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#LikeaBadger: Badgering Hilary Knight ’12

From 2008 to 2012, Hilary Knight was a star forward for a Badger women’s hockey team that went to the NCAA Frozen Four four times and brought home two championships. During the 2009–10 season, she left the squad to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, where Team USA earned a silver medal.

11 questions with an alumna on the move

Badger Insider web exclusive

Since helping to power the Badger women’s hockey team to four NCAA Frozen Fours and two championships from 2008 to 2012, Hilary Knight has gone on to star as a member of the United States Olympic women’s hockey team. She’s now a featured as a star of the #likeagirl ad campaign, designed to show that playing “like a girl” ought to be a compliment, not an insult.

We talked to Hilary in 2013 just before heading to Sochi, Russia along with Badger women Jessie Vetter, Meghan Duggan and Brianna Decker as part of the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team. Unforunately, the U.S. team lost a heatbreaking gold-medal rematch to the Canadians

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee

How much of your time is taken up playing hockey?

Oh, jeez. A lot. I’m one of those people who loves being on the ice. If people say, “Take the summer off; don’t skate,” I’ll be on the ice all the time. I like to mess around with the puck; I like to put myself in different situations. It’s one of those things that I feel I won’t be able to do all the time as I get older. So I try not to grow up too fast.

How did you come to choose Wisconsin?

My family is originally from the East Coast, and I thought I was going to end up on the East Coast somewhere. [But I went] to these summer camps that college coaches run, and Coach [Mark] Johnson was one of my coaches. I thought I didn’t want to go back to the Midwest, and yadda, yadda. But he told me to look at Wisconsin, so I went up there and fell in love with the school and Madison. Now my two younger brothers are in school there. Badgers are in our blood now.

Do they play hockey, too?

They’re rowers, actually. Everyone in our family knows how to play hockey, but they are extremely good at rowing and talented young men, and they sort of went along that route.

What was the Olympic experience like four years ago?

I was the youngest member of the team. It was a breathtaking, magical dream. I remember when I was five years old, before women’s hockey was even in the Olympics, I turned to my grandmother and said, “I’m going to be in the Olympics for hockey.” And she looked at me like, “What are you, on crack? What is wrong with this child?” But years later, I saw the ’98 U.S. team bring home the gold, and that solidified that dream. And 12 years later, I was there, stepping out on the ice for the gold-medal game.

And you played in that game against the Canadians. Was it difficult to lose?

It was a heart-breaking experience. To go on that journey, and to come up short — it’s never fun to lose the last game of your season, especially if it’s in a championship game. But taking a few steps back, just being an Olympian is in itself a great experience. I’m a very competitive person. I don’t like to lose. But in the greater scheme of things, I’m extremely honored to take a silver medal.

But don’t get me wrong. I think that’s why a lot of us signed up to come back and really pursue the gold medal again in Sochi.

How did the Olympics compare to playing in the Frozen Four?

Playing for your country brings out a whole other level. You’re with the best against the best in the entire world. So it’s just a different dynamic and chemistry. The stakes are a bit higher. But that’s exciting. That’s where you want to be.

Think you can beat the Canadians this time?

Definitely. We’re training really hard. We’ve got some new players, and we’ve got some old players. But this time around, knowing that the core group we had in Vancouver, those girls are going to be in Sochi.

Some of your teammates play on post-collegiate clubs year round. Do you?

Yeah, I played with the Boston Blades this year. All the girls in the U.S. program who are out of college decided to move to Boston, and we all played for the Boston Blades. Yeah, we won the Clarkson Cup [the trophy for the Canadian Women’s Hockey Championship], so we’re pretty proud of that.

It’s fantastic that we have a place to play after college. I remember when I was on the national team when I was in high school, listening to the veteran players complain that they didn’t have a place to play. Now they have a place, and now I have a place, and as long as we can keep that cycle going, I think this is pointing in a good direction.

You mentioned you aren’t able to do this forever. What will you do after your playing career is behind you?

When I have to grow up? I’ve founded my own company. I’m starting to make some lifestyle apparel. I’ve got that going, but then I’m also studying for the LSATs. I want to be a lawyer. And navigate myself through the grownup world. But I’m going to play as long as I can. I absolutely love this sport, and then if I can do modeling or fashion or clothing design, I would love to do that.

What’s your company called?

It’s called Blixt Knight. I actually learned Swedish when I was at Wisconsin, and I fell in love with one of the words. It’s sort of this mantra word that got me stoked, ecstatic. Blixt is actually a bolt or a jolt of lightning. I love things that go fast. I love the thrill and the energy and the adrenaline. That’s the lifestyle that I’m trying to create.

You’ve got a tattoo with the Latin phrase dum vigilo curo. What’s the story on that?

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee

I actually have three tattoos. That’s my biggest one, from my family coat of arms. It means, literally, “While I watch, I care.” And not just honoring my family, it’s sort of the approach I give in my life. If I want something to improve, I need to watch it. I need to consciously make the decision to improve. I use the word sedulous. It means working with a purpose, diligently toward a goal. I’m very goal oriented and driven, and passionate about what I do.

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