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That's not the life I want, like I want to make a living playing women's hockey at the highest level. Welcome to the Just One sports podcast where we talk to the biggest athletes in the world about the untold stories behind their success. I'm Kelly O'Hara and my guest today is Hilary Knight. Hillary is one of the most decorated hockey players of all time, a two time national champion at the University of Wisconsin. Hillary has won eight world championships with the US national team, as well as an Olympic gold medal in the twenty eighteen games on the ice.
Hillary is a vocal advocate for women's hockey, and in twenty nineteen she helped found the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association, which continues to push for change in sport.
Hillary, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Yeah, of course. Just to start at the beginning, how did you first get into ice hockey? I read you wanted to be an Olympic hockey player since you were five. But then I went and did some research and saw that women's hockey wasn't going to be until 1980. Is that correct? So your five women's Olympic hockey isn't even a thing. How does that come about?
Yeah, I think it's kind of crazy. Looking back some. Like what? Like where do they get that idea from? But, you know, I think just seeing, like, the guys on TV and watching the NHL, and that was how I viewed hockey and that was like the ultimate level and also seeing them in the Olympics. And obviously that the nineteen eighty I wasn't around for, but hearing about it and how instrumental and pivotal it was for the sport and also for the world, it just felt like the Olympics were sort of the pinnacle.
But I got into hockey sort of in a backwards way. We moved from California to Illinois and I come from a ski family and everyone skis like everyone. I was on skis and I was like two years old. And my mom kind of looked around and was like, what do I do with my kids once you got to Illinois?
Yeah. So she's like huge active sports enthusiast, loves playing tennis, paddle tennis, you name it. She'll go out and do it. And she actually met another woman who played hockey and her husband was a coach and all of her kids played. And she suggested to my mom that she get all of us children out on skates and learn that summer so we could play in the upcoming winter. So.
So did you start on roller blades? You just get out there, they just kind of throw you out on the ice and you kind of do the Bambi thing trying to get your feet underneath you. And, you know, slowly you learn. And I remember getting out there. And if you could skate to the far boards and come back, you'd earn these little buttons. And so the buttons were the big indicator of how good a skater you were.
So I always wanted to accumulate all the buttons and then as many buttons as possible.
Yeah. And then sure enough, you're kind of hanging around the rink and you see the older kids coming with all the gear and you're like, what's that like?
I want to do that. So that's kind of how hockey sort of evolved for me. And it's funny because my parents had to learn all the rules as we went along.
Yeah. So your parents knew nothing about hockey? Nothing. Nothing. It was just like a geographical situation where this was an option and I'm going to get my kid into it, you know? No, it's wild. I think for my dad's job, they're like, where do you want to go? London, similar Canadian city or Chicago? And he's like London. They're like, perfect, you're going to Chicago. It's usually how things work in London.
Yeah, that's funny.
My only experience with hockey as a young child is my cousins lived in Maryland and so they play hockey and we were at an ice skating rink. It was first time I was on skates. I'm pretty sure they were all doing hockey stops like, you know, the cool thing that you guys do.
And it's like impossible to do. Yeah, yeah. So I'm probably like eight or nine, maybe ten. And I'm like, yeah, I can do that. I do a hockey stop. I don't obviously execute it properly and I end up stopping myself with my head against ice and I wake up on like my uncle's arms and I that was my first concussion. So that's, that's my only entry into the hockey world. So welcome. Yeah. That's that's that's a big bang entrance.
Yeah. I probably should have been wearing a helmet that's like my knee doc style. No, totally. I think I was like stoked on Mighty Ducks and thought that I could do it because I could skate as a little kid. But it's it's not the same thing.
Yeah. At all. Yeah. Let's balance on little knives and call it a for. Exactly. Exactly. So was hockey like it for you or did you do a bunch of different sports growing up. Yeah, I think my mom called me like the one sport wonder, like I would pick up one sport and then drop it. And then this next sport was like my sport and I was all into it.
But I tried everything, you know, I even tried to play soccer.
Did you go? It was a lot of fun. I loved it. I loved competing and stuff. And then I started out bummed out because I didn't know how to juggle and do all the other stuff. And it's tough because now you have to kind of choose what you want to do with all the travel and everything. Totally. At what age were like, okay, this is hockey, is it? I'm going to drop away from any of the other sports?
Yeah. I think, you know, I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go to boarding school or not, to be honest, and I had to.
To make that decision, like geographically, if I want to come out here to Somalia or somewhere in Colorado or even Utah or if I want to go out east. So is that a thing in hockey? You go to a boarding school because that's the best option in terms of competition and development and that sort of thing. Yeah, for me at the time, it was just because girls hockey didn't have the same opportunities it has nowadays. So in order to get recruited to college, a lot of it was heavily East Coast.
And there's one school in Minnesota. But yeah, it was kind of one of these decisions where I wanted to go for the school part, but also on the sports. And it would offer me better opportunities to achieve my dreams and really push myself as a person. Develop me. That's sweet. So why did you choose I can't pronounce your your boarding schools name Choate.
Rosemary Rosemary Hall. Why did you choose that one? What brought you there?
Yeah, I just the feeling I got on campus and boarding schools are crazy.
You just, you go like visit all of them like is a long process like I was. That is kind of like small colleges. It. Yeah. So my mom and I after one of our tournaments is kind of just stayed a few extra days to do the whole boarding school or the prep school tour. And Choate was not number one on my list and I went there for four years. Wow. So freshman year. Yeah. And that's before, like, you know, you think about like cell phones and how connected we are.
And you weren't allowed to have cell phones. And so I was hiding in the stairwell calling her mom, can you come pick me up and just like absolutely homesick for the first month.
And then after that I just didn't really call home again because I just got so involved with sports and everything going on there.
Yeah, for sure. To back up a little bit before you went to boarding school, you played in boys leagues. Were there women's leagues or girls leagues where you were living? How'd that look? See, I don't think I played girls hockey until I was like eleven or twelve years old just because it wasn't really a thing. And when you say that, you mean you weren't playing like in a league or you were playing in a boy's league? Our girls team was playing a boys league.
God, I did have a league at the time, but for whatever reason, that team got kicked out of the league and it was just this whole thing. So we ended up playing boys, which is really cool because the looks on their faces when an all girls team beat the boys, she was, you know.
Yeah, yeah. As you probably know. Yeah. But I'm just so grateful that next generation coming up now has more opportunities for all girls play and girls leagues. I used to take the train in from the suburbs of Chicago into the city alone with my backpack and my hockey bag, and then one of the parents would pick me up there and take me to the rink. So you were very independent from an early age? Yeah, my parents and myself.
And we're like, here you go, which I don't think you can do nowadays. You can't just throw your child on a train into the city.
I mean, you could, but I feel very strongly wouldn't. Yeah.
And then figuring out how to get from the train station to the rink, and it's in downtown Chicago.
So you're like, how old. Twelve. Ten. How old do that. Yeah. Like like eleven or twelve. That's incredible. Yeah. Yeah. I mean thirteen. Did you say what age you think you just focused on hockey.
I think like around twelve or thirteen. I started to get more serious about it because I really like skiing and I liked downhill and going fast and yeah, there's something about hockey that's just so dynamic in the team aspect to it. It's just so special. Yeah, I was curious if that was part of it because like for me, I did a lot of individual sports growing up as well, but I obviously ended up playing soccer because of the team aspect which I loved and obviously still do.
Do you ever really look back and be like I could never be an individual sport athlete? After having your experience on the soccer side, your life would just be so different. You know, like the camaraderie that comes with team sports, I assume, is just so different than, you know, individual sports. And I think that even in tennis and stuff and maybe golf, do you hear there on the same circuit and they travel all the same places.
But ultimately you're competing against those people and you have friends in that sort of thing. But for me, I think one of the coolest parts about team sports is like getting all these different people to come together to win and being able to put everything else aside. When we're done here. Yeah. OK, so you're 10, maybe 12, you're on the train going into downtown Chicago. When did you realize you had it that you could go far with hockey helmet?
But my sophomore year in high school. Really? OK. No, that's similar to me, too, for sure. Yeah.
I mean, like, I couldn't lift the puck. Right. And I feel like lifting the puck is like a fundamental piece of like playing the game. And it would be like lifting the ball. Right. Like if you can't lift the ball or place it where you want to go or pass it the right way, like you don't have a great future. Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, I wasn't able to consistently do that until I got to the high school level and then wasn't oh you know, this is great.
And then you start getting sort of attention for your capabilities and stuff and you're being recruited for colleges and it kind of just changes a little bit.
I find it interesting that you decided to go away to boarding school to make this decision about, like, your potential career without even knowing. Oh, like, I might have what it takes to make it super far. Was it just like, oh, I'm passionate about this. I want to make it this far, like I want to get there, but I'm not sure if I can or was it just. No, I'm going to and I have what it takes.
Yeah. Such an interesting question. I don't know if I was just naive and I'm like, this is what I'm going to do and I'm going to do it. And just not even feeling empowered necessarily to do it just seems like this is what I want to do and I'm trying to do it.
I mean, that's a really good question because I feel like so many youth players get discouraged at a young age because they might not be the best. And like for me, I definitely wasn't at all the best on my team. I was the most competitive. And I think my competitiveness is what fueled me to make it as far as I have. So do you feel like in high school was when you started to really dedicate yourself to, like, developing as a player all those technical aspects?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I would skate like seven days a week, which is kind of crazy now, looking back like what was I thinking? But you just get so passionate about it and obsess in a healthy way that you're just addicted to getting better and learning more. And it's just through any sport when you get higher and higher, I feel like you're even more humbled and there's more humility involved to be like, wow, like I need to go learn that.
So I think that's just what kept me hungry for me. And coming back now, I feel you on that. It's like, as you said, as you get better, you realize how much farther you have to go. So it just takes that much more. I find this fascinating because you were the youngest player ever on the US senior national team in twenty seven. I was like, your debut, right? Yeah, I was.
I don't even know if you were the youngest player at that time. Yeah. Yeah. You were what, eighteen. No, I think I was seventeen. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
I went from being like yeah. Like I like hockey and I don't know if I had it but then you're on the national scene like how does that happen?
I don't know, to be honest. I think there's always that disconnect when you want to make the jump and you don't know how you're going to make the jump or when you're going to make the jump and you want a coach to be like, this is how you do it. And yeah, they kind of lay it out for you. But it's always one of these things like you're always being scouted and recruiting and you just want to try and, you know, get through the threshold of being the player pool.
And so my big break came from a under twenty two series and they saw something there. And then from there I went to the next level for the senior team and I remember I didn't play very much for the first couple of years. And I remember saying to myself, you know what, like I have this, this and this to work on and I'm going to come back here tonight and make sure the next time I'm going to us Jersey that I'm not just going to be sitting on the bench like I want to have an actual impact on the game, which is unfair to say, because there's different ways to have an impact on the game.
But I think I want to perform on the ice. You want to be out there? Yeah. Yeah. So so you guys are set up similarly to how we are in soccer with you teams, youth, national teams, and then they feed into the senior team, is that correct? Yeah, yes. We have probably similar the development camps and a lot of the times it's not really clear how you get all the way to the senior team, but you just show up and continue to show up.
And most times as you work your way up, it's invite only. And so as a young player, you aspire to get invited to that first year of camp. The player development camps are kind of a process and instrumental piece to making it to the senior team. Otherwise they can maybe find you under a rock for the odd chance. But it's a tryout process throughout. Yeah. So I assume you got recruited or a coach saw you within that system playing in high school.
Yeah. Yeah. Interesting, yeah, it's the same for us. It's so funny, the way I made it to the national team is I was guest playing on a club team at a tournament that like playing up a year I like randomly at the last minute, decided to go. So it's just like sometimes you just get lucky. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Butterworth's it's to just work hard, get lucky, something like that.
So your first time with this international team, Wisconsin head coach is the coach at the time of the senior national team. Yes, that's right. For me, it might have been the Harvard coach. OK, so how did you end up at Wisconsin? Oh, man, I went on a visit there and let me really what was the deciding factor?
What got you there? It wasn't the parties I know. No, I just had a great time and I knew that.
And maybe this is from like having that like boarding school small a college kind of feel background.
I didn't want to do that. And I really wanted to feel like a small fish in a bigger pond. And I knew I needed to diversify my skill set and learn from someone else. And a handful of the girls on the US team were actually on the team. So I was like, what a perfect opportunity to learn from the best. And then obviously it's a great school. It's a really good time. So check, check, check. Right.
Let's go. It definitely wasn't the parties I got. No, no home. Yeah.
How are they situated in terms of like national rankings, number one. Oh yeah. OK, so you went to a powerhouse. Yeah. You know, like, you know, there's pros and cons to that.
I just know, like, I love training under people who have like more jumps than I do and more experience on the game. I mean that's a big motivator is sort of having that rabbit you can chase when you're that young. Totally. I feel you. Do you feel like you're like that for younger players on the national team now? I'm like, do you go out of your way to try to be that person for the younger generation? I try not to be scary.
And so do people find you intimidating? Yeah. Do you get. Yeah, I think I have like one of those like resting bitch face and I think I do too. I constantly like I will meet somebody and it'll be a week or two weeks or months later they'll be like, oh, I'm so scared of you. And I was like, why? I just I think that's funny. So you've gotten that before?
Oh yeah. Yeah. I try to be, like, super silly. I love to have a good time. And, you know, when the younger guys come in and you're just like like here's your job, like you're not a rookie, like, just get out there and do this. It's it's super daunting for them. So just try to be silly and not intimidating. But I think it just happens like it's just different.
You just come off as a.. Yeah, and that's awesome. OK, so you show up at Wisconsin, your freshman, you've been in with the senior team and you clearly have a target on your back because your teammates are probably looking at you is like, oh, this is a hot shot out of high school, into college, into the number one program in the country at the time. And then you just crushed it. You smash your freshman year.
I have stats up here. That's ridiculous. Wisconsin's All-Time Leading and career goals. One forty three shots. Ninety six career game winning goals. Thirty Powerplay Goals. Thirty seven Hatrick nine single season goals. Forty seven and total points to sixty two. Did you expect that was your goal or you just like I just want to learn, I want to get better. And it sounds like you're probably the best player that's ever played at Wisconsin.
No, I just want to play you. I think I did have sort of a chip on my shoulder and I joke around with one of my teammates now.
She's like, man, I had this dream that you asked me to give up my number. She was twenty one. And that's like my number that I wear with the US team.
And my gosh, Angie, like, I would never do that.
So this is at college. She had this job so far. Yeah.
I mean maybe I just didn't know like what I was capable of at the time. And obviously playing with good players makes the job so much easier. And that's how you can put the puck in the net. Yeah, but I just want to play hockey. Why do you get a chip on your shoulder? Did you go out there feeling you had something to prove? Yeah, I think whenever you've got sort of a reputation or expectations or you were on the US team, every time you step on the ice like there's a standard, I'm sure you guys feel similarly or felt similarly.
And, you know, there's always people that feel like they should be there. And you have to kind of be like, no, this is why I'm going to continue to go up here with performance. And I also got cut when senior fall from the US team. So you're full of college age or a freshman freshman freshman fall? Oh, yeah, it's OK. We're getting to that. We're down to the actual. So like oilrigs.
What's going on? Why did you get cut? Yeah, I don't know. It's not like clear I guess. And at the time we had kind of these like foggy expectations and checkboxes and stuff. But I went from second to last range in our air pool to rent. I think earlier like one imagine that they rank us in numbers. Yeah. So this is public information for the team. No, it's all internal.
We don't do this anymore. The external within the team, like the coaches, share it with players or they just share like your individual ranking. Individual ranking. Just you. Yeah. Just so the coach was like, yo, you went from two to your last on my list. That's why you're getting cut. And we had different coaches, too, right? So the first time I'm on the team, I think the Harvard coaches are under twenty to coach and then that world championship in the spring and.
Ah, Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson, and then the following fall is a coach from Ohio State or it just continues. So there's not a consistent coach? No.
Now we have one that was like feedback we used, but at the time they were kind of just rotate through this carrousel coaches. And so there would be different expectations and it was really hard. But that seems almost impossible as a player. Yeah, it's tough.
And there's also the pressure, if you wanted to make it, and edging out a spot. But then so fast forward to winter camp, which the player pool expands for that camp because it's a tryout. Again, I'm not even on the original list for that. And so I'm like, man.
So that lit a fire now. Yeah, well, the fall did. And then I was just committed to working really hard to get back because I was embarrassed. Right. You went from here and down here and you know, many athletes like super competitive. Yeah. And then unfortunately for my teammates, you ended up getting an injury. And then fortunately for me, I got to be the alternate for her spot.
So I got to go to camp and then make the team again and then kind of been on the rotation since that happened to me, too.
I didn't make the 2011 World Cup final roster and then lynchers crazy. Yeah, she got injured and I got called up like a week before we left to go. Or was that Germany? I think so, yeah. Wild. Wow. So yeah. OK, so chip on your shoulder. That makes sense. I get that now. It was a technical thing. Do you think it was like an attitude thing. Like what do you think needed to change or do you just think you were like I overall just need to get better.
I think just overall, and I think it was like a focused thing to get more serious, like with my training and really following through on things that I needed to work on. Consistency. Yeah, consistency. Also, I cleaned up my personal life a little bit like I used to love partying and doing all that so well, not to focus on the partying with the Wisconsin hockey. Seemed like because I went to Stanford and we didn't have a hockey team.
And Wisconsin is also like a huge school. At what point in your college career, like, I need to clean this up first. What was it like? And then when did a light turn on and say it back in? Major real back in between my freshman and sophomore year, I really respected the heck out of a handful of my other teammates, and they kind of took me under their wing and I was like, man, maybe I should train like that.
Maybe I should start eating like that. Maybe I should start doing pretty much everything that they do because they know what they're doing. But yeah, I think you go from sort of this rookie mentality of just being naive and things kind of fell into place. I mean, like, you know, like I actually need to, like, set up my future and set up my success. But it's not to say we don't still have a great time, but it was all out of control.
When you're young, was the hockey team like big shots on campus? Yeah. I mean, I would describe like we're one of the big six sports here to put it down that way. All right. So so you've tried it a little too hard your freshman year and you cleaned it up after that.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you just do stupid things, like if you're trying to have a successful career, it makes a little bit harder workshops that way.
I agree. I can attest to that as well, because I definitely had probably too much in college for sure. So you have an amazing college career. You start to dial and get focused and you are about to come out of college and turn pro, and at the time you graduate twenty twelve, you're drafted. Fourth overall in the Canadian Women's Hockey League to the Boston Blades, who was drafted one through three.
Because I don't believe you're drafted for. I have no idea. Let me tell you about the draft process, though.
I work in like a hockey camp in the summer. And I got a text message saying, like, we're drafting you like first for our team.
And I'm like, what is going on? Was it a random number to do another number?
No, I had no idea it was going to drop the draft. Was this is calling your senior year?
Yeah. They're like, OK, sign these papers and then you need to tell us where you're living in Boston so we can submit it to the league so we can draft you. So it was kind of smoke and mirrors process where we had a draft. But you got to choose like where you're going. I'm still salty about it.
Clearly, you just needed Boston to be picking first and then you would have been. Yeah, it definitely impacted my earnings for sure. Did it?
No, I was like, really? Well, so you get told that you need to have an address in Boston and you're going to Boston. So what is your life look like at this point coming out of college and now you're like a professional hockey player, but what does that actually look like?
Let me tell you, the reality was far different than what I thought it was going to be coming from, like Wisconsin, where you get to charter all over the country. You guys chartered?
Oh, yeah. But somebody told me that when I was looking out, it was luxurious.
You guys were big shots on campus for sure. Two pairs of shoes. OK, I'm going there. But yeah, I mean, like our equivalent budget was insane. We would just get all this stuff and it was awesome. It was like you're being treated like a pro in college. And then so I think I was just expecting that when I got out of college and I was in the process trying to find an agent and navigate this new space and, you know, find out that none of that really exists at the time.
So you on your own accord were like, I need to go find an agent. Yeah, I was like, oh, I'm going to negotiate these, like, sponsorship deals. Yeah, I don't know, like what I was thinking. But from the draft process to moving on to Boston, to not understanding, like, I now have to plan out my own day, like I went from a program that was like Grey's Anatomy is Thursday at this time.
And this is when we travel to like, yeah, OK.
Like there's nothing figure it out. And I think, too, like I was also highly encouraged to go to Boston because that's like where all of us, us girls were training at the time. And then I packed up her family. I had this like beta of a Subaru. Ninety nine.
Oh, just awesome.
It had a bumper sticker from when my mom played Women's League that said she shoots, she scores over intercom listing what you're about to go do.
Yeah. So anyways, I packed that car up and drove from Wisconsin to Massachusetts by yourself or what.
One of my teammates, she hopped in and we just went out there, moved everything in. I lived in this really tiny apartment that I thought was centrally located because I didn't really understand how big of a city Boston was. And I wasn't near anything, as I say. So where were you in Boston? Because I was in summer.
I don't even know where that is. Quint's like self. Oh, OK. But I've lived like quinsy ever conquered. I mean, you name it, I've been all over it.
Yeah, that's the life basically. Yeah. Constantly moving. So I read that you like had to give lessons to make ends meet, that you would go to restaurants during closing time to get free food. They're looking to throw away.
Don't survive man. You want Dunkin Donuts. Oh my gosh. That was the restaurant that you went to to get free food court rules.
So you following what your teammates learn to eat in college, did not translate over to professional life to know because like you go to college on your own, you've got the chef and they're like, OK, what type of stir-fry you want that shrimp?
Like, whatever. So and I'm like, oh, man. Like, I just spent all my money doing this and I'm living off of like a shoestring budget now and, you know, showing up at Dunkin Donuts. And the guy's like, we're about to throw away these like five year olds. Do you want them?
And then I just kept going back and living off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I remember I called my mom, like, just bawling. Did you get pressure from your parents? Yeah, I had to like I think like an insurance job, maybe lined up to, like, live over some guy's garage or something. And I'm like, that's not the life I want. Like, I want to make a living playing women's hockey at the highest level and get paid to do that.
So. So that fueled you and kept you going because you were like, I know that this can be better than it is right now. Yeah. And I. I think what fuels me now, too, because we're so close, but we're still so far away and in many ways is knowing that like the next girl that's graduating college, like I don't want her to go through what I went through that was awful, like, totally, mind you, like I had to gone through Olympic cycle.
So this should have been like an easy transition, but it was very difficult. So hopefully we can change that in the near future for sure. Yeah, I think that's a lot of what all the generations before us have put in the work and put in the time and the sacrifice and and we still are. But it's always in hopes that the next generation is going to look much different than what we're saying. So you come out of college, you're like the best of the best.
You were drafted fourth overall.
So you just we'll just leave that there. But still, how do you handle the juxtaposition of going from college, which is you get everything you need. You're chartering to to having to survive off of peanut butter and jelly like you just make it work.
Yeah, I think it's just like a you know, it's sort of like a sheer willpower, like an indomitable will kind of thing, like I'm going to make this work and maybe it's just me being stubborn and all of us being stubborn. But, you know, to, I think, outline our experience at the pro level. A lot of us were playing pro for the national team. Yeah. And we wanted to make the next Olympics. So that was like the big driving factor, I think, of showing up every day and doing the right thing.
Yeah, that makes sense. I was where you were going to get better and that's where you're going to get your touches. I mean, you had to if you wanted to be. The Olympics is the biggest goal that you can have is gold medals. Yeah, but so I want to talk about Olympics and I also want to talk about women's hockey culture. So I went and looked up a video on YouTube of you guys getting in fights with Canada before the.
So you looked it up on YouTube.
And like, when people are like, you know, like, I don't want to know, you know, the only good things I enjoy the fighting, obviously, is a big thing in men's hockey.
You know, it's not a lot of women talk.
It's not allowed or it's not a no.
No, it's not really. Yeah. You guys were going at it in this video. Oh, yeah.
Because, like, we just don't like each other.
Yeah, no, I know that's something that we have in common, that our team cannot stand the Canadian national team. And I feel like that we have that similar bond and like this hatred for you.
We actually went out to the game outside Anaheim. I can't remember. Oh yeah. You guys you guys are tired first, like it was the girls in the community and the girls in the US team, and they're like, get together.
And we're like, no, no, this is real.
So hockey culture fighting is not allowed in women's hockey. Explain. Yeah, it's just not. But you guys got in a fight and that tempers boil over and you'll see us fight. So I think that's what's kind of dangerous is when you do see a fight like that is just like Keita's, you're really emotional. And then, too, like our officials don't know what to do because they haven't necessarily received that type of training and they're not used to it like night in and night out, like this time poker players back.
So, yeah. And I think sometimes they almost do a disservice because the hold one player and then the other players just like throwing around.
Yeah, that's interesting because this is something I think I know about. Hockey is that men's hockey, they let them fight, but as soon as the gloves come off or what is it, what's the protocol there? Yeah, you're allowed to drop the gloves, whatever job. So it's like an NCAA penalty, but it's definitely like a part of their game, more so in terms of changing or shifting momentum and getting like the home crowd behind them. Yeah, it's like there's a strategy to it.
It's not just emotion. They're like a there's the enforcer, the enforcer. That's their job. He's not even that. He's just there to, like, change the game. Yeah.
They're trying to get away from that model just because the NHL is becoming more like Skill-based. So you used to have guys on the team. There was all physicality. Yeah. And they would just get out there and just pound some of the guy's face and be like, all right, good job. Give him a slap on the butt. And at the end of the bench until he needed it again, you know, but yeah, that used to be an actual role but would get paid money to do not even like hockey aside.
And someone can play hockey. So they just they recruited somebody from like and then put skates on. Yeah. Yeah. But I'm just like man like this isn't a sport anymore. Yeah. I don't really enjoy watching fighting like boxing, that sort of thing. But for some reason I find fights in hockey fascinating just because it's like we can't do that in soccer, like you can't beat somebody because you have so many pads on and like that sort of thing.
Yeah it's allowed but yeah, that's part of the sport. Yeah.
You know, I was scared of you brought that video, so I'm literally like choking on my mom. Here in the corner, you should do it. I wasn't going to comment on your specific fighting abilities, but not everybody looked like they were having a good time.
Let's just. Well, our coach was like she was so strict, right.
And she's like, all right, go out there and like, coach, like, I don't play with those guys because it's like the twins and the twins are like super like hardcore tough as nails. Like you'd want to go to battle with those guys physical. And she's like, no, go out there. Tell them green light, green light, green light like green light to the fire. Yeah. She's like, you guys got to send a message because one of the cleaning girls actually dismantled one of our girls, like dirty hit restaurant doing anything.
So she sends me out there and then the twins are like looking over, like, why are you out on the ice? Like going in the face of the green light green and people know green light.
And I'm like, OK, we're going to fight, you know, like what's going on. And then sure enough, they deck somebody and all of us are kind of I don't know how far.
And then you watch all of us really seem to respond here, OK, now and then it goes down this and it goes on the side and it goes back. And then like the smallest player is in front of it. And I'm just yes, I got her green light.
Yeah. And then kind of just started it. I mean, she barely touched our goalie and. Yeah. Yeah. That's what the commentators are saying. Yeah. You were looking out for your goalie.
Well OK, so you're five eleven and you I guess somewhere talked about putting on fifteen pounds post college. Physicality is obviously important, but like this it might sound like a stupid question, but would you rather be shorter and hockey because you're closer to the ice or would you rather be bigger. Technically I guess like the center of gravity would be helpful for you getting hit.
But, you know, I prefer being bigger, just like affords you a different way to, like, inject your skill set into the game and then to like the longer the reach or the bigger my body, like, I can protect the puck like other people can't or things. And especially from the woman's standpoint, a lot of the equipment's made for the guys. So the more you resemble a guy's stature, you're going to be able to use all the technology that goes with the equipment that's searching and was putting on pounds after college.
Was that intentional in the sense of like, I'm going to be competing with women that are more experienced and probably more muscular and physical than I am. Therefore, I need to to gain an advantage because I left college and my college coach told me after my senior season, he met with the news like a great season. But I just really want you to be drinking too much today because you need to put on a lot of pounds. You need to put on weight.
And I was like, OK, well, OK. But what was that like? Intentional. You knew that you needed that to be able to compete? No, we had a similar conversation there, just like we want you to be like bigger and, you know, do this. I was like, OK, I like I'll go put on this weight. But it was definitely brought up by like our staff. And then I was like, come in.
I'm like, OK, I got to go do this. And then to just because I am bigger than a lot of the other women on the ice having that amount of weight in front of the net, no one can move me. So it's a huge performance advantage and you can just sink in. Yes, you just are in the crowd. Yeah. Yeah. But also to like the way in my state of the game, like I'm not the fastest and I'm able to cover the ice in a different way than some of the other women.
And I don't have to move necessarily as much to take up space because you're more powerful. Like you can just cover the space because you said as fast, but like you can you still can. You figured out a way to to be able to make it work.
Yeah, it's more like timing, too. But, you know, obviously there are so many great players. But yeah, in a perfect world, I mean, having size is definitely an advantage.
I mean, I would say that in soccer as well. But then you see, like, the smaller players are super crafty. So I assume it's kind of like the same as in hockey. OK, last hockey, random question. Are all your teeth real?
Like, did you have you lost any teeth? You know, I went through all your do.
They're real. That's not a bad question, though. I question all the time. I mean, it's probably going to happen. I hope it didn't just jinx, you know, it's fine.
Like, I'm rollerblading now and I'm like, I know the two front teeth. They're just going to eat the pavement. My biggest injury is I bit through my cheek, but it wasn't even playing hockey like I was playing ball all the way through.
Yeah, two holes. Oh, my God. I waited for that plastic surgeon to get back in there, stitched up nicely. It's important. It's funny how many people like athletes have probably had the conversation of like, do you want us to set you up now or do you want to wait for the plastic surgeon? And hopefully everybody when it's face involved, it's the answer is plastic surgeon first.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But no, I'm lucky. Oh, yeah. And all right. So moving on to Olympic. So Canada won in 2010 and 2014, and you lost to them in the finals to bring it up?
Yeah, no, I know I'm flying solo right now. Trust me, I know. Was that, like, just motivation to keep going and to keep getting better? And you're like, at some point I. I've got to win a gold medal.
I think it's just like you go through everything and you think about like everything on a small level and then larger picture and like the vision of where you want to go and you come out like just that short. And I think Vancouver, like all of us, were so young. We're like, yeah, the Olympics. And then we're like, we're going to come back. And then you kind of look around the room. We like men like whoever said they're coming back, but not all of us came back like, well, you know, and that sink in.
You go through that next quadrennial cycle and we're at Sochi and we're winning the game. We have like, what, five or four minutes left in the game. We're up to nothing, remember?
And then you lose. How do you lose like that? So the way that it just slipped through our fingers is like, man, like we got to do something and it's got to be different. So what was different? About twenty. Eighteen. Yeah.
I mean we really had a lot of self reflection focus on our culture. We test ourself with winning the third period because that was the period we kept, I guess losing at the time. Statistically, I didn't know that it didn't feel that way.
Isn't it interesting when somebody brings up stats like that where you're like, yeah, oh, and then and the fact that you just even are aware of something that the fans have no idea or not clued into, but then that affects how you play. It really can change the outcome and the results and the success.
Yeah. Going to Sochi, I'm like looking back, I'm like, man, I check this box like I did everything right when you were at the village and stuff. Oh, no, you just think back and you're like, what could I have done differently? I did everything, you know, and then you think about it more. You're like, OK, wait, maybe it's not an individual thing. Maybe it's all of us collectively not showing up at the same time.
And then how do we manage that momentum shift? But talking to some of the Canadian girls, we're like, yeah, we kept looking over and you guys kept looking up at the clock and look what we did.
And we're just trying to eat away at the time. So it's one of those things like don't play to lose. And sure enough, like this happens. Yeah. So, I mean, it really forced us to have a healthy look in the mirror and change some things for sure.
And so you come back and you win twenty eighteen in a shootout. It's the first gold medal since 1998 for the US team. What was that like? It was crazy, I couldn't sleep for days, so hyped on adrenaline, so excited, just like riding on top of the world. Yeah, I'm sure you know how it is you show for that NBC interview afterwards. And just like, you know, what do you need? And you're just like McDonald's.
Give me something totally.
But the way that that game unfolded, I mean, I watched it for the first time a few weeks ago, and it really is like that's how the game went.
Isn't that funny how you like you're in it? I mean, you could sometimes I can. And then other times I'm like, no, I just blacked out and like, I was just playing off of pure memory and. Yeah.
So this is wild. Was it fun to watch it back again? It was stressful.
I was just saying, did you get nervous? I was so nervous. I was sweating.
And then I was like face time with my teammates and like guys like, what were you thinking?
Yeah, I watched one of our games from France last year and I was nervous. And it's like, you know, what's going to happen? You're going to win, you know? Yeah, it was cool.
Saw you guys in France, by the way. Oh, thanks. That was it. Was it? Yeah, it was very special and it was very exciting. And I still sometimes feel like I can't believe we won back-to-back, but that's neither here nor there. OK, Professional Women's Hockey Players Association. So you have the sea, you have the NHL, some fold, some come back in throughout twenty ten now. Twenty twenty. You guys chose to walk away from both and create this players association.
I feel like a lot of people need some context and information like walk us through that. How did that happen. What did that look like. What is it looking like now. Yeah. Just how did that come about. Yeah.
Well it's so complicated and I feel badly for someone who just scratches the surface level of the women's pro scene just because it's like all convoluted. It's all over the place and you don't know what's going on.
Yeah, there's so many things that happen behind the scenes and that, like the casual fan isn't aware of, there's a lot of unpacking to do.
Yeah, for sure. For sure.
I think plain and simple, like we're playing in some of us here in the studio, Joe. And then the more actually all of us were in the suit, a majority of us went to the end of that were us based. And you had this divide between the two leagues and you end up with this promising shiny thing that was supposed to take us into the future of the landscape, microloans, Hawkei. And then personally, for me, I was like, this isn't going anywhere.
I'm not doing this anymore. Really? Yeah. And I was like one of the leaders in getting people into Italy and doing like the media tour for it and the heavy lifting of not launching this thing, but getting fans to it. Right. And it was so promising and going through like the year one, you're like, OK, like it's technically a startup.
So we're just going to just brush things under the rug.
Yeah. Like, let's not tell the fans we want them to be involved because every fans, a good fan and whatnot. And then you're too it's like same issues. You're not getting paid and you're just like, wait a second, what's going on here? And so I just kind of like, you know what, like I'm done with this. So I went back up to the CW, which had loads of issues in itself. Competition wise, I felt like it was the best to prepare me for the US schedule.
And a couple of my teammates came up to four different teams and we had a great year. And then it folded like as we were taking the plane to world championships in Finland. You're on a plane. You find out that it's folded.
We have morning practice and then we're going to get on the plane and right before we're taking the bus to go to morning skate like it just folds. It's like we just thought it was the best interest and blah, blah, blah.
You know how some feeding is that? Awful. You know, it's into like I know, like a lot of us, we're actually going to play in college all the following year and get like all the top talent there and just kind of make a transition easier in a way of playing. And, yeah, it folded.
So then this is never been done before. But we then have a sort of a meeting, the US and Canadian girls, and we figure out like I think we're going to get there.
Yeah. You know, so you harmonizing. Yeah.
Right before the tournament starts, we're like, how are we going to deal with this? Like, what are we going to do? So we kind of had a quick brainstorm and then we're like, all right, let's put a pin in it this day. We'll meet back up, we'll talk about it. And then that was sort of the impetus of the P w each day starting. And people are like, oh, yeah. Like, you know, how do you guys do this?
I'm like, no, that's part of my job. We created it like we planned the events. We found the people to help us, you know, run the doors or the volunteers that help do the things with the team. And we kind of had to piece it together in less than six months.
That's incredible. I have so much respect for you because, like, it's just crazy. Yeah. It's just people don't understand. People have no idea that, like, you are literally, in my mind, the best women's hockey player in the world and you're piecing together how you're going to get just playing time.
We had to put together like models of what we thought we could create and budgets. And I'm just like, how do I do this Google dush, you know what I'm learning, which is great because they're practical skills. But, you know, if you're thinking about competing in training and all these things that you see the guys have on TV that's taking away from time performing. So it's definitely it's bittersweet, I guess. Yes. Yes. We put it for sure.
Were people tentative? Did people were people like, oh yeah, no, we're doing this like we're all in was this you had to put your arms on people and be like, come with me. Like, we're going to figure this out. How did that play out?
Yeah, I'd say like anyone from the national team program is like a game like this is what we're doing. This is our only opportunity. And through that, I think it forced us to kind of collaborate and understand people outside of the US Canada rivalry. And then there are a handful players are like, I don't know what I'm doing. And you kind of have to like handhold and educate them on kind of what the future should look like, because a lot of people don't understand, like if they can't see it right now, you kind of have to build that vision for them.
So they feel a part of it. And fortunately, we were lucky that once you explain kind of what was going on and what we're trying to do.
Yeah, like I want I want to. Yeah.
And then we were in a position where we had so many players.
It's like, oh my gosh, how do I know, take care of all these people like and follow through on these big ideas that we had. Yeah. Yeah.
So do you think like insurance, you're like, how do I get insurance? Can't I know if you my mind, that you guys didn't even in it was either S.W. Seyda, the Sieda or the of me. I'm getting the lingo down that health insurance wasn't provided like that. Just what happened if you got hurt?
Well, that's the thing is it was more of like a secondary policy. So if I'm someone who's not affiliated with the national team, so I don't have that insurance coverage and I'm working my job, my job is going to have to cover and hopefully they cover sports related injuries. I mean, that's like sort of like a basic principle when you start a pro. Right. Like, you want to make sure that you have the fundamentals to support your players.
And I almost think, like health care is more important in some aspects than the salary.
I mean, yeah, if you get hurt and you're basically well, it's like, yeah, it's crazy.
It was me. Yeah.
And I remember getting hit with like an x ray, but I'm like, what, you don't realize how expensive those are until you're left to pay for it. And that's what's different to in Canada's got a different health care system. So figuring out sort of the nuances between the borders and like a bank account up there versus one down here.
And you guys have to figure like international wires and all that, we're like, who's going to pay for the system? Like, how is this working? And, you know, if we receive a donation forming a five on three C or whatever and what that form looks like in Canada, I have no idea. Fortunately, like we had the ballad inspired team help us out who helped us with our boycott. And we got that nod from Foudy in the nineteen nineties from your guys, this group, to even make the connection with them from the start.
So but yeah, this is kind of history. Are you guys calling it the. Yeah. Yeah.
What would you say the goal of the P dub is.
It was just like one of these logos that was already around sort of like yeah. Perfect check. Let's get that. Yeah.
No, I mean we're really searching and trying to build and establish a sustainable future for the sport and people like what is sustainable. I mean it's like, well, making sure the next generation has ample opportunity. To play at this level and all the resources surrounding that for her to succeed and a growth model and just like little practical things that any business would need to have in order to grow and to be a business, to be honest. So, you know, I think we're doing a good job.
A really, really successful year one, which is shocking.
That's awesome. Yeah. How do we do that? But yeah, we're really looking forward to next year and I'm so proud of you. That's like I mean, I can't imagine obviously I have had struggles and issues and had to deal with a lot of different things off the field. But just the fact that you guys are like owning it and just taking your future into your own hands is basically what women's sports is.
I feel like a lot of times and a lot of entrepreneurs totally. And that's awesome. I really want to come to a game.
Yeah. I mean, we'd love to have you at a game to me. Cool. So be sweet. So before we wrap up, because I know we've been here for a while, so thank you for the time. We could chat forever. Hard work first. Look how much of your success is predicated on luck. That's such a tough question.
I know I was like, boss, that was my answer.
But yes, I think it is a little bit of both. I mean, you obviously have to create an environment for yourself where you can succeed. And I truly believe that you're only successful as the people you surround yourself with. And that's a big indicator of where you're going to go and what you're trying to do. And you need to have a support system. But to like it's one of those things where someone gets injured and you get to go play know, and that's not something you control, but to be ready for the opportunity is the control piece in it.
So, yeah, I probably said and so forth for sure. It's all about being ready, like you could get lucky and then not be ready. So and then this is it. Where do you want to go next and how do you get there.
Oh, man, how do you keep pushing me? Well, I say on my short bucket list, having a viable, sustainable professional league for women's ice hockey and you know, now I'm going to kind of bump the other one above that and say, you know, I want to be a part of another gold medal winning team.
Just how that was so special. And you're just, like, addicted to that, right? Like, it's true.
When people ask me, I'm like, yeah, I want to win another World Cup. I want to win another gold medal. And I think people are like, you already have one. And it's like, yeah, but you can never have enough, you know.
And I know it sounds like like you like this money in this vein, what motivates you is like winning. Like what.
Flitter. Like winning. I want to win tomorrow. I want to win today. Yeah. Yeah, totally.
Well I just want to say thank you so much. This has been awesome. I have loved talking to you. I can't wait to watch you play in person and I can't wait to see what you guys do with the pizza, the pizza.
And I'm proud of you and just keep pushing and keep fighting and just we create our future. So you're doing that.
So that's awesome. Yeah, no. Thanks for leading the march, though. We follow a lot of you guys. So we got each other's backs. We're in this together, so it's all good. Yeah.
All right. Thanks, Hillary. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcast. And also, don't forget to sign up for the U.S. Women's Sports newsletter. It's everything you need to see and know in women's sports delivered straight to your inbox.
And while you're at it also throws a ball and social. It's not just women's sports. Our show is co-produced by Justman Sports and Boom integrated a division of John Marshall Media. Big thanks to our executive producers Hayley Rosen, Adrian Glover and Robin Leive, Jawn Murray and Sydney Sharda. Research Postproduction is by Jen Grossman and Cliff Rose. Special thanks to Jesse Louis, Sarah Storm and Hayley Hoffmeyer. I'm Kelly O'Hara and you've been listening to the Jessamine Sports Podcast.
See you next week.