Hilary Knight Gets Puck Naked
This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue 2014, which hits newsstands July 11. Subscribe today!
It’s amazing what a little button can do. When you’re younger, you’re always slipping, and if you could make it across the ice sheet and back, you’d get this little button which you fasten to your laces. So I remember being like, “OK, I really want all the buttons.”
It’s this bulldozer effect on the ice. I noticed that if I’m 185 pounds or more [as I was for the Olympics], I get this crazy power-forward mentality and no one can stop me. I definitely still felt feminine at 185. I just jumped right in and took hold of being proud and happy with being a female athlete.
I caught someone’s sunglasses on a roller coaster once. It was somewhere in Ohio — Cedar Point or something like that — one of those thrill rides. A few cars up, someone’s sunglasses had fallen off, and we were on one of those corkscrew parts, and I saw sunglasses and just instinctively grabbed them right out of the air. I was like, “Oh, my reaction time is really good. This is going well.”
I want to be a player that you have to watch. I think it speaks volumes when you are able to be in the back of the other team’s mind. Knowing that every time No. 21 steps on the ice — that’s a player you’re going to want to watch because something great is going to be created.
I developed this monster presence mantra. It’s this power force that’s super strong and is something that the women’s game hasn’t seen for a few years
I had this idea that muscular isn’t feminine.There is this image of athletic women as small and petite — the yoga body type. Women in general, we tend to shrink ourselves and not have as much confidence as we should in presenting ourselves and our body types. It’s OK to be fit and healthy and comfortable within your body, whatever frame you have. Since gaining 15 pounds to be at the top of my sport [for the Olympics], I’ve tried to shatter the body image that muscular isn’t feminine.
I’m totally different off the ice. I almost think of it as a transformer. You’ve got this normal car, and then all of a sudden you have to transform into this monster car complex in order to save the world. I like the superhero analogies.
Goblet squats are probably my favorite thing to do for training. For a goblet squat, you hold either a kettlebell or dumbbell with your palms facing up, so you’re sort of cupping it palms up and you’re in a squat position and you’re literally just bending down and pretending as if you’re sitting in a chair and you’re going to explode up with your feet still on the ground.
I’m big into fire-cupping. The benefits, both physically and mentally, got me addicted. Think of just a jar, almost like a goldfish jar, on your skin. It looks like a pockmark because it’s pulling your skin into the jar. You may have a bruise or it might just be swelling in the muscle, and by cupping that area, it picks up the tissue and lets more blood flow to the area, more oxygen, and cuts your recovery time. After you pull the cups off, it looks like you have a bunch of hickeys all over your body. It’s an interesting kind of look — kind of like a leopard.
I love being a part of a team sport. I know my responsibility to each one of my teammates, and they know theirs to me. It’s sort of this symbiotic effort of trying to work together to achieve whatever goal we’re trying to achieve. You have to be selfless in your training because you’re a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. Being surrounded by great women and amazing role models and good teammates allowed me to unfold and evolve into the person that I am today.
I think it’s pretty cool to be an elite athlete.I’m able to be able to achieve certain things that others aren’t — whether it’s a reaction time or the idea of a coffee that’s about to be spilled and I’m able to grab it before anyone else or whatever it is. So I think that’s a pretty unique and cool thing.
I don’t have to grow up. I wear yoga pants and get to work out all the time — it’s my job. I feel a little bit different when I go into what I call “the real world.” It’s cool to be able to train as a full-time job, and it’s something that I love and will continue to try to make work for the next however many years.
One time we had to swim in a pool with sweatsuits on. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. With the water weighing you down, you feel like you’re going to drown … you’re swimming for dear life. But somehow everyone survived.
If one of my teammates gets roughed up, I’m going to step in. I have this protective mentality. I think just being bigger, some of the other girls are definitely intimidated by that presence. It’s this physical presence but also this emotional, mental sense as well that I’m able to bring to the table.
I’m a huge believer in leading by example. If you see someone battle in the corner and come up with the puck, you get really excited as a teammate, knowing that they’re giving their all. I hope that inspires other teammates and motivates them for the next shift.