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Sun Valley, Idaho’s own Hilary Knight will bring fire to the ice at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

The 2022 Beijing Winter Games will be Hilary Knight's fourth Olympics.
@HilaryKnight, Team USA
The 2022 Beijing Winter Games will be Hilary Knight's fourth Olympics.

When the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team hits the ice for the first time Thursday, Feb. 3, Hilary Knightwill be at the helm as team captain. It’s stunning to think that this will be her fourth Olympic games, but the gold medalist says it’s a particular thrill to be back in action in 2022.

“Honestly, you're going to see some crazy-talented players that our country has never seen before, which is really exciting for me,” said Knight. “If you don't enjoy doing this, it's not worth doing. It's too hard. So, it has to be fun.”

Just days before the torch is lit and the Beijing Winter Olympics get underway, visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about her Sun Valley roots, great expectations for the competition, and her goals – in the net and in life – for the future.

“There's just something so special about being from Idaho and so rare sharing sort of that Sun Valley connection, so I'm extremely grateful and fortunate for all the support.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We are now just a few short days until the Winter Olympics and near the top of our must-watch list has to be the USA women's hockey team and their quest for gold. Hilary Knight is here…one of the greatest hockey players, men or women, that this country has ever produced, and the captain of the U.S. hockey team, Hilary. Good morning.

HILARY KNIGHT: Good morning. How are you?

PRENTICE: I'm very well. Hilary, you are all over the record books, but no U.S. hockey team has successfully defended its Olympic title on ice. So, what's it going to take?

KNIGHT: That's true. Well, you know what? It's funny to use the word “defend,” right? Because I feel like it's been a lifetime since 2018. It's one of those things where it's, you know, everyone's like, defend, defend, defend. It's like, well, you know, we have a totally new team, and we still have to navigate a tournament and put ourselves in a position to win. So, I'm looking forward to having this tournament start because I'm really excited with where our group is. And honestly, you're going to see some crazy-talented players that our country has never seen before, which is really exciting for me.

PRENTICE: So, I want to talk about that because this is… is this your third or fourth Olympics?

KNIGHT: This will be number four.

PRENTICE: So that has to be an advantage for you. But you can also navigate the minefield for all the newcomers on your team. Yes?

KNIGHT: Yeah. I think it's one of the great things about being part of a team sport, right? It's sort of this collaboration and meeting of the minds and problem-solving on the fly and going through it with other people, right? And so, it's funny because yes, this will be my fourth. And yes, I do have a driving record, I guess years of experience of navigating Olympics. But at the same time, each Olympic journey is unique and different in its own right, and it's going to be really exciting to approach the 2022 games.

PRENTICE: Yeah, but no fans. What's that going to be like?

KNIGHT: I think it's tough, right? Like I'm used to having my brothers in the stands with cowbells and giving us sort of that home field advantage, so to speak. But yeah, it's going to be different. But at the same time, I think just how the global pandemic has been going and and how we've been training, it's not something that is unique to us. It's sort of become the new normal. So, to say it's upsetting, right, that you can't have your family there, but they're going to be assembling watch parties and all that fun stuff. So, I'm sure they'll have great fun from afar.

PRENTICE: Do you expect to be facing off with Canada again for the gold medal?

KNIGHT: Who knows, right?

PRENTICE: But history tells us that you usually meet each other somewhere near the finish somewhere.

@HIlaryKnight, Team USA

KNIGHT: Yeah, I mean, the thing is women's hockey is grown so much in the last few years, and it's great to see. I mean, it wasn't too long ago in 2019, the World Championships, we had a Finland/U.S. final, right? So, I think you really can't take a night off at all in this tournament. And that's what's so exciting about the Olympic Games is every single little thing matters. And so, we try to minimize mistakes and go out there and do your best. But I think it will be a very, very competitive Olympics, probably the most competitive we've seen yet.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about “N’dub,” for a couple minutes - the North American Women's Pro Hockey League. What's it going to take for a sustainable wage and for a full league to be on the grand stages all across the continent?

KNIGHT: Yeah. Well, I mean, that's something that we created the PWHPA for is to have a player lead player driven association to provide adequate training, resources, programing, and funding where permissible to really help the elite athletes that you'll see. The majority of our members are competing in the Dream Gap tour right now as we speak and going on into the spring and the national team members who are usually part of the PWHPA or going over to compete in the Olympics. So, it's really exciting what we've been able to do, and I'm excited about the future and the growth of the sport, and I'm hoping that those opportunities continue to deepen. And yeah, well, I guess we'll just leave it at that and see what the future holds.

PRENTICE: Do you think we’re that much closer to a league?

KNIGHT: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I think it's wonderful to see the growth and from the growth of the game, from the grassroots level all the way up. It just shows the need for a sustainable professional league, right? So, I think whenever you're an entrepreneur, you see a need. There's a way to figure out how to make things work and monetize it, right? So, I think that's what's really exciting about women's sports right now is there's more opportunity now, more so than ever before. Granted, it's, you know, a century behind, but we're going to go forward and try and create a better future.

PRENTICE: It was just yesterday that you were the youngest player on Team USA. Do you think about whether this is your last Olympics?

KNIGHT: Not at all. To be. I think we've been go, go, go. So much and, you know, whether that's COVID or adjusting and adapting and some other way, it's really just been about this experience and trying to be two feet and present. And my brothers were joking around because they love the Olympic experience and they're like, well, we can't go to Beijing. Do you think you could do another four? And I'm like, oh, hold on, hold on. But my thing has always been, you know, it has to be fun, right? And granted, it's a lot of hard work. Don't get me wrong, but at the end of the day, if you don't enjoy doing this, it's not worth doing. It's too hard. So, it has to be fun.And then with that also, the caveat is I have to be able to contribute to this team in some way because this team is so good, and I would never just want to hold on just to hold on. So, if I'm still competitive and if I'm still getting my number called, I'm sure you'll still find me here.

PRENTICE: I want to give you the opportunity to say hi to Sun Valley in particular. Goodness knows they send all of their love to you. I know it's a big part of your heart.

KNIGHT: Absolutely. Sun Valley changed my life. You know, we kind of landed in Sun Valley. I don't know, 15 plus years ago, just by chance. I mean, from a huge skiing family. And we're sort of a swing and a miss at every single mountain. And we came to Sun Valley, and it was one of the most magical places in the world. And you know, you can't blame me for wanting to call it home and stay there and settle down there as well. So, I'm extremely grateful for Sun Valley Company, Sun Valley and the people who live there, people live over in Ketchum for all their support. I even billeted with a family that is from the Ketchum area that was living out in Boston before the 2014 Olympic Games, and they took me in. There's just something so special about being from Idaho and so rare sharing sort of that Sun Valley connection, so I'm extremely grateful and fortunate for all the support.

PRENTICE: Well, we will all be up at all hours of the day and night to watch it live and then rewatch it again and again with watch parties. Awesome. But in the meantime, great. Good luck to you. Safe journey and go get them.

KNIGHT: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

PRENTICE: Take care.

KNIGHT: Thank you, George. Bye.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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