DUXBURY, Mass. — The journey from hockey pioneer to hockey mom began in Potsdam for Brandy Fisher-Bailey.
Growing up in Colton where she was already showing outstanding potential as a three-sport varsity athlete in eighth grade at Colton-Pierrepont Central, the inaugural winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 1998 as the top collegiate women’s college hockey player in the country starting honing her skills in the Potsdam Junior Hockey Association and eventually became a contributing member of the first USA Hockey Women’s National Team at the turn of the millennium.
“My first memory of hockey was probably going to a Clarkson game with my dad when I was very young. I can remember seeing what was happening on the ice and thinking, ‘I want to do that’. In kindergarten, my parents got me in the beginner program with Potsdam Junior Hockey at Pine Street Arena and right away, I fell in love with it,” said Fisher-Bailey, who now resides 40 minutes south of Boston with her wife, Christina, and their two daughters, 10-year-old Emersyn and 8-year-old Landry.
“I love all sports but I liked hockey the most because it was really fast. There was something special about being on skates and the speed you could go on the ice. I was sold after my first season,” she added. “I can still remember scoring my first goal, it was on a breakaway, and I can remember the first time I went to another rink. It was the Golden Dome in Ogdensburg. That’s where I got my first penalty. I started crying.”
As a freshman and sophomore at Colton-Pierrepont, Fisher-Bailey was a varsity standout on both the soccer field and the softball diamond but had to give up on basketball in order to chase her dream of someday playing hockey at the college level.
“Rod Thomas was my coach for soccer and softball and he had a huge influence on me,” she noted. “He was just a great coach. I still enjoyed playing basketball but I couldn’t keep doing both anymore. I had to make a decision.”
Thomas, who went on to guide the boys soccer team at C-P to the NYSPHSAA Class D title in 2006, passed away unexpectedly in September of 2015.
Following her sophomore year in 1992, Bailey-Fisher had made the decision to leave the area to attend the Governor’s Academy, a prep school in Byfield, Mass., where she concentrated on building her hockey skills but also competed on the soccer and lacrosse teams. Through her experience there over the next two years, she caught the attention of numerous college coaches and eventually committed to the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
“I loved the Governor’s Academy. It was tough because I was away from my family and my friends but, even at a young age, I knew it was a really good opportunity for me,” said Fisher-Bailey, who regularly attended USA Hockey select camps and elite tournaments before the start of her benchmark college career.
“I had it in my head for a long time that wanted to go to UNH. I loved the school, the size of the town and the campus. I also loved that it was close enough to Boston. It had a smalltown feel but it wasn’t a small school,” she added.
Fisher-Bailey, who earned a full scholarship to play hockey at UNH where she studied Exercise Physiology, was part of one of the program’s strongest recruiting classes for third-year coach Karen Kay and quickly established herself as one of the top forwards in the ECAC, which at the time, was the premiere Division I women’s hockey conference in the country. Prior to the start of the NCAA tournament in 2001, the ECAC playoffs were used to determine the national champion and Providence College was the perennial powerhouse.
In her freshman season, Fisher-Bailey set the tone for her All-American career for the Wildcats when she tallied 33 goals and 31 assists for 64 points. Her offensive totals dipped slightly her sophomore year when she fashioned 45 points on 25 goals and 20 assists but she capped the season by netting one of the first goals scored in a college women’s hockey game ever to be featured on a national television sports broadcast, the game-winner in the fifth overtime of the 1996 ECAC championship game that lifted UNH to a 3-2 win over Providence. At the time it was the longest college hockey game, men’s or women’s, ever played.
“People still bring it up for sure,” she noted. “I remember it was on TV on ESPN, their play of the day. That was definitely a big moment in my career.”
As it turned out, it would be the only ECAC championship Fisher-Bailey was able to celebrate after the Wildcats suffered one-goal losses in their next two trips to the tournament final. Despite falling short in the league tournament her senior year, 1998 turned out to be an historic season for UNH and, for Bailey-Fisher in particular. The first American Women’s College Hockey Alliance Tournament was staged at the FleetCenter in Boston in March and UNH skated to a 4-1 win over Brown to claim the newly-established national tournament title. The AWCHA would only hold two more championships before giving way to the NCAA-sanctioned tournament.
Two days before helping the Wildcats win the national crown, Fisher-Bailey was rewarded for putting up record-setting offensive numbers at UNH by becoming the first recipient of the Kazmaier Award, the women’s hockey equivalent of the Hobey Baker Award presented to the top player in Division I men’s hockey since 1973. The week before that, she’d been named the ECAC Player of the Year after being placed on the All-ECAC Second Team the previous two seasons.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 22 years already,” she noted. “Looking back, I don’t think I realized how amazing it was to be the first to get the award. I was sitting there with my family in Boston and it was just so surreal. I remember just being so thankful to the Kazmaier family for their support of women’s hockey. It was a very proud moment in my life.”
“In the space of three days, I was the first to win Kazmaier Award and we won the first national championship. It was very exciting for all of us. It was great to win the award but I had a really good group of teammates and a lot of the good things that happened for me were the result of being a part of that team,” she added.
Fisher-Bailey’s single-season records for goals and points still stand in the UNH women’s hockey record books and she continues to be first on the career goal-scoring list with 129 goals. She ranks third all-time in assists (111) and points (240).
After rising to the top of the women’s hockey ladder nationally, Fisher-Bailey got a chance to compete at the IHL World Women’s Hockey Championships in Finland in 1999 and in Canada in 2000 where she helped Team USA skate to a pair of silver-medal finishes. In the 10 games she played at the IHL tournaments, she tallied 12 points on five goals and seven assists. Team USA fell to arch-rival Canada both times Fisher-Bailey played for the IHL World Championship.
Competing with the same U.S. National team at a tournament called the Four Nation’s Cup, which is played annually at various sites around the world in November, for three straight years (1998-2000) where once again, she came away with a silver medal after championship game losses to Canada.
“Being a part of Team USA was awesome. The places I traveled to, the people I met and all the great players I had as teammates, it was definitely a great experience,” she said.
While she earned a chance to compete on the international hockey stage, Fisher-Bailey was never able to play for an Olympic medal after her career was sidetracked due an injury in 2000.
“I tore my ACL and went through seven months of rehab before the Olympics. I was on the team for a pre-Olympic tournament and we played in every big city in the U.S. I was one of the last 25 players and they had to cut the final roster down to 21,” she recalled.
“It’s a very competitive team and there are always players ready to step in and take over. I wasn’t 100 percent myself after rehab but I still felt pretty good,” she continued. “(Getting cut) was brutal. They sat the whole team down in a room at the place where we lived in Lake Placid and they just started to read off names. It was not fun. It took me years to recover.”
But recover she did.
Shortly after being dropped from Team USA, she began a sales career in the medical supplies field and relocated to the Rochester-area for a number of years before gravitating back to the Boston-Area with her family where she now spends the majority of her time helping to raise two young daughters, who are actively pursuing hockey careers of their own. She also serves as assistant coach of the girls hockey team at nearby Thayer Academy.
“Hockey was basically my job from the time I started college and I loved every minute of it but at 25 years old, I had to support myself without it. When I played my last game, I didn’t know it was going to be the end,” she said. “I did make money when I was playing for Team USA. We got stipends and they took care of our expenses. I think we each got $10,000 for winning silver medals, which wasn’t terrible, and I saved every penny.”
“After I was cut, I shut hockey down completely and buried myself in my work. I don’t have any regrets, though,” she added. “I’m living in a hockey hotbed and both our daughters are playing. They’ve gotten me back into hockey and I love it.”
Fisher-Bailey’s father, Allen Fisher, still lives in Colton as does her older sister, Tracy, while her younger, Scott, resides in Michigan. Her mother, Mary Denicourt, passed away in 2016 due to complications 10 years after having undergone a double-lung transplant. Her niece, Anna Hoose, competed for the Canton Blades 12U girls hockey team that finished second at the 2020 NYSAHA Tier II state tournament last month.