Jillian Dempsey ’09 has been making hockey history—first as a forward on the Boston Pride team during the National Women's Hockey League’s inaugural season, and now, helping the team clinch the first-ever Isobel Cup.
During her time at Rivers, Dempsey was a star hockey player, earning numerous awards including an ISL MVP, the Bruins’ prestigious John Carlton Award (given to the best high school hockey players in Eastern Massachusetts), and a gold medal with the USA Women's Hockey Under-18 National Team at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.
Dempsey went on to have a stellar career at Harvard University, where she led the team as captain to a No. 2 ranking and the 2013 Ivy League championship. She was named a finalist for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award by the USA Hockey Foundation and finished up as the ninth leading scorer in Harvard Hockey history. She was an ECAC All-Academic squad selection all four seasons.
After an unsuccessful bid for a place on the U.S. Olympic team in 2013, Dempsey joined the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women's Hockey League and began coaching a U12 team based out of Newton, running on-ice skills sessions and giving private lessons. She was named CWHL Rookie of the Year in 2013-2014 and helped the Blades win the Clarkson Cup in 2015.
The Boston Pride recruited her in 2015 for their inaugural season and she has quickly made her mark—she was named Player of the Week in December, and ended the season with a .8 goal/assist average per game.
But hockey is only half of Dempsey’s story. By day, she’s a second grade teacher at Community Day Arlington School in Lawrence, MA, as a member of the Teach for America program. This June she will receive her master’s in education from Boston University.
Dempsey finds that the common denominator in these radically different careers is the opportunity to be a role model for youngsters, either on or off the ice. Even as a Rivers student, she had a tremendous impact on the community beyond athletics, as seen by the fact that she was awarded the highly-esteemed Faculty Prize in 2009. At graduation, she was recognized for “being our role model and for showing us what character truly means.”
“The only thing I can control is how hard I work,” Dempsey noted during her keynote talk at Rivers’ 2013 Varsity Awards night. “I first dreamed of skating for Harvard in the sixth grade and set that as a goal that I believed in my heart I could achieve. All you need is preparation and confidence.”
Looking back, Dempsey commented, “My incredible teachers and coaches at Rivers empowered me to pursue and ultimately achieve my academic and athletic dreams.”
It’s easy to imagine that one day Dempsey’s students and fans will be thanking her for giving them that same gift of empowerment.