It has been an uncharacteristically down season for the Minnesota women’s hockey team, but facing adversity — and coming out ahead — is something redshirt senior goalie Sidney Peters is well used to at this point.
Peters is one of five finalists for the 2017-18 Hockey Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually to college hockey’s top citizen for his/her service contributions to their team, school and community. The winner will be announced at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., in April.
She went to Minnesota with high hopes that were quickly muted when she redshirted her freshman year and spent the better part of the next two seasons as a backup. Young, maybe a little naive and 400 miles from home, Peters spent most of that first year rewiring the way she thought of herself. When she no longer had hockey to consume her 24/7, she found that she didn’t feel like she had anything else.
Unsure who she really was when she wasn’t in the crease, she started looking for ways to connect with teammates and classmates — she wanted to find a community. Difficult and painful to go through at the time, the experiences her first three years at Minnesota have undeniably shaped the person that Peters is today. And they are what led her to become such a passionate volunteer.
“I think if I hadn’t redshirted or sat on the bench as much as I did in the beginning in my career, I’d probably be a very different person now,” Peters said. “Hockey means a lot to me. It’s something I care a lot about and I work really hard at it, but I understand now it’s not who I am and it doesn’t define me. My happiness isn’t based on my performance or what other people think of me anymore, and that’s really freeing. Now I can work hard at hockey when I’m at the rink and I can shut it off and focus on other things when I’m away from the rink. To me, that is so much more stable and so much more rewarding than hockey ever could be alone.”
Volunteering seemed like a good way to get out and learn about the city she now lived in while also connecting with other volunteers and those she was helping. She started with the Minnesota athletic department program Maroon and Gold Impacting the Community. Her Christian faith also informed a lot of the decisions she made early on.
“A big part of why I’ve felt like I wanted to be involved in these organizations is because of my faith. I really believe in sacrificing yourself for others. I think it’s important for us to love one another and make sure we’re looking out for each other,” she said. “My approach is just showing people that I care about them.”
Through the athletic department program, she was able to try a wide variety of volunteering opportunities but found herself drawn to ones that involved medicine. She is now a certified Emergency Medical Technician, and much of her volunteering comes from serving in that role during functions on campus, at football games, concerts and more.
“I slowly just fell in love with being able to serve others,” Peters said. “It’s a good feeling when you are able to take a little bit of your day and help someone out. You are always learning something from them and gaining a new perspective on whatever is going on in your life.”
In the summer of 2016, she went on an eight-day volunteer trip to Haiti, where she worked as a medic. That trip was life-changing for Peters in a number of ways, but most importantly for her, it solidified that a career as a physician was what she wanted to pursue. A kinesiology major, she is waiting to hear if she has been accepted to medical school. She is also considering joining the Air Force.
“It was a pivotal moment in my life because it challenged me to really look inside and look at what was motivating in my life. That’s when it really clicked with me,” said Peters. “(As a military physician) you’re working with people who are making sacrifices for this country. You’re serving people that are serving you and serving your loved ones.”
It’s clear that compassion and a tendency toward service are intrinsic in who Peters is as a person. She has amassed nearly 800 hours of community service during her time at Minnesota. She’s a leader on and off the ice with a work ethic that her coach Brad Frost said is unmatched.
Between work at a local hospital, school, hockey and volunteering, Peters admitted that sometimes she feels like she’s struggling to keep her head above water. But she is also adamant that what she’s doing is absolutely worth that cost.
“What makes it doable is the relationships you form with the people you meet,” Peters said. “Whenever I think about how overwhelming it can get, I always come back to the people I’ve met and the people that are in my life because of those experiences. Those people are my family. When you start to focus on the relationships that you’re building and you look at all the positives that are coming out of it, it’s easy to give up a little bit of sleep or deal with a little bit of extra stress because you’re building something that’s going to be lasting. The people are what make it worth it.”
Peters is wont to play down the importance and significance of what she accomplishes in a day or a week, as though the amount of time she gives of herself while already tackling life as an elite student-athlete isn’t mind-boggling. But Frost points out that this is how Peters is wired. She herself said she’s bad at sitting still, but the amount she gives of herself goes beyond that.
“She’s got a heart for people and a heart for helping people. I think when you have a heart like that, it just becomes very natural,” Frost said. “She’s not doing anything out of the ordinary for her. She’s doing extraordinary things, according to other people, but for her it’s just ordinary stuff.”