Decorated women's hockey player Hilary Knight is someone you want to have a beer with.
Knight is intelligent, wickedly funny, well-spoken, and yes, beautiful. In all honesty, after spending some time with Hilary, and watching her as she deftly navigated the seemingly hundreds of appearances and events she attended, I cannot think of a better ambassador for the women's game.
I had the opportunity to chat with affable 25-year-old after a hectic 48-hours in Anaheim.
Puck Daddy: Has anyone ever told you that you look like Kate Middleton [Duchess of Cambridge]?
Hilary Knight: Yeah.
PD: Isn’t that awesome?!
HK: Someone just Tweeted that at me. I’m like ‘woah, okay’.
PD: You really do!
HK: Really? Well thank you!
PD: You’re welcome. I guess there are worse people you could be compared to…
PD: Well, first, how are you doing?
HK: I… This has been a whirlwind. I’m standing here just kind of blinking. It’s just been great. To be able to have the opportunity I had yesterday [practicing with the Ducks], and just continue to promote and push women’s ice hockey in a whole new level is something that I aspire to do every single day. So, having that opportunity was great, but being on the ice with the guys, I felt like just one of the boys. It was fun.
PD: Now I noticed you opted to go with the visor, and not the full cage.
HK: Half shield, yeah! Absolutely. [Laughs] I was actually arguing with my rep, she’s like ‘no, you need to wear the cage and worry about your teeth and your smile.’ I was like ‘no, I want to be like one of the guys and wear a half-shield’.
PD: That’s badass.
HK: I know! I was like, ‘don’t get a puck in the face, Hilary’.
PD: That’s all you gotta do, avoid the money maker. [Laughs at own joke.] Now who were you most excited to skate with, besides everyone because that’s the standard answer?
HK: Obviously, Getzlaf. Perry’s great. Lovejoy is unreal. I remember watching him when I was younger.
PD: He’s hysterical.
HK: Yeah! I mean, on ice, off ice, great guy. So, Emerson…
PD: [Interrupts] Did they make you feel at ease?
PD: Did you know if they were kind of taking it easy on you? Did you feel that way at all?
HK: No, I didn’t know really what to expect because of the whole circus of the cameras and stuff. Going into a locker room that’s not even yours to begin with is certainly like you’re entering the lion’s den. But they were extremely welcoming, nice, and friendly, and made me feel more like part of the group, which is great.
PD: Who do you think in the NHL best represents your game? You say that you’d be down to play in the NHL. So who is Hilary Knight’s game just like?
HK: Actually we were just talking about this. My Wisconsin coach compared me a few times to [Dany] Heatley. That would be pretty cool if I’m like that.
PD: Not bad, really.
HK: He’s unreal.
PD: Would you rock the mock turtleneck like he does?
HK: I wouldn’t.
PD: It’s a fashion faux pas.
HK: I did it for one game day and I was chirped by all my teammates. [Laughs] They all motioned at me right here [waves finger in front of invisible mock turtleneck on neck] and were like ‘you can’t do that’.
PD: Have you ever had an offer to play for any men’s league?
HK: I have, yeah…
[WE ARE INTERRUPTED BY BRUCE BOUDREAU AS HE’S WALKING OUT.]
Bruce Boudreau: It was wonderful having you. Truly, come again. [Note: Not talking to me.]
HK: THANK YOU!
PD: I’m totally using that [in the post], by the way. So, THAT’s good! You could have been used tonight on the power play.
HK: [Courtesy laugh]. Hey, they got the job done. Whatever it takes.
PD: Good answer. [Raise my voice] YOU HAVE BEEN COACHED WELL. [We laugh as I nudge her publicist, Keren Lynch.] Okay, okay. So you’ve been offered to play where?
HK: There’s a men’s league in Canada and a couple leagues in Switzerland that have reached out. Which it turns out there are women’s leagues because women can’t play in the men’s leagues in Switzerland. So, it’s a very confusing situation. I wasn’t quite clear on that. But there was talks of going to play in the CHL, and I know my opponent Shannon Szabados played in the SBJHL or some acronym.
PD: Yeah, some letters. SBJHL-BBQ, whatever.
HK: It’s great. It’s great we get these opportunities. The thing I wanted to make sure is when I do get an opportunity is that I’m physically fit, and able to compete and perform at my best. It’s great to do it once, but I’m aspiring to do it more than once.
PD: Does it worry you, if you were to play with the men’s league, to get hit? I mean, looking at Amanda Kessel, your teammate, she’s sitting out because of a concussion. Does that worry you, about taking that step [to the men’s leagues], because you’re going up against someone that’s 6’6”?
HK: Yeah, but there are smaller players in the NHL. They have use different skills in order to work around the bigger bodies. I think, maybe this is me being naïve, or hopeful, or optimistic, but I could sort of play in to that role; maybe have that physicality between my ears instead.
PD: One final question. Since we’re promoting this whole girls playing hockey program, say I’m a mom – I’m definitely not a mom – say I’m a mom and I have a daughter that wants to play sports. Why should I put her in hockey?
HK: Why should she play hockey?
HK: It’s a great culture to be a part of; there are hockey players all over the world. It has taken me to an education; getting an education at Wisconsin. I’ve been able to travel the world. I’ve been a part of the US Embassy as a Sports Ambassador.
PD: [Interrupts, again] THAT’S COOL! I didn’t even know that was a thing.
HK: Yeah! I’ve done so many things. I’ve posed naked [in ESPN the Bodies issue].
PD: DUDE. That was also badass.
HK: Thank you.
PD: If I had a body like you, I’d walk around naked all the time.
HK: You’d walk around? [Laughs] I’m actually a shy person, too, so I was all ‘I don’t know [about doing this]’.
PD: WHAT?! NO YOU’RE NOT! How can you be a shy person when you do that?!
HK: I was playing the ‘stuck in the mud’ game and ask ‘which one would you cover?’ Ooooh, I’d cover both! [Pantomimes covering top and bottom, um, neutral zones.]
[We’re cracking up at this point. Attempting to get serious again.]
HK: It’s led me to so many different opportunities. Now I can give back and be a role model and an advocate for women in sport.
PD: That’s really cool.
HK: So play hockey!
Jen Neale is a writer for Puck Daddy.