Hilary Knight, Team USA Prepare to Win Back the Gold in Sochi
By Kristin Tullo (@K_Tullo)
“I love having the stands packed with 18,000, 19,000 people.
Whether they are booing or cheering it doesn’t really matter,
they are there to watch some great hockey,”
– Hilary Knight
Natalie Darwitz (L, #20) and Hilary Knight (R, #21) of the United States receive their silver medals following the ice hockey women’s gold medal game between Canada and USA on day 14 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 25, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.
Hilary Knight knows how hard it is to become an Olympic Gold Medalist.
The amount of sweat left behind in the gym, the number of laps skated around the rink at practice can all boil down to one day.
And if you’re not on your game for that one day?
Well, it can be heartbreaking.
After defeating Sweden 9-1 in the semifinals at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, the United States couldn’t complete the task at hand when they faced Canada three days later in the gold medal game. Shut out by Canada, once again, the US watched their rivals skate away with the Gold after a 2-0 decision.
“It’s a team sport,” the Olympic Silver Medalist told The Hockey Guys of what she learned from the loss. “Last time we trained really hard and we played really hard. We practiced hard but that one day not all of us showed up.”
With just over 140 days until the 2014 Winter Games begin, the USA Women’s National Team is working to make sure that when that day comes again, they are prepared.
Lifting three to four times a week, skating five days with only one day off, their only goal is to be the best.
“It’s so much fun when you can practice every day and train every day with the best players in the world. And you’re doing it for your country” — Hilary Knight
The American women haven’t found themselves to be that since 1998 when women’s ice hockey was introduced to the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Knight, who had yet to turn 10 years old when Cammi Granato, Angela Ruggiero and Jenny Potter defeated Canada, still remembers it.
“I remember jumping up and down watching the TV screen,” Knight recalled. “And it wasn’t the best quality.”
Knight, who wears number 21 after Cammi Granato, hopes other girls that age will have the same reaction when she and her teammates take the ice this winter in Sochi. Knight believes a Gold medal could do a lot for the game of hockey in the United States, much like it did for her in 1998.
When it comes down to women’s hockey, it’s typically a two-horse race coming down to Canada and the United States. In both Salt Lake City and Vancouver, it was the Canadian National Team knocking the USA down to the silver medal pedestal, only growing the rivalry between the two even stronger.
“I live for those games (Canada against the United States). I love when it’s a packed house and the pressure is on,” the former Wisconsin Badger said. “ If we could play them (Canada) every day I would play them every day and I don’t think it would lessen the impact of the feel of playing them.”
While they haven’t had much success on the highest level of International play, the Americans have found success against Canada elsewhere. Most recently, the US won the Women’s World Championship which took place in Ottawa. Beating the Canadians on their own soil was fulfilling, but according to Knight the feeling of losing in Vancouver can never be replaced.
It’s been four years of waiting to have a chance to get back on top where the 21 women heading to Sochi have worked their entire lives to be. For most, nervousness would set in for something as long-awaited as this moment.
For Knight, she feeds off of the nerves.
“I love having the stands packed with 18,000, 19,000 people. Whether they are booing or cheering it doesn’t really matter, they are there to watch some great hockey,” Knight said.
“If anything I’m just excited to get out there and represent the United States and see what we can do.”
The USA Women’s team will compete in a pre-Olympic tour, including three games against Canada and the 2013 Four Nations Cup. The Bring On the World Tour kicks off in October when the women face Canada in Vermont. Tickets and schedules can be found on the Bring On the World Tour website.