Hockey players often perform unselfish acts.
They pass the puck so someone else can score into an empty net, or take a big hit to spring a teammate on a breakaway.
Michaela Lanzl, however, did one of the most unselfish acts any hockey player has done: The German women's star put her promising puck career on hold to take care of her younger sister, Andrea, after their mom, Silvia, passed away nine years ago.
Michaela was 15 when her mom died, and she delayed her U.S. college hockey career until Andrea turned 18 two years ago.
"It was tough, yes," Michaela, now 24, said yesterday. "But I would never leave my sister alone, so I waited. ... Everybody would do it, I guess. I hope so."
The sisters developed an even tighter bond after the death of their mother, and are still close today. They both play for Germany's national team and are slated to be on the same line when the Women's World Hockey Championship begins Tuesday in Winnipeg and Selkirk.
"It's amazing to play with her," Andrea, 19, said yesterday. "I can't play with her very often, so I'm happy I can do this."
Michaela, who just finished her second season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, has been on the national team for 11 years, while Andrea, who plays back home in Dusseldorf, has been on the squad five.
Andrea appreciates the sacrifice her big sister made to ensure her teen years were as normal as possible.
"She's played the biggest part in my life," Andrea said. "She was a second mother to me."
Michaela grew up quickly after becoming the woman of the household.
"I had a lot of responsibility," she said. "... I was a teenager. I had to take care of my sister, do household (duties) like laundry, cook and stuff.
"And I had to play hockey on my team and play on the national team, where I missed a lot of school. It was tough."
If the heartache of losing their mom wasn't enough, tragedy struck again in December 2005 when their dad, Helmut, passed away after an illness.
"I would've been home for Christmas anyways, but my dad said I should come home early," Michaela said. "So I came three weeks early. And he was better, and everything seemed great again, but all of a sudden he died."
Just as she did when her mom died, Michaela soldiered on. She managed better than a point a game during her rookie season in Duluth, and this year had 13 goals and 11 assists for the Bulldogs, who lost the NCAA final to Wisconsin two weeks ago.
The only snag Michaela encountered in delaying her college career is international players are allowed to play in the NCAA until the age of 24.
Since she turns 25 next February -- a month before the end of the season -- the Bulldogs have filed an appeal in an attempt to get her one more season of eligibility.
If the NCAA has a heart, the Bulldogs will win that appeal.