Pointing The Way: Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight Leads The Charge To Grow The Game Through Her Actions And Her Words

Competing in her fourth Olympics, Hilary Knight set personal highs for goals (6) and points (10) in leading the U.S. to a silver medal in Beijing.Competing in her fourth Olympics, Hilary Knight set personal highs for goals (6) and points (10) in leading the U.S. to a silver medal in Beijing.

Maybe it’s written somewhere that there is a shelf life to the Olympic experience. A kind of expiration date of how long an athlete can represent his or her country on the biggest stage in sports.
If there is such a thing, someone forgot to tell Hilary Knight that this was supposed to be her Olympic swansong and it was time to take her final bow.

The 32-year-old four-time Olympian saved her best for last—if these were her last Olympics—by leading the U.S. to a silver medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

More than just leading the charge on the ice for Team USA, Knight used her time in the spotlight to deflect much of that light toward a cause that she sees as something bigger than herself. The Sun Valley, Idaho, native is determined to leave the game better than she found it. Much better.

“The game continues to grow and we’re continuing to push the envelope of what’s possible. Part of that is providing more programming, more visibility, more opportunities from the grassroots level all the way up. It’s something that I hope continues,” Knight said as she finished making the rounds of media appearances after a 3-2 loss to Canada in the gold-medal game.

“You see us on this world stage, but all the other things that you don’t—there’s a lot of people working on this sport and trying to push it to the next level. And it’s incredible where the game has come from and where it’s going to go.”

Along the way Knight has become more than just one of the most dominant figures on the ice. She is also the spokesperson for a movement to advance the sport forward to create more opportunities for the next generation of little girls to love the sport as much as she does. And to do that, she is willing to stand in front of a bevy of media people, many of whom have never seen women’s hockey before to make her case.

“I want more money and more eyes on the sport and in the sport,” she said. “The game’s getting a lot faster and that’s only because we now have more opportunities to train, from the grassroots level all the way up. It’s really important to invest in women’s hockey and see other countries doing it as well.”
Knight bolstered her cause through her actions on the ice. In seven games she found the back of the net six times and assisted on four other goals as the only American to crack the Canadian scoring parade among tournament points leaders.

If this was her last time competing on Olympic ice, Knight emptied the tank with a gutsy performance that inspired her teammates as well as a late-night television audience back home.
Her short-handed goal in the second period brought new life to the deflated U.S. bench that found themselves down 3-0 to the relentless Canadian offensive onslaught. She squeezed every ounce of energy out of her 5-foot-11 frame and left it all on the ice as she tried to will her team to victory.

“It’s devastating and heartbreaking,” she said after logging 23:23 in ice time as the U.S. shortened its bench looking for a spark.

“To put yourself in a position to earn a gold medal and come up short is tough. It feels like we let our country down, but the takeaways were the level of fight and the character that we have in the room to push the pace.”

Her teammates could not help but be inspired by the play of their veteran leader and try to dig a little deeper and find a little more in themselves.

“Hilary’s such a great leader on the ice and off the ice,” said her linemate Hannah Brandt. “She’s one of those people when you’re on line with her, you know that if you can get her the puck she’s going to make something happen. She means a lot to this program and you want to win it for her. And she did her best out there but sometimes you just come up short.”

While the U.S. team did come up short in their bid to win back-to-back gold medals, the tournament was full of personal milestones for Knight. In addition to competing in her fourth Olympics, which ties her with American icons Jenny Potter, Julie Chu and Angela Ruggiero, she surpassed her idol Cammi Granato for fourth place all-time in Olympic scoring.

It is just another notch in the championship belt of a career that was set in motion by watching the 1998 U.S. Women’s Team strike gold in the inaugural Olympic competition in Nagano, Japan.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing, to be honest,” said Knight, who has played in more games than any other U.S. female hockey Olympian.

“Obviously Cammi Granato and this number hold a special place in my heart. The ’98 team is where it all began. I remember being a little kid jumping up and down when they won and that sparked a dream for me.”
Joel Johnson has been coaching women’s hockey for the better part of 20 years. In addition to helping grow the sport at the college and international level, he’s enjoyed a front row seat to what Knight can do on the ice.

“She’s a gifted player in terms of advocating for the growth of women’s hockey, and on the ice she’s still remarkable,” Johnson said. “She’s just a special hockey player and a special influence on women’s hockey, and we’re all lucky to be here and see it.”

With all the challenges surrounding these Olympic Games, Knight never lost sight ofthe bigger picture.
With women’s hockey front and center on the world stage, Knight made the most of the opportunity. Not only did that mean leading the march toward trying to win  another gold medal but taking the next generation of hockey players along for the ride.

 “I understand the importance of what we do on the world stage, even though for us, we’re playing a hockey game,” she said. “It obviously means a lot because we train all of our lives for it, but to have some sort of small impact in someone’s life is tremendously important too.”

 

Issue: 
2022-03

Poll

What's Your Favorite Thing About The Hockey Season?
Hanging out with all of my friends.
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All of the the above!
66%
Total votes: 613