Behind the Mask with Kelsey Neumann

Buffalo Beauts goaltender Kelsey Neumann is often mentioned as a player from North Carolina. While that is partly true, her story runs even deeper into the southern half of the United States. “For me, I started in San Antonio, Texas actually – which is even worse for a hotbed of hockey,” a grinning Neumann exclaimed! “My dad and I were recently talking and we’re pretty sure that the rink I started skating at is no longer there. That was just basically my parents finding a rink for my dad to play out of and then putting myself and my brother in youth hockey down there.”

Kelsey Neumann, Bill Peters
Kelsey Neumann and Bill Peters. (Photo Credit: Kelsey Neumann)

“We actually got to work with Bill Peters (who recently resigned as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes and took a gig as the Calgary Flames new bench boss), and now we have that lifelong friendship – through us playing youth hockey in Texas.” Peters helped open San Antonio’s first ice hockey rink and also played his only game as a professional in Texas in 1996 for the San Antonio Iguanas of the CHL as a last-minute replacement.

“In North Carolina, it did start growing once the Hurricanes arrived,” Neumann said. “For the girls game I think (current Buffalo Beauts teammate) Colleen Murphy definitely is helping with that and so is Alyssa Gagliardi (Boston Pride). I think they’re both doing a really great job and when I go home I’m hoping to help with some of those clinics and stuff this summer.”

Glove Life

Every goalie has to be a little cooky right? I mean, they’re signing up to basically get pummeled with frozen chunks of vulcanized rubber at high rates of speed on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s not a well-thought-out plan when you’re younger. You just want to be like your family members whom you look up to. “My dad was a goalie growing up and then my brother Justus was playing goalie. Justus was going to a goalie camp, and I didn’t want to just watch him for a week. So about two weeks earlier I told my mom that I wanted to try it. She put my pads on backward the first day,” she said with a laugh, “and then the rest is history!”

Kelsey Neumann
Kelsey Neumann of the Buffalo Beauts. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

Neumann also had a legendary teacher as a goalie coach for a time, and like any goalie, she has favorites she likes to watch in the NHL. “I had a few. My favorite goalies growing up were – obviously my dad and my brother – but Vladislav Tretiak, because he was my goalie coach (from age 8 to 15),” revealed the 26-year-old. “CuJo (Curtis Joseph) was my go-to for NHL goalies I liked watching, but currently in the NHL it has to be Montreal’s Carey Price.”

There’s also one other pretty okay goalie she’s grown quite fond of over the past two years. “Obviously I’ve gotta give a shoutout to Lev (Mandy Leveille). She’s a good friend and she’s my favorite,” she admitted. “I love to compete against her in everything. Last year between myself, her, and Bri (Brianne McLaughlin) it was always a great time.”

Sometimes Things Click

Before two years ago Neumann and Leveille didn’t know one another. But now they’re an inseparable duo that has been given a platform as players in the NWHL and we’ve all come to love the goofy McLevman videos and pictures that Buffalo’s goalies have produced. “We actually hate each other. McLevman is all a lie. No, I’m kidding,” Neumann joked after the final game of the regular season in early March. She went on to reveal how the legend of McLevman was born.

“Actually, it’s funny – the first few practices Lev wasn’t there yet because she was working out visa stuff, so for her first practice I think we were about two or three practices in,” explained Neumann. “I came in after a lift and she was in the room and kinda looked a little nervous, so I sat down next to her and we just started talking. We both recall that no one else in the locker room was talking (at that time), except for us. It was a new team. From there we just became best friends and I think within three days we started planning McLevman things to do,” she added with a sly grin. “That’s kind of where that grew from and we were lucky that Bri wanted to join us.”

She did add that there will be new McLevman content soon, just that she couldn’t specify when. So this is one of those ‘stay tuned’ kinda things. “That’s kind of a surprise (when they’ll be out), but luckily whenever we do McLevman things we do a lot of them,” she said while giggling, “and I have a lot saved on my phone. We definitely have a lot that we have to post, and that we keep asking each other: ‘why haven’t we posted it yet?’ But we’re working on that and we’re going to try to get some more kids involved I think. Hopefully, we can get Bri to come back and do one or two of them also.”

Kelsey Neumann
Kelsey Neumann of the Buffalo Beauts. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

Another McLevman stunt with Brianne McLaughlin is never a bad thing.

Off the Ice

Playing behind two legendary goaltenders hasn’t left a lot of ice-time for Neumann, and while for some people that might make for some sour grapes you’d never know it in talking with her. It hasn’t stopped her from working hard, showing up for practices, or being a great teammate on and off the ice. Last season she was named a recipient of the NWHL Foundation Award which honors a player on each team that: most actively applies the core values of hockey to her community as well as growing and improving hockey culture.

When she’s not with the Beauts she has a day job just like the majority of you reading this do. “During the day I work at a refugee agency called Journey’s End and I am a teacher there for their Mac program, which is a high school alternative program,” Neumann told The Hockey Writers. “My students are usually between 16 and 26-years-old and I’m teaching them reading, writing, English, math – pretty much everything that they would learn at a high school. But it’s more at their speed.” And that’s not all she does. “I’m also a coach and I volunteer a lot of time to girl’s programs in Buffalo, specifically the Bisons,” she added.

Somehow in the midst of all of this, she still has time to work on her hockey skills and not show up to practice or a game with Buffalo and not be dead tired. She still wants to be better, and make a difference, and to be there for her teammates. Even if that just means helping them get better in practice because she knows she isn’t starting in goal that week.

“I think last year, in the beginning, I was just really happy to be a part of the team. I got to practice with the team a few times during the first season because their Canadian goalie hadn’t come over yet,” explained Neumann. “This year I really put in a lot of work during the offseason to come in and be more of a leader. So on the ice, off the ice, throughout the community – I’ve really taken on more of a leadership role and I think my confidence has gotten a lot better. I feel a lot stronger for that this year.”

Wanna See My Mask?

Like every goalie, Neumann loves personalizing her mask to showcase things that she loves and things that are a part of her life. It must be like opening presents on your birthday when a goalie gets a new mask and her mask (painted by Kevin Kegler) has some really great details and meaning to her.

“The cityscape on the top is of Buffalo, but he made it so that it can be almost any city since I have moved around so much. The quote ‘be not afraid of greatness’ is a shortened version of my favorite Shakespeare quote and from one of my favorite movies She’s the Man!,” said a laughing Neumann. 

Kelsey Neumann
The left side of Kelsey Neumann’s mask. (Photo Credit: Kelsey Neumann)

“The left side of my helmet has always said the same thing ever since I got my first custom paint job a little over 13 years ago. It has the name Timmer and no. 13. It’s in honor of my friend who was killed in a car accident on the way to a hockey tournament. He was two years younger, but my team treated his team like our younger siblings, and he and I were always the last ones left on the ice. I have had him on my mask ever since because I know he is watching over me every time I step on the ice.”

“On the right side are lyrics to Timmer’s favorite Switchfoot song  “This is your life, are you who you want to be?” I listen to this song a lot, and having those lyrics on my mask was important to me, not only as another tribute to my friend but also a nice reminder that I am in control of who I want to be, and that at the end of the day no one can take my character away from me. On the chin, I have my last name and a Minion on either side. I love Minions, so I had to have them on my mask. They are both Hockey Minions, one is wearing a Beauts jersey, the other has a Carolina Aces jersey, which was to represent my women’s team in North Carolina. But we recently changed from the Aces to the Lady Hurricanes, so I might have to change that, haha!”

Kelsey Neumann
The right side of Kelsey Neumann’s mask. (Photo Credit: Kelsey Neumann)

“The left side of my mask is the most important part of my mask, but the back plate is a very close second! The back is in honor of any friends/ family that have passed away. The back plate says God’s All-Stars on it. Right in the middle is a giant purple heart with the no. 2 which is for my friend Daron and to bring awareness to DIFD. The number 17 is for Mandy Schwartz, and the number 87 is for Elizabeth Turgeon who I grew up playing with or against when we both lived in the Rocky Mountain District. I also have Pop and Lenny for my grandpa who always encouraged me to push the limits, and my uncle who passed away two years ago unexpectedly. And finally the last quote and the absolute last thing I see before I put my mask on is something my dad Tracy has been telling me to do before every game since I can remember and that is to ‘Pull Your Head Out of your Ass’ – it doesn’t matter if he is at the game or not we have had a ritual since at least college that he is either calls or texts me a pregame speech and it always ends with ‘have fun, know that I love you and pull your head out of you ass,’ if it’s before one of the Carolina games I get the speech in person followed by a hug.”