The 2017/18 CWHL on the horizon is possibly its most exciting season yet. Two new teams, an influx of new players from the draft, more streamed games, and with the Canadian Olympians taking part in Centralization we’ll be seeing more parity in the league. It’s a season to look forward to and before it gets started I have a special treat to share with you all, a Q&A with recently drafted Vanke Rays goalie Elaine Chuli. She took the time out of her busy schedule getting ready for the season to give us an inside look into her life and what it’s being a rookie goalie on a brand new team headed into the CWHL season.
Giants in the Crease: The last the hockey world saw of you was your 2015/16 season with the University of Connecticut, what have you been doing since then?
Elaine Chuli: Since my last game at UConn in March of 2016 I had surgery and then worked tirelessly to rehab after the surgery to get ready for the 2017-2018 season. I also started working on my Chartered Professional Accountant designation and worked at Millards Chartered Professional Accountants for the year.
GitC: How did you come to decide that you wanted to join the CWHL this year?
EC: I did not play last year and it was a lot harder on me than I ever would have thought. It was a no-brainer to enter the CWHL draft this year.
GitC: What did you know about the CWHL before signing up for the draft?
EC: Initially, I knew it was a competitive league that would allow me to continue working at the accounting firm I was working at while being able to play the game I love. However, after I was approached by the teams in China I realized that I could become a Sport Ambassador full time and it was an opportunity I could not pass up.
GitC: What are you hoping to accomplish this year in the CWHL for yourself and team?
EC: This year my goal is for the Vanke Rays to win the Clarkson Cup and develop all of the Chinese National players I am surrounded by each day. They are amazing people and I cannot wait to get things started with them this season!
GitC: What type of role on and off the ice are you expecting to take with Vanke?
EC: I am expecting to lead by example both on and off the ice. Nothing beats hard work and resiliency, both of which characterize my career to date.
GitC: How would you describe your style of play to CWHL fans that have yet to see you play?
EC: I would say that I am an athletic goaltender. I rely on my speed and power to get me in position to make saves and then battle from there.
GitC: How much of a factor is the language barrier going to be with your Chinese teammates and what will you be doing to overcome it?
EC: I am thankful for Google Translate while in public lol. The girls are able to interact with us in English, as well as the Chinese coaches. It really has not been a barrier and I do not foresee it to be. We adapt and move forward everyday.
GitC: How are you planning on dealing with the increase of talent in the CWHL compared to the leagues you’ve played in the past?
EC: I think its all relative. The league gets better and more experienced but so does the team I am stopping pucks for.
GitC: What do you believe are the most important aspects of the goaltending position?
EC: The most important aspect is the mental side. Once you get to a certain level, there are so many talented goalies. The ones who have the mental side figured out are the ones that become the most successful.
GitC: What is it you’re looking forward to doing in China besides playing hockey?
EC: I am looking forward to living in a new country across the world. The culture is obviously different and it is so cool to be immersed in it. I am looking forward to going to the Great Wall, as well as other major cities. I was in Beijing last week and visiting places like that are once in a lifetime!
GitC: What is a fun fact that you’d like CWHL fans to know about you?
EC: I like to practice as much as I like to play games.
I am working on completing my Chartered Professional Accountant designation.
GitC: How are you planning on dealing with the large travel times are going to take place during the season?
EC: I think this will only bother me as much as I let it. I am getting to play the game I love and be a sport ambassador for a living. This excitement definitely will get me through any jet lag.
GitC: Your goalie partner Tianyi Zhang is 19 years old. Do you see yourself being able to provide some mentorship to her considering your significant experiences?
EC: Of course I will be able to provide mentorship for her. I have been through a lot of adversity in my hockey career but it has only helped me to grow stronger as a person and a goaltender. I am looking forward to sharing this with her and helping her to improve her game this season. She has a very bright future ahead of her!