost when the final names are announced on Monday. But for Fry, she brought something even more special.
Not long after helping the U.S. Women’s National Team win the gold medal at the World Championships in Ottawa, Ontario, Fry received a call from Regan Carey of the U.S. Women’s Program. Turgeon’s blue jersey, with the No. 23 on the back just below her name in block letters, was unearthed from a Colorado Springs warehouse. Carey wanted the Turgeon family to have it. After talking it over, Fry made a case to bring the jersey with her through her Olympic odyssey, however long it may last.
“It’s been in my suitcase the whole time I’m here, but just knowing that I have it, whether on the plane with me or in the car coming over here, it’s always in the back of my mind,” she says.
“In the future I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it’s incredibly special to me.”
So as she skates through the final days of the selection camp, Fry knows that her friend is with her, cheering her on through every shift, every drill and every scrimmage. It’s that thought that brings her comfort as well as inspiration as she looks to honor the vow she made so long ago.
And if she does complete the final leg in this long journey and makes it to Sochi, Fry knows that Turgeon will be there too.