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Utah hockey community mourns woman killed in Grand County climbing accident

Nov 14, 2022, 10:42 AM | Updated: 1:26 pm

The Utah hockey community is mourning the loss of a former player and mentor who died in a climbing accident in Grand County.  They’re remembering the impact 21-year-old Emmalynn Herbstritt continued to have on high school hockey well after she graduated, and up until her death.

According to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Emmalynn Herbstritt was a canyoneering guide who was out at Morning Glory Arch on Saturday when she died on scene following the accident. The sheriff’s office did not release details of the accident.

Salt Lake City woman dies in climbing accident

In Utah’s high school hockey world, Emmalynn’s name will immediately ring a bell. Even if not for her first name, those involved in hockey explained that everyone would recognize her last name.

“Just so positive [who] is at everything, has her fingers in helping with everything. Her and her family, Misty and Bryan her parents, they’re just fantastic,” said hockey team mom Kerry Fain. Hockey has been a full family affair for the Herbstritts for more than a decade.

Fain, whose daughter played with Emmalynn on the coveted Lady Grizzlies U19 team a few years back, explained that Misty and Bryan have been involved at the state board level for Utah High School Hockey. Emmalynn started playing hockey at 10 years old, and has been on the Utah Junior Grizzlies, Lady Grizzlies, Brighton High School, and East High School hockey teams. Her younger brother and sister are also involved in hockey, Fain said.

“Emmalynn, she was pretty exceptional,” Fain said. “She was even able to go out there and keep up with boys and give them a little bit of their own medicine. She was not afraid of the contact or the play.”
Emmalynn Herbstritt (Facebook) Emmalynn Herbstritt (Facebook)

While at East High, Emmalynn played on the Varsity level and served as an alternate Captain her Senior Year, explained East Hockey Trustee Gina Caps.

She received the Utah High School Hockey Art Treece Lady MVP Award for Division 2 in 2019, which is given “to the most highly skilled female player in the league,” Caps said Sunday.

“In addition, she was a finalist for the Tim Hixson Memorial Scholarship for UHSH Defensive Player. This award is based primarily on academic and community leadership. Emmalynn was active in her church community,” Caps said.

Emmalynn continued to play hockey in college for Northern Michigan University, where Fain said Emmalynn and her team won the championship in their division.

She left college to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fain said Emmalynn was very strong and devout in her faith.

Emmalynn loved the outdoors, and Fain said Emmalynn was always out hiking if she wasn’t on the ice.
The 21-year-old recently became a canyoneering guide in Moab, Fain explained, and loved her job.

Hearing about Emmalynn’s death has been hard for the entire hockey family across Utah. Posts by teams on social media describe the disbelief and hole left behind.

“Shock first, because honestly that’s the last of my kids that I’d ever think to hear had passed, and in such an extreme way,” Fain said. “She loved life, so she was out living and loving life and unfortunately the accident happened. And after that, it was just complete sorrow.”

“Emmalynn was always nice to everyone. She was one of our higher skilled players, these players go in one of two directions: Get frustrated that the new players aren’t able to make the right plays. Or help them. Emmalynn chose to help them,” expressed East High Hockey Coach Eric Capps. “She was very focused on the ice. I imagine she was this way with everything she did.”

“I remember her intense passion for the game. It was infectious,” remembered East High Hockey Assistant Coach Per Gesteland. “She was the motivator on the bench; always cheering (occasionally coaching) her teammates on the ice from the bench. She was a tenacious and fearless defenseman.”
As Fain now thinks back to the impact Emmalynn had, she described thinking of the positive, sweet player who went on to become a mentor and help younger girls find her voice.
She once spoke to an audience of about 100 girls in Chicago during a showcase tournament, Fain said, to talk to them about the benefits of playing an athletic sport in college.
Fain said Emmalynn was a shining light for others.

“Any way she could help, helping with youth camp, things like that, kids, the younger Lady Griz– she’d come out and skate with them,” Fain said. “It made a huge difference, and there’s definitely a void without her.”

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Utah hockey community mourns woman killed in Grand County climbing accident