Like many Winter Olympians, Hilary Knight was on skis almost before she could walk—she was 2 when she first strapped on a pair.
Unlike those other Olympians, she represents the U.S. inside an arena. As one of the stars of the U.S. Women's Hockey Team, and with her teammates, Knight is gunning for a faceoff with Canada…and gold.
In two of the last three Winter Olympics, the U.S. women have taken home silver and lost to our northern neighbors both times.
“I love playing against Canada, and I think they love playing against us, because there’s this mutual respect,” Knight says. “Both of us have so much fervor for our country, and we want to do the best we can do.”
Knight joined the team before their last loss, at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. At 20, she was the squad’s youngest member but a strong competitor: She scored eight points during the tournament, including four assists in the team’s win over Russia in the first round, and two more in the semifinal victory over Sweden.
But scoring points wasn’t new to Knight. At the University of Wisconsin, where she played alongside U.S. National Team goalie Jessie Vetter, Knight scored 20 goals as a freshman, and netted 45 a year later on her way to becoming the Badgers’ all-time leading goal scorer. The Badgers went to the national championship game in all four of Hilary’s years with the team.
Hilary's success continued as she went pro with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2012. In her rookie season, she led her team, the Boston Blades, in goals and was named the league MVP.
For now, she’s training in the Boston area with her Team USA mates, and they’ve got one matchup on their minds with every rep, shot, and save: Canada.
“We’re faster,” Knight says of what they’ve gained while training with strength coach Mike Boyle in Massachusetts these past few years. “We’re fun. We’re fit. We’re super excited to have him as part of our team. He’s the guru for strength and conditioning.”
Even if they can’t beat Canada, Knight says it won’t be because they didn’t prepare.
“We’re going to fight tooth and nail, and we’re going to claw to get to where we need to be,” she says of preparing for games against the Canadians. And while she may not be able to guarantee an American victory, one thing is for sure when these teams meet. “We know that it’s gonna be a bloodbath.” —Greg Presto