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U.S. women’s hockey’s Hilary Knight, ex-Hanover resident and Olympian, not ready to retire

  • United States forward Hilary Knight looks for the puck during the second period of the team’s hockey game against Canada on Friday in Allentown, Pa. A one-time Hanover resident, Knight — at 32, now the oldest player on the U.S. roster — isn’t thinking about hanging up her skates anytime soon. Chris Szagola / ap

Hartford Courant
Published: 10/26/2021 10:41:12 PM

She was once the youngest, but at age 32, Hilary Knight, a veteran of three Olympic teams, is now the oldest player on the U.S. women’s ice hockey national team roster.

Still, Knight, who grew up in California, went to Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., and lived for several years in Hanover, is not exactly thinking in terms of her last Olympic Games or retiring or anything like that just yet.

“Who knows?” Knight said. “I don’t know. We’ll see. We got to that world stage (in 2018). Winning the last Olympics was outstanding, incredible. You kind of feed off that, and you want to go do it again.”

The U.S. women won the Olympic gold medal in 2018 in South Korea, beating their archrivals, the Canadians, 3-2, in a shootout after finishing second to Canada in 2014 and 2010. They played Canada on Monday at the XL Center in Hartford as part of the “My Why” Tour, as a pre-Olympic buildup, losing 3-2. The 2022 Games will take place Feb. 4-20 in Beijing.

Team USA lost to Canada on Friday night in the first game of the tour in Allentown, Pa., 3-1.

This summer, Knight became the leader in career goals at the women’s world championships when she scored her 45th goal, against Russia. The U.S. lost to Canada, 3-2, in overtime in the final.

Knight is just happy to be back together with the national team after the pandemic shut down the sport for a while. She was also sidelined 10 weeks in the winter after foot surgery.

And she’s happy to be back in Connecticut, where she has fond memories of Choate, from which she graduated in 2007.

“I have to give that experience so much credit for who I am as a person, for preparing me to succeed,” she said.

She also played for the Polar Bears, an elite girls hockey team in Connecticut.

Knight went on to play at the University of Wisconsin, where she helped the Badgers go to the Frozen Four four times and win two NCAA titles. In 2010, she took a year off from college to play in the Olympics, and at age 20, she was the youngest member of the U.S. team.

In 2018, the Americans finally were able to hold off the Canadians on the biggest stage and win their first gold medal since the U.S. won the inaugural Olympic women’s ice hockey competition in 1998,

“When Maddie (Rooney) stopped the puck that was inching its way closer to the goal line on that last shootout attempt was when it sunk in that we were going to win,” Knight said. “But it wasn’t until we kind of got back (to the U.S.) that it was like, ‘Oh. We won.’ We forget — we’re over there, it was just us. Our families get to come over, so there’s a little bit bigger circle, but then there’s a bigger circle of everyone who comes up to you when you’re doing random things in your life, and they’re like, ‘I stayed up till 2 a.m., 3 a.m., watching you guys. Wow, that was quite a victory.’

“That was really cool. You realize it’s so much bigger than you.”

Knight was in Canada in March 2020, so she packed up and moved to her home in Idaho before the border closed due to the pandemic. She built a gym in her garage so she was able to keep up her training, but she didn’t skate until the end of July.

“The way I looked at it was less tread on the tires,” she said. “It’s easy to sit there and go, ‘Oh man, I’m in my prime. …’ I get to play longer now. That’s how I looked at it.

“I was traveling every 2½ weeks before that. I was like, ‘This is really nice, to stay home.’ My dogs get sad when I leave.”

It has been a little more difficult to build chemistry on this team because of the limitations initially placed on the players due to COVID-19.

“It’s hard to replicate the chemistry you develop just doing things together,” she said. “You would go to practice, put your mask on and essentially leave the rink. Then you’d see everybody on Zoom. It’s not the same. I think our group did a good job, all things considered, trying to stay connected.”

Monday’s game was just another stepping stone toward Beijing.

“It presents an awesome opportunity to learn how to problem-solve on the fly,” Knight said. “It gives us sort of a measuring stick, where we are and where we want to go. It’s wonderful to get the competitive juices flowing against someone who’s comparable to us.”

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