Former Bemidji State star Sadie Lundquist balances front-office work with Minnesota Whitecaps play

Wild staffer by day, professional women’s hockey player by night

by Phil Ervin / Wild.com

 December 14th, 2018

ST. PAUL — There are days Sadie Lunquist packs half a wardrobe into her car before heading into work.

Office casual. Business dress. Full hockey gear. So it goes for the Minnesota Wild fan relations account executive who moonlights as a professional women’s hockey player.

Or is it the other way around?

“I’m definitely running around like a chicken with my head cut off at times,” jokes Lundquist, a member of the National Women’s Hockey League’s Minnesota Whitecaps in addition to her Wild front office duties. “But as long as I stay ahead of the schedule, I’m alright.”

Tuesday, the 27-year-old rolled into work shortly before 9 a.m., stuck around through the first period of the Wild’s 7-1 victory over Montreal, then booked it across Downtown St. Paul to TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center for Whitecaps practice. Thursday, the same routine — except this time the Whitecaps’ 8:30 p.m. workout took place across the river at the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena. The dress code’s a bit more casual around the Wild office than during Wild game nights, hence the multiple outfits.

In its first year as a professional organization, the Whitecaps’ roster is full of players and coaches with day jobs. But working in pro sports is often an all-hours affair.

[RELATED: The Wild’s third annual Girls’ Hockey Weekend presented by Schwan’s Home Service, Inc., Minnesota Hockey, USA Hockey, the WCHA and the Minnesota Whitecaps is Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15.]

Between greeting fans at Xcel Energy Center and grinding out conditioning drills with Olympians, Lundquist might not know much about work-life balance. But she’s an expert in work-life integration.

“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I’m glad I took it,” she said. “I’m obviously biased. I think athletes just have a really good demeanor for working in sports. You’re used to long hours, being at the mercy of a schedule, and just kind of that work-hard, play-hard. I’m going to get out what I put into this.”

The Whitecaps have packed the Wild’s practice rink for every home game to date and are tied for the NWHL’s best record at 6-2-0. Lundquist’s other employer enjoys a rabid season ticket member base that’s sold out more than 200 consecutive games.

In her full-time gig, Lundquist fields emails, calls and messages from fans and maintains relationships with season ticket purchasers, many of whom have been coming to games here since the club’s inception.

“I joke with her, ‘Gosh, I don’t know how you’re doing all this,'” said Erica McKenzie, the Wild’s senior manager of service and retention. “Sadie’s such a big ambassador, both for what she’s doing with the Whitecaps and working a full-time job. One thing people forget is that the girls on the Whitecaps have 9-5 jobs, but Sadie’s doing 9-5 plus. I think that’s such a unique thing.”

Lundquist was born and raised in Cloquet. Her family owns and operates famous burger joint Gordy’s Hi-Hat just off Highway 33.

When she was less than 2 year’s old, Lundquist’s parents often found her shuffling around their unfinished basement wearing her older brothers’ roller blades, the tops of which came up to her knees. When they weren’t in class, the Lundquist kids were either on the flooded rink next to their home — complete with a playhouse they converted into a skate shack, rubber mats and all — or at the local elementary school — where their dad would have pizza delivered to the adjacent warming house.

“God’s country,” Lundquist calls it. “I was just so competitive no matter what it came to, but hockey always kind of came first and had a special spot in my heart.”

After a standout prep career, Lundquist starred at Bemidji State from 2009-13 and graduated with a degree in sports management. She ranks 10th on the Beavers’ all-time scoring list with 83 career points.

Lundquist worked during college as head of marketing and advertising at her family’s restaurant, then began her Wild career as an inside sales account executive. Seeking to satiate that penchant for competition forged back on the outdoor rinks of Cloquet, she took part in Red Bull Crashed Ice for four straight winters, flying down frozen ramps and around obstacles at high speeds in St. Paul and abroad.

But the itch for high-level hockey never subsided. The occasional pickup game and Wild staff’s summer floor hockey league weren’t quite cutting it.

“I think one of the biggest things is she’s such a competitor,” McKenzie said. “To get to a certain level, your attitude has to be that you can’t settle for anything less than going as hard as you can, wanting to succeed, wanting to win.

“I think you ask anyone and they say Sadie’s competitiveness and sheer work ethic is what sets her apart.”

Lundquist and the Whitecaps are 6-2-0 and currently tied for the NWHL's best record.Lundquist and the Whitecaps are 6-2-0 and currently tied for the NWHL’s best record. T.E. Morris at temophoto.com

Her Whitecaps teammates and coaches agree. While skating alongside the likes of U.S. Olympic team members Hannah Brandt, Lee Stecklein and Kendall Coyne Schofield has been a privilege, the greatest reward comes once the final horn sounds and dozens of young girls flock toward the home team seeking an autograph or selfie, Lundquist said.

Lundquist didn’t have a professional women’s hockey team to take after. Until this year, the Whitecaps barnstormed as an unaffiliated, exhibition option for local women who wanted to keep playing at a high level after college.

But Lundquist, her club and its new league hope their presence leads to growth of the game among all female generations.

 

That presence will be on display Saturday during the first intermission of the Wild’s 12:30 p.m. Girls’ Hockey Weekend contest against Calgary. Lundquist and Brandt will take over the Wild’s Twitter accountand answer fans’ questions about their careers, the Whitecaps and the growth of women’s hockey at all levels.

“Seeing all the girls after (games) kind of puts it in perspective,” Lundquist said. “You pinch yourself; there’s tons of little girls out there that now have the opportunity to play at this level.

“I think we all take it extremely heavily,. But it’s funny, because we don’t really I think look at it as a responsibility; it’s just something that you’ve always done and always been a part of and always wanted to do.”

And that makes the long hours seem shorter and the daily load a little lighter.

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“Sadie is a great person, a great leader,” Whitecaps co-head coach Ronda Engelhardt. “She comes every day wanting to get better, even if it’s just our laps between drills, she’s working hard every time.

“You love that as a coach. She’s there to get better, she supports the team and mission, and she’s a huge part of our team for all that she brings.”

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