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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Brianna Decker

U.S. women's hockey star on hopes for gold at World Championship, dream card game with Jagr

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features United States national team star Brianna Decker:

SAN JOSE -- Life has been pretty good for Brianna Decker for the past month.

She was named to the United States Women's National Team on Friday, one of 23 players selected to play in the 2019 Women's World Championship in Espoo, Finland from April 4-14.

The 27-year-old forward played for the U.S. in the Rivalry Series against Canada, a three-game series Feb. 12-17 that included games played before large, enthusiastic crowds at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

She also took part in the 2019 Honda SAP All-Star Skills on Jan. 25 at SAP Center in San Jose. She demonstrated the Premier Passing competition, setting a blazing time on the same night that her U.S. teammate, Kendall Coyne Schofield, became the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Star Skills event, taking part in the Fastest Skater competition.

Video: Coyne, Decker discuss 2019 All-Star experiences

"Social media has been pretty expansive," Decker said in the lobby of the San Jose Marriott the day after the All-Star Skills. "Phone has been blowing up."

But as has been the case for much of her life, Decker is looking ahead, not back.

She plays for Calgary in the Canadian Women's Hockey League, and her team starts the playoffs on Friday against Toronto. She'll look to win a title there, and then a fifth straight gold medal at the World Championship.

Decker also won a gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where the United States beat Canada in the final to win gold for the first time since 1998.

She's already thinking about defending that gold in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

"I think it was a huge statement that we won this last year," she said. "It took us 20 years to get back to the top. So obviously to be there consistently and to continue to bring gold medals back to the United States is important. Sochi [an overtime loss to Canada in the gold-medal game in 2014] was pretty bitter and definitely don't want to feel that way again. Want to feel the way we did this past year."

To celebrate Gender Equality Month, NHL.com caught up with Decker at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game to talk to her about her future, the future of the women's game and potentially playing cards with Jaromir Jagr.

Here are Five Questions with … Brianna Decker:

 

What is the next step to grow the women's game, and what will be the next thing that pushes the women's game forward?

I think the next thing, and it's no secret, is having one league for us. Right now we have two competitive women's leagues (the CWHL and the National Women's Hockey League), and I think the way we are going to sustain the growth we want and to continue to grow our game is by having one league. So that is our next goal, to be able to coordinate two leagues to be able to have one. We're hoping within the next year or so to somehow come together and be able to figure it out. Obviously we would love to have the NHL's support behind us with all that. I think they are a great platform and it would be a little more sustainable if we had their help.

When you think about one league and however many teams that is, you are going to condense the league and the talent down and bring all the best players under one tent.

Video: The importance of female role models in hockey

 

Have you thought about what that would be like and what kind of accelerant that would be for the women's game?

Right now I play in the CWHL and every weekend we have pretty good games and the competition is good every single weekend. So if you take the top girls from our league and the top girls from the NWHL, I think it would be even better. Having a lot of the national team players being split up among all the different teams, I think it would be really entertaining and I think fans would enjoy watching that competitive hockey every weekend.

 

Do you think in your lifetime there will be a female player in the NHL?

I don't know. The guys are a step ahead of us. You can ask any of us, we are not dumb. We understand those guys are incredible athletes and a lot of us still look up to a lot of them. I mean, I'm hoping that we have younger girls that aspire to be us and to be in a professional women's league instead of the NHL. That's one of our goals, is to have those younger girls have role models consistently all over the United States and Canada.

 

Who are some of the players when you watch the NHL that you use to help shape your game?

I look at Sidney Crosby obviously and Connor McDavid. But I think one of my favorite players this year so far is Blake Wheeler. I enjoy watching him with the Winnipeg Jets. He's pretty underrated. A good playmaker out there every game. I look at those guys and every single night they are making an impact on their team and on the sport, so I look up to those guys, yeah.

 

I know you are big card player. You have a home game going, what game are you playing and who do you want at the table?

I'm a big euchre player. It's a partner game, so it would be four players, myself included. So I would put Jessie Vetter, who used to play for the U.S. team, just because we were partners and I can't leave her hanging there. Honestly, the other two would probably be (tennis star) Serena Williams, because I think she is awesome, and I'm going to pick an NHL guy because I think that would be fun. Probably Jaromir Jagr, an all-time favorite for me. I just grew up idolizing him, so it would be cool to have him. He would probably pull some sneaky stuff, but it would be fun.

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