There are so many great moments I remember from the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend. It's hard to pick just one or even two.
Of course, a major highlight was the opportunity to coach the American All-Stars team in the first-ever Elite Women 3-on-3 presented by Adidas. It was my distinct privilege to be part of the team and event. There were so many skilled players on both squads-and it's always fun to compete against Canada's Jayna Hefford, a friend and rival who coached the Canadian All-Stars.
As coach, I explained to the team we had two objectives. One is to win, of course. The second objective was even more vital: use this opportunity to show the people watching how you play. We knew the platform was so big and a huge moment. It's the first time in history that women were part of the NHL All-Star Weekend as a team, not individuals. It was so important for women's hockey to get that platform and audience.
One moment that does stick out to me was walking into the locker room at the arena Friday for the pre-game morning skate. The American and Canadian All-Stars shared a locker room because of the spacing needs for that weekend, and so when I walked into the room, I saw 20 jerseys hung, with the NHL logo on the front. It hit me how significant it was.
This was a statement that women were on the same stage as the National Hockey League. I finally understood the magnitude of how far we've come since I played in that first Winter Olympics in 1998. Now these Elite All-Stars were going to wear an NHL jersey and be part of the Skills competition right alongside NHL players. So fantastic!
During the morning skate, I tried not to over-coach the players. They had never played 3-on-3 before in competition that mattered. I gave them a few tips: What to focus on defensively and ideas on keeping the puck offensively. But most of all I encouraged them to have fun and encouraged them to show off their talent. We only had 20 minutes of running time to showcase that.
Before Friday's 3-on-3, I rode over in the team bus with my 10-year-old son, Reese. My other son, Riley, 13, was part of the weekend too, and I loved having them both there with me. On the bus, the girls from both teams were so excited. I heard the word, "cool," a lot. When we got to the Red Carpet (red carpet?!), Reese hung out with Todd Humphrey (Senior VP of Digital and Fan Experience for NHL Seattle) while I walked with Jayna. I'm pretty sure Reese and Todd are best friends now.
Jayna and I met so many fans as we walked. There was a big crowd cheering for all of us and asking for signatures. A group of little girls had a poster board sign that read "Girls Play Hockey Too," which we all signed. While not exactly my go-to move, I did take some selfies with fans along the way.
It's always remarkable when girls approach me for an autograph or to talk to me. One young woman told me that I inspired her to play the sport. When you are playing, it's hard to see the impact you have the next generation. But as the years go by, I've started to realize that our Gold medal team had a big impact on many of today's players. All of my favorite players as a kid were males, so it's great that little girls can look up to woman hockey players.
The biggest impact for me was watching the USA team that won the gold medal in Pyeongchang in 2018. They were the product of us winning in 1998. Those players were motivated by our generation. The group of women in last weekend's Elite 3-on-3, both the Americans and Canadians, they get it. They understand young girls look up to them and they accept the responsibility to grow the game. It's all pretty amazing.
Saturday morning, I participated in a panel with Jayna that was emceed by NBC Sports' Kathryn Tappen. The topic of my hiring by NHL Seattle as a pro scout was discussed. I said what I have emphasized before: It's not that women weren't qualified, it just they didn't get the opportunity to have these jobs. I didn't realize the impact my hiring could have. I know I have a responsibility to other women who hope to be part of the game at the higher levels. I have heard from women who now believe they can do it too, and I am grateful to contribute.
During the panel, I was asked about Friday night's 3-on-3. My answer: "The visibility is really the key. That's why last night was so important. More people now see the game and realize the level of play and how competitive and what great athletes these women are."
Saturday night's All-Star Game was fun to watch. I bumped into Eddie Olczyk before he went on air for the NBC Sports broadcast in the U.S, and Eddie talked about becoming a granddad. My family and the Olczyks know each other well from Chicago youth hockey days. I actually played hockey against Ricky because I played on a boys team. Ricky, of course, is now one of my bosses with NHL Seattle.
In college, we road tripped together from Chicago to Rhode Island where Ricky played hockey for Brown and I played at Providence College. While we were catching up this week, I was trying to remember if Ricky ever let me drive on those road trips. He replied with "no, no, I was the type who could stay awake on the night drives: you took a nap." Now here we are now working together for an NHL franchise. It's a dream job for me.