Hockey generally runs through family bloodlines, passed along from father to son, or brother to sister. There are, however, notable exceptions to that rule.
A case in point is Hilary Knight, an up-and-coming star of the U.S. Women’s National Program. At one time, there was not a single drop of hockey blood flowing through the Knight family veins.
Growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., Knight spent her early years on the ski slopes. It made sense seeing as how her cousin, Chip, is a three-time Olympic skier. But it wasn’t until the family relocated to the Chicago suburbs that the idea of hockey came from the husband of her mother’s paddle-tennis partner.
Lucky for Knight, her mother liked the idea and soon she was playing on a boys’ team in the Falcons Hockey Association in Highland Park, Ill. It would be another five years before she would cross over to the girls’ side.
The Knight clan continued its trek east in 2003, landing in Hanover, N.H. Knight enrolled at Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Wallingford, Conn., where she would continue playing hockey at a high level, while also engaging in a demanding academic schedule.
“It was rough the first couple weeks since it was my first time away from home,” recalls the 18-year-old. “Once I got the swing of things, it got easier, but it was still an academic shock.”
She eventually adjusted and enjoyed four successful years at Choate, where she was named league MVP and also was the MVP of her field hockey and lacrosse teams.
“I had a great experience at Choate, both hockey wise and academically, it made me a more balanced person,” she says.
In addition to her experiences at Choate, Knight spent time in the prestigious Connecticut Polar Bears program, which included three trips to the USA Hockey National Championships. She eventually caught the eye of college coaches and U.S. Team scouts.
Despite being one of the youngest players invited to the USA Hockey Women’s National Festival in Lake Placid, N.Y., Knight earned a spot on the U.S. Women’s Under-22 Select Team. It was the first step in achieving a dream she held since she was 6 – to compete in the Olympics.
After proving herself at the Under-22 Series, Knight was brought back for the Four Nations Cup in November, then to the IIHF World Women’s Championship.
“I was very excited to play with Team USA, but I was also very nervous heading into the Festival last year because I had no idea what to expect and I wasn’t in college yet,” she says. “Luckily, everyone was very accepting and nice and I was able to become more comfortable.”
Now, just after her second Women’s National Festival and Under-22 competition, Knight is headed out to the University of Wisconsin, where she will play alongside many of her USA teammates this fall, while being coached by Mark Johnson, last year’s Women’s National Team head coach.
“I’m really looking forward to playing at Wisconsin and being coached by one of the best coaches in women’s or men’s hockey,” Knight says.
With a bright future on the horizon, one thing is certain; hockey now runs in the Knight family as her three younger brothers are following in her skate tracks.
Hometown: Rehoboth, Mass.
Nicknames: “Hock” and “The Rock”
Career Higlights: Captained both the Providence Junior Bears (Peewee) and Traveling U12 squad (girls) last season. Led the girls’ team in goals and points. Scored game-winning goal with two seconds left in her last boys’ game.