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Hilary Knight is Defying Expectations

By Justin A. Rice - Special to TeamUSA.org, 10/07/14, 11:45AM MDT

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After reaching the 2014 Olympic gold-medal game last February and falling just short of the gold medal, Hilary Knight was in need of a little “retail therapy.”

One of the most fashion-forward players on the U.S. National Women’s Team who has appeared in several photo shoots — including posing in nothing but her hockey skates for the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue — Knight could have easily filled up an online shopping cart full of high-heeled shoes and dresses.

Instead of adding to her wardrobe, however, the 5-foot-10-inch power forward who bulked up to 185 pounds for the Winter Games chose to dig a couple grand out of her pocket book to buy a broken-down 1998 Jeep so she could fix it up in her garage.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to get a Jeep,’” Knight said during a recent interview. “People thought I was crazy: ‘Why do you need a car?’"

Perhaps indicative of her mood after losing to Canada in the second straight Olympic Winter Games gold-medal game, Knight painted the entire Jeep black.

“Yeah it was my first time [fixing a car],” she said, noting she read and watched a lot of online tutorials. “I knew how to change a tire, that’s as much as I knew beforehand, a little bit more than some people; it’s been a fun learning experience and curious process.”

Fixing up the Jeep was a welcome respite for Knight.

These days, Knight is in high demand and is constantly on the move. She recently skated with the Anaheim Ducks during a practice. In fact, Knight is believed to be the first female position player to practice with an NHL team.

“Amazing day today — had a blast w @AnaheimDucks thank you so much!” Knight tweeted after the practice. “Such a great team & organization. Wonderful opportunity. #Ducks.”

Her trip to Anaheim was just one appearance in a busy two-week stretch that involved traveling to Toronto for a weekend before spending two days in New York City and then jetting off to Los Angeles. From L.A., she went back to Boston only to go back to L.A. and then back to Boston.

Staying put in California for a few days, Knight will be a featured “Power Talk” speaker at the espnW Summit later this week.

“That schedule itself could make you crazy,” Knight, who could not divulge what photo shoots and appearances she was doing, said the week before practicing with the Ducks. But she noted that she always travels with her hockey bag. “I’m making sure that priority No. 1 is taking care of my body and making sure I’m training on the ice and taking care of myself.”

Balancing her duty to her teammates, however, is less difficult, she said.

“But I think when you work out with and are traveling with people for many hours, you kind of figure out who someone is,” she said. “With all the media and hype, at the end of the day, you know someone is a solid person and that’s who they are. Media and everything is great, but we are here to do a job. I’m here to support you and be better. The other stuff is all fun stuff I like to do.”

Knight certainly isn’t the only player from February’s Olympic team to draw individual attention and endorsements, and players that have come before her such as Julie Chu, Angela Ruggiero and Cammi Granato have proven that you can promote the sport through individual endeavors while still being a team player.

Knight is also trying to bring a little more glamour to women’s hockey by proving she can be powerful and aggressive on the ice and graceful and glamorous off it.

“That’s kind of what my main goal is,” she said. “I showed up for one of my first photo shoots and they were like, ‘Oh are you on the swim team or a gymnast?’ I said, ‘I play hockey. You have a problem, what’s wrong with hockey?’ They were surprised; they thought hockey players look a certain way, that they are all missing teeth. It’s fun to play dress up and have an image and go out and show everyone. We are a good-looking bunch. I’m not going to lie.”

But as confident with her body as she is now, Knight said she wasn’t that way when she first bulked up to 185 pounds of pure muscle for the Winter Games. She said she avoided wearing certain kinds of shirts that showed off her arms until she was forced to wear one for an event she was involved with. As soon as she arrived at the event, another woman asked her for tips on how to build up her arm muscles. 

It wasn’t long after that that Knight was “silently fist pumping” to herself when ESPN called to ask her to shoot the Body Issue this past spring.  

“It was terrifying for the first five minutes, and by the end of it they were begging me to put my clothes back on,” Knight joked.

And now that Team USA is putting its skates back on this fall in preparation for the Four Nations Cup in November, Knight knows how hard she will have to work at each event in order to reach a third straight gold-medal game in 2018.

“It would take a lot of discipline, a lot of hard work, mental stamina and a bit of luck to stay healthy,” said Knight, 25, who was the youngest player on the 2010 U.S. Olympic squad. “It would be great to be back in that moment again, to be able to have an opportunity to bring home a gold medal.”

Perhaps that’s because there are no amount of broken down cars she could fix to truly help Knight get over losing to Canada last winter.  

“I would compare it to being in a relationship with someone for 20 years, and all of a sudden you get divorced or whatever the circumstances, and you are not together,” Knight said when asked to describe what it was like losing the gold medal to the team’s biggest rival. “It’s not something you get over in one day or two days or take the summer. Everyone has to gradually find a way to get over it and cope with it.

“We do everything we can to put it behind us and move forward.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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