Hilary Knight is member of the American Women’s Hockey Team, the 2015 Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades, and is one of the best women’s hockey players on the planet.
I had the privilege of speaking with her over the phone just days after her team’s thrilling overtime win over the Montreal Stars. We spoke about the win, women’s hockey, and Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign.
Steve Dangle: Congratulations on winning the Clarkson Cup! How have the few days since been?
Hilary Knight: The last few days have been great. It's always nice to come home with a victory at the end of the season, especially with the way our storyline played out. The Clarkson Cup and having Janine Weber score the overtime winner was a phenomenal way to end the season.
SD: That's my favourite part, the way it ended. You got to live the dream any hockey fan fantasizes about when they're a child - boy or girl - and that's winning a championship game in overtime. What was it like for you down at ice level?
HK: I was so excited! I was like 'Thank goodness the puck actually went in the net!' It was so back-and-forth. We found ourselves in a similar situation last year against the Toronto Furies. We ended up on the losing side. As soon as she put the puck in the net I got off the bench as fast as I think I ever have on any team and just raced toward her. Everyone kind of did a little celebration in the corner. Great teammate, great player, just all-around an awesome way to end it.
SD: Did the way it ended last year make this year's outcome even better?
HK: Yeah! When you come from a loss and then comeback to win it, it's a good feeling. I think we had a lot of bumps and bruises along the journey that we took this year. Giving up a few points to Montreal earlier in the season, and then finally coming back and being on this stage in front of the wonderful fans in Markham, and to be able to win it and take the Clarkson Cup back was an incredible feat.
SD: That was a dumb question. I basically just asked you if a win is better than a loss.
HK: It's fine.
SD: You're a spokesperson for the Always #LikeAGirl campaign. For those who are unfamiliar, what's it all about?
HK: The Always #LikeAGirl campaign is about empowering women worldwide. The #LikeAGirl hashtag is used, and I'm encouraging people to use it, to really connect the common theme or thought of what people do, what girls do, what women do like a girl. It's empowering to see what people come up with. For me specifically, the Stronger Together video on YouTube, my part in it was hockey but it's not just hockey. It's gymnastics, it's stuff you do in the classroom, stuff you do in the workplace - anything you do like a girl, and really changing the way 'like a girl' is used and making sure that it's a positive and empowering message.
SD: The campaign, I believe, is less than a year old. Have you already noticed an impact in your travels?
HK: Definitely. For me personally, when I saw the "#LikeAGirl" commercial during the Super Bowl I was like 'Hm, I wonder what this is.' It changed the way that I view the phrase 'like a girl'. Originally it was 'Oh you throw like a girl, you shoot like a girl' and that was not a good thing. To watch that Super Bowl commercial and see the effect it had on people around the world and how empowering it was, because doing things like a girl is something special, it's a good phrase, it's a positive phrase, and we should be proud of being women and girls.
SD: It seems like you learned about the campaign when many people did - during the Super Bowl. Did you approach them or did they approach you?
HK: It was just one of these things where values aligned. One of my platforms is health and fitness and to motivate people to get out there and lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Always has done such a wonderful job with the #LikeAGirl campaign and to have an opportunity to be a part of the momentum that they have going on and continuing this movement is something that I was passionate about and really want to be a part of.
SD: I saw in a recent interview that you said you wear 21 because of Cammi Granato. Is that right?
SD: Do you think a new generation of athletes will wear it because of Hilary Knight?
HK: I hope so *laughs* It's interesting how I've sort of fallen in this role model role. I think being an Olympic athlete, you have the responsibility to promote a powerful message with your stage that you've built. I'm so honoured and thankful and grateful that I have this opportunity to speak to people worldwide, really express a positive message, and hopefully change and impact people's lives for the better.
SD: I started to really like the Women's game during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. I got to see the games, talk to some of the athletes, and I've followed it a little more closely ever since. The unfortunate part seems to be that Women's Hockey only gets the spotlight every four years. Do you think that's changing and the CWHL is the answer to that?
HK: Absolutely. I definitely think it's changing. Actually that's one of my personal goals is to see to it that it does change. I remember after 2010 I got a silver medal, represented our country, and that was great. It was a dream come true, and then thinking 'OK I get to go back to college and play for two more years, and some league, something will be ready by the time I graduate.'
Women's hockey will explode and end of story, happily ever after kind of thing. When I graduated it was a shock. I packed up my car from Madison, Wisconsin, drove out to Boston to play for the Boston Blades, and nothing had really changed.
There was no greater limelight or media promotion or spotlight on Women's Hockey. I was shocked because here I was, I participated in the 2010 Olympic Games, and everyone was talking about the gold medal game then. I was just automatically assuming that it would carry on for the next few years and continue to carry on as we build into 2014. Then after 2014 and seeing the way that gold medal game impacted people, trying to continue momentum from the Olympic Games, and really make sure that people are able to access the product that we have in the CWHL because it's a great, competitive product that I hope anyone can watch whenever they want to be able to watch.
The 2015 Women's World Hockey Championship kicks off on March 28th, fittingly with a matchup between Team Canada and Hilary Knight's American squad.
Use the #LikeAGirl hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.