Senior player profile: Janine Alder and her response to adversity

Janine Alder and the cover of her second book (left) and first book (right). Photos courtesy of janinealder.com.

Once you meet Janine Alder, four things are clear.

First, she loves to talk, which… isn’t totally odd considering she knows more than English. A native of Switzerland, what people may not know is that she knows German too. Oh, and don’t forget about Swiss German. French and Italian? Check.

“Within our country we have four official languages,” said Alder. “You’re just surrounded by different cultures. I grew up Swiss German, then in first grade you start learning German, because Swiss German doesn’t have a dictionary, it’s not a written language. It’s basically a dialect, it’s a spoken language. You learn German in school…then you learn one of the country’s official languages first, so I learned French first and then English, because [English] is an international language. Then, I learned Italian in high school.”

Secondly, she is highly intelligent, so much so that she has two recognitions as a WCHA Scholar-Athlete and two inclusions on the WCHA All-Academic team. A mass communications major with a focus on print-related communications, she just finished her second book at a time when most students couldn’t finish their second term paper in a year.

“The first book I wrote is about 150 pages,” Alder stated. “It was kind of like a high-school capstone project. The premise is sports as a school of life, how team sports are a guidance in life. The chapters are themes of things that I have experienced from team sports, what my experience was and how it helped me psychologically.”

Third, she is highly grateful for everything she has been given in her life. For someone with two Under-18 World Championship entries, three World Championship appearances, and two separate appearances on the Olympic stage, including a Bronze medal in 2014 for her native country of Switzerland, Alder is the complete opposite of aloof or conceited.

One of those World Championship appearances in 2018, however, changed her life forever. After a national team event, Alder had a seizure epilepticus, a form of seizure that is characterized by repeated seizures that do not give the affected person time to recover before the next one.

“I was lucky; my seizure was a one-time thing. I had a seizure epilepticus and wasn’t able to get out of it myself. I was very lucky. Everything was perfectly set up during the incident. I was surrounded by people, as well as team doctors. I wasn’t somewhere by myself when I was struggling. When the seizure started happening, our national team doctor was right there and knew that they needed to do something right away. Luckily, I was only ten minutes away from a hospital, which just happened to be the Neurological Center for Finland,” said Alder.

“The [people at the hospital] knew what they were doing. My parents were there; they saw the whole incident. It was very important for my parents to see what the [hospital staff] was doing, even if they couldn’t read anything, because everything was in Finnish. They were ensured that everything was fine. No one was stressing out, everyone was calm. The hospital staff did the right things and saved my brain, which is the most important thing to me. I have been lucky again in my life, I am just so lucky for everything.” Alder said.

However, how did Alder, the St. Cloud State senior captain and netminder from Zurich, Switzerland, end up wearing a Huskies uniform?

“I live in a very small town near Lake Zurich, about 3,000 people. I started playing hockey because of my brother, he was a forward, so personality-wise I fit better in net. I started playing in net and I loved it; then I was always playing boys’ hockey, always a proud female hockey player in boys’ hockey because I knew I could do it,” said Alder.

“In 2013, [St. Cloud State head coach] Steve MacDonald was on the Under-18 team for Canada. Our teams played each other, and then after that tournament he contacted me. I didn’t know, I didn’t have the NCAA or anything like that on my radar. I was very focused on boys’ hockey and I never imagined leaving home, but then as soon as I graduated high school, I knew I just had to try it, that it might be the best hockey future [for me]. It was also potentially the best combination I could have for school and sports on such a high level. So, I just went for it, I just signed. I didn’t even look at other schools, I didn’t even visit, I just showed up.”

For Alder and the women’s hockey team, it’s been the perfect match.

“After three and a half years, after visiting all the other campuses in the WCHA and out east, I would not change a thing,” Alder said. “I love going to school here, I feel very comfortable. It’s not too big but not too small. It’s the perfect team and the perfect people, I got lucky again in my life.”

Alder also valued the strong competition that she has been exposed to in her collegiate play.

“I had no expectations, but I was curious about how the women can play here, how the best in the world in that age group can play. I was impressed with how good the players are…and I would say the WCHA is probably the best league for women’s players,” said Alder.

So, what’s next for Alder?

“I told myself, whatever I feel, I will give myself time until Christmas to decide the direction, if I want to work for a year or not” said Alder. “I’ll for sure leave for Europe. I don’t know if it’s going to be home or not.”

Alder, as mentioned above, also finished her second book not long ago, detailing her seizure epilepticus and how she and her family have grown and changed from it.

“The first part of the book is the incident itself and how it happened. The second part is the time at the hospital and the [emotions] that went along with it. The third part is what I took out of it and analyzed from it, what I learned from this experience. The first thought that my parents had while I was sedated was, ‘is she going to wake up?’ They didn’t know if I would physically or mentally survive, the world [revolved] around this one question. With all of our worries in life, it made me think, can we go back to that moment in time and then realize that maybe our problems that we consider to be big right now might not be so bad?” said Alder.

The book of course, is in German, at least for now.

“Because I am an English minor, I am able to translate the book as an independent study in my last semester here at the college with the help of a teacher, maybe change the layout of the cover and see if we can get copies over here for people who want to read it,” said Alder.

But wait, what is the fourth thing that you will know when you see Janine Alder?

She’s a good goaltender. Like, really good. Her past two seasons she has sported a .935 save percentage and given her team a chance to win every weekend. With junior goaltender Emma Polusny, she is part of arguably the best goaltending duo in women’s hockey. There’s no doubt that on the ice, she is one of the most integral parts of a Huskies women’s hockey team trying to make noise in the WCHA. She is a dedicated netminder who impacts the game every night she plays.

However, when she’s not on the ice, there’s a strong argument to support the notion that she impacts the game of life just as much.

—–

Alder’s first book, entitled Lebensschule Sport – Teamsport Eishockey als Wegweiser (roughly translated as: Life, School, Sport – Team Sports: Ice hockey, as a way wiser) and her second book, Der erste Gedanke – Ein Bericht über die Gesundheit und das uralte Tier in uns (The first thought – A report on health and the ancient animal in us) are available in German on her website.

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Noah Grant

Noah is a graduate student writing for the newspaper at St. Cloud State University. He currently covers the men's and women's hockey teams for the newspaper. Noah also does color analyst work for both teams on the radio at KVSC studios. Check out his St. Cloud State hockey-based podcast at https://huskieswarminghousepodcast.com

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