The Winter Olympics start this February 15th and possibly the biggest story will be the 2017-18 USWNT hockey team who are looking to win their first gold medal since their 1998 victory.
Cami Granato led the 1998 team and now Knight is one of the leaders of this team along with team captain, Meghan Duggan. This team, with a few alterations has been winning regularly against Canada in the World Championships as they just did this year. The program has racked up 10 gold medals but this is the big one.
“We all strive to be better when the odds are stacked against us,” said Knight.
For many girls, playing in the Olympics is a dream come true.
“I wanted to be an Olympic hockey player since I was 5. That is so rare and bizarre, especially since women’s hockey wasn’t even an Olympic sport at the time. But I was going regardless. I just wanted to play hockey and I wanted to be the best at it,” Knight said. “And I continue to want to do that. There is something about the way the wind goes around your helmet and through your hair when you skate that makes you feel like you are superhuman. When I put on all that equipment and go out on the ice, I feel like we are superheroes duking it out. And then you can go back to your normal life. There is something so magical about that.”
Growing up in a largely male dominated sport wasn’t easy for the star player.
“There are years that I’ve just blocked out of my memory. I was playing an all-boys sport — there weren’t as many opportunities as there are now for young girls and women. I’d get harassed by the parents on opposing teams,” Knight stated. “Even some parents on my own team weren’t happy that a girl was taking a spot from their boy. They didn’t think I was good enough. When I think back to that, I realize all the things that we accomplish as young children. We didn’t even know what we were going through, but we were pioneers of the sport. But when I was living it, I just wanted to be the best teammate and the best player I could be — and I wanted to have fun.”
Playing women’s hockey can be a financial struggle, even for the best in the world.
“Just after graduating college. I had recently moved from Wisconsin to Boston, and my stipend for the Boston Blades had been decreased. And this was after I’d already competed in one Olympics. I was scraping by and didn’t know if I could make ends meet. I was living off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” she revealed. “One day when I was in a Stop & Shop parking lot, I called my mom and said, “I need help. I can’t make enough money.” She sternly barked back and said, “You need to get a job.” And I was like, “You don’t understand what we have to do in order to perform and compete at our best.” I was upset with that conversation, so I hung up the phone and realized I needed to figure out how to make ends meet.”
Knight has an idea of how make the women’s team more of a financial success.
“We need help not only on the funding side but on the programming side. We need to have more games. The world needs to see the women’s U.S. team,” she proclaimed. “It’s electrifying when you can watch us take the ice. Knowing that we’ve got this amazing product that we can share with people but we are missing that connection was one of the big driving forces of why we need to fight for equitable support. We aren’t necessarily going to see the benefits of it immediately, but this fight is also for future generations. Knowing that makes our fight feel that much more noble.”
Check out the full interview in The Red Bulletin’s December issue (on newsstands on November 21) or read it here: [https://www.redbull.com/us-en/theredbulletin/hilary-knight-fights-for-gender-equality]
Photos by Brian Lowe