Meet Bellingham’s Maealie Glanzer, who hopes to one day play Olympic hockey
BELLINGHAM — There will come a time, perhaps a year from now, when Maealie Glanzer will see with her own eyes exactly where she came from.
But these days, when she’s only 13 and has just been Co-Grand Marshal of the Torchlight Parade of Seafair while charting a hockey path to a distant Olympics dream of he winter, today’s life is fast approaching. There are daily practices, additional on-ice practices, travel tournaments with her elite Sno-King team, and increased public exposure as a youth spokesperson for Women’s Pro Hockey Seattle.
So while she’s already probably the most decorated hockey player – the on-ice version of hockey, anyway – in her native Uganda, exploring roots isn’t Glanzer’s priority.
“I’m not really focused on the past, more on the future,” she said this month at the family home in Bellingham. “Because I think what impacts you the most is what’s in your future.”
She admittedly knows little about the impoverished East African nation she was adopted from when she was 2 years old; from the murderous 1970s regime of dictator Idi Amin, the civil war of the 1980s after his exile, or the ensuing struggle to modernize the former pariah state.
Yet the past may linger as Glanzer’s current accomplishments pile up.
Her adoption was highlighted last year when she received the state’s first $1,000 equipment scholarship from the Black Girl Hockey Club. And in May, after receiving the Wayne Gittinger Inspirational Youth Award at the 87th Seattle Sports Star of the Year Banquet. Then again last month as she rode in a Mercedes convertible, one of six female Grand Marshals in a torchlight parade featuring Sonics great Gary Payton, Guns ‘N Roses bassist Duff McKagan , actress Anna Faris, soccer star DeAndre Yedlin and comedian Drew Carey in identical roles.
“I had never been in a parade,” Glanzer said. “It was a bit intimidating. You try to say hello to everyone and smile at everyone. But it was really fun.”
At the end of the parade, she was unexpectedly cast in a live television interview. “It was kind of in line with the future of women’s hockey in Seattle and the impact it could have on people,” she said.
Glanzer hopes to be among those positively impacted. Her scholarship positioned her to meet black professionals such as Saroya Tinker, Blake Bolden and Sarah Nurse.
“I ask them for advice on how to improve,” she said. “Or, if I’m about to go to a camp, I’ll ask them about the mental part I should prepare for.”
These discussions sparked at least some interest in Glanzer about past events. She is intrigued by the evolution of the women’s game, especially with players of color.
“I like to watch things like, ‘How many people of color are there on the Olympic team this year? On the college teams? Or, ‘Where are they from?’ Because most of them are from Minnesota or heavy hockey places, we don’t see a lot of kids from Washington.
And in the context of hockey, if not her birth certificate, Washington is where Glanzer calls home. At her age – she turns 14 on September 1 – no one is pressuring her to own her Ugandan heritage despite her increased visibility.
Glanzer hasn’t seen Uganda since her parents Carrie, 40 and a nurse, and Brandon, 39 and a college teacher, adopted her in 2010 from an orphanage in Jinja, an adjacent port city of 300,000. at Lake Victoria. The young “Mae” lived there with the future adoptive sisters, Kaatri and Brynn, then aged 4 and 6.
Ugandan law allowed the Glanzers to adopt up to two children at a time. They were paired with Mae and Kaatri and spent 40 days in Uganda awaiting clearance to leave, living in a nearby guest house.
“Learning to raise a child in a third world country was interesting,” said Carrie Glazer, who had done humanitarian work in Uganda and had long wanted to adopt. “And you never knew when you would be done. It was always ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow.’ And we were like, ‘You’ve been telling us that for two weeks.’ “
When they were in public, they were subject to a curiosity that was not always friendly.
“We were called mzungus — white people,” she said. “And seeing mzungus caring for a Ugandan child was very strange. This was unusual and not always well received. And that part, we weren’t really prepared or told to wait.
Controversy also simmered in Uganda over loosely regulated international adoptions in which birth parents were sometimes tricked by unlicensed agencies into giving up their children.
Contrary to those horror stories, the Glanzers had met Mae’s birth mother, Evelyn, who visited them throughout their stay. She was unable to walk or stand properly since birth, a challenge for anyone in resource-stricken Uganda, let alone a mother – the Glanzers have no idea who the biological father is – raising her child .
Carrie returned to Uganda 13 months later to adopt Brynn – who had been the orphanage’s roommate with Kaatri – and met Evelyn again to tell her about Mae’s new life. She had started skating lessons at Bellingham Sportsplex, which would lead her to play hockey when she was 4 years old.
“We showed Evelyn videos of Mae skating, and it opened her eyes as she couldn’t walk and wasn’t sure what Maealie would be physically able to do,” she said. declared. “Trying to explain the concept of ice cream was very difficult. I said, ‘So, have you ever eaten ice cubes?’ And she said “No”. So I told him ‘When water gets very cold, it freezes into a solid.’ And then she says, “She has knives on her feet,” and so I explained the skates.
They continued to write updates and take pictures twice a year, broadly describing Mae’s rise to hockey from men’s leagues conditioning her for physical play to current girls’ teams where she toned down her aggression (the girls’ game is non-contact) and has embraced the mental side of the game.
His Sno-King Junior Thunderbirds in April went further than any other Washington team at the USA Hockey National Championship Tournament in Pennsylvania, finishing third in the 14-under 2A category. Glanzer, a year younger than many competitors, has registered three goals and one assist in five games.
Along with digging loose pucks and going to the net, Glanzer’s speed and quick thinking set her apart. She hopes this will lead to a professional career and consideration for Team USA’s Winter Olympics by 2030.
The most notable African-born hockey player is Kennewick resident and longtime Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, a South African of German descent. South Africa is the only member of the International Ice Hockey Federation on the continent.
They only play field hockey in Uganda. Football is the most popular, and the country’s marathon runners and sprinters are internationally acclaimed. The Glanzers are planning their first return family visit next summer so the adoptees – there’s also a biological daughter, Daphne, 8 – can find out more.
“We’re trying to make it a priority,” Brandon Glanzer said. “I don’t know if you would call this a heritage trip, but it’s a family trip that we think is important.”
Maealie Glazer isn’t averse to seeing a birth mother and a homeland she doesn’t really remember.
“It’s not uncomfortable or anything,” she said. “It’s just a part of life.”
But her focus remains here, where she is often the only black player on teams or in entire tournaments. She hopes to change that, whether it’s playing on the ice, posting public messages or volunteering as a coach with Try Hockey for Free programs to attract others to the sport.
“Nobody is born into something,” she said. “You have to become what you want to be. And there is never a clear path. I just got athletic, and that’s kind of the path I took.
She hopes others might follow, no matter where they come from.