Jun 21, 2019
Noelle Needham's hockey journey almost ended on her family's cow farm.
When knee injuries and surgeries cut short her playing career at Minnesota State Mankato in 2007, the 21-year-old figured she should try the family business. So she returned home to Elkton, South Dakota, and took out a "beginning farmer" loan. Then she and her mother drove seven-plus hours to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, hand-selected 100 heifers and trucked them back home.
Needham loved life on the ranch, but soon realized that it wasn't going to fulfill her. "I just felt a calling," she says. "I had a hard time not being involved with hockey."
Needham's parents told her to do what made her happy. She sold the heifers.
Needham -- who had been recruited to Shattuck-St. Mary's, the country's top prep hockey program, at age 13 -- started offering private hockey lessons to young players, cold-calling families to ask for the opportunity to work with their sons and daughters. Needham was willing to do anything and go anywhere; if she had a 10 p.m. session in Minnesota and a student wanted to skate there again at 6 a.m., she wasn't above sleeping in her truck. (And she did, spending a handful of nights reclined in her Dodge 1500 Ram.)
Along with a friend, Ashley Munsterman, Needham started a summer camp for girls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That grew into Legend Hockey, an elite training and development program they co-founded in 2009, and the Sioux Falls Power, a Tier I club team. When the Power's under-16 boys' team suddenly needed a coach midseason in 2017, Needham stepped behind the bench.