Jessie Vetter’s brothers might be a little jealous. The sister they forced to play goalie so they would have someone to shoot on as kids is now making a living playing hockey, spending her days preparing for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and serving as an instructor at camps nationwide.
“My brothers hate that I don’t have a ‘real job’ as they say,” Vetter jokes. “I told them that a real job is coming soon, but I think I’m going to hold off for a while.”
It’s hard to blame her for just wanting to make a living playing the game she loves – and excels at. Recently named USA Hockey’s Women’s Player of the Year, Vetter is a three-time NCAA national champion, Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner and a two-time gold medalist at the IIHF World Championships.
She suffered a knee injury in a preliminary game prior to the 2009 tournament and spent much of her time in Finland rehabbing before finally being able to practice one day before Team USA’s game against the host country. Without missing a beat, Vetter blanked the Finns, 7-0. Still not back at 100 percent, she continued her dominating performance, making 39 saves en route to a 4-1 victory over Canada in the gold-medal game.
“She did that [rehab] religiously and got herself in a position to be ready to play,” says U.S. Women’s National and Olympic Team head coach Mark Johnson, who also coached Vetter at Wisconsin. “Those are the things that elite-level athletes have in regard to their habits. They run into a hurdle and figure out what they need to do.”
While hockey is her life, even some of the best in the game need a break every once in a while, and this summer, between the end of the season and the start of the Qwest Tour on Sept. 25 in St. Paul, Minn., has been the perfect time.
“I try to take a little time off from the ice just because your body needs to rest and relax,” Vetter says.
“I think it’s good to have a life outside of hockey in the summer. I try to just have a good time during the summer and hang out and get myself prepared any way I need to be.”
"She’s put herself in a position not only to be on the team but to be a big part of it."
Golf and tennis top the list of Vetter’s favorite summertime activities, although she’s not quite sure her hockey skills translate to the tennis court.
“It takes me a little bit to pick up once I start going,” she laughs. “I don’t usually miss the ball. I just don’t hit it right. I see the ball well.”
Just because she’s taken some time to play other sports off the ice, doesn’t mean she’s not training hard. Vetter’s working not only to get her knee back to full strength, but also to be completely ready for the Women’s National Team Festival at the end of August, where the team that will compete in the Qwest Tour will be chosen. She’ll vie with four goalies for essentially one of two spots on the final roster.
“I think the big four that are at this camp and have been at the last camps are all great goaltenders, and they all have a good chance of making the team,” Vetter says. “That’s why this summer is so important to get myself in shape and ready.”
While the competition for a roster spot is fierce, Vetter possesses certain characteristics that have made her successful at both the college and international levels and likely to earn a spot.
“Over the last three years, she’s put herself in a position not only to be on the team, but to be a big part of it,” Johnson says. “She’s patient and calm and has the ability to elevate her game in big situations.”