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Women In Sports: Gold Medal Girl, Amanda Kessel

Gold Medal Girl: Amanda Kessel

It is not everyday you get to talk to an Olympic Gold Medal winner.  It is also not everyday that you get to talk to a personal hero. I got to do both when I interviewed U.S.A. Women’s Hockey player Amanda Kessel.  She is a standout player in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), one of the most recognizable names of the Women’s National Team, and sister to the Pittsburgh Penguins Forward Phil Kessel.

Kessel is also one of the driving forces behind women’s hockey in the U.S.  She fought with her team last year to increase receive equal pay to their male counterparts and won.  This dynamic player also has aspirations off with creation of her own clothing line.  My talk with her went like this…

I ask the Wisconsin Native, growing up what inspired you to play hockey?

“Definitely my brothers, I was just tossed into skates and luckily, I fell in love with it.”

The brothers she is referring to are NHL All- Star Phil Kessel and Blake Kessel who is a member of the Slovakian team HC Kosice.

As I women athlete, I asked Kessel which female athletes were inspiring to her?

“Cammi Granato, Angela Ruggiero, Krissy Wendell, and Natalie Darwitz.  I remember watching a college game when I was younger between Wisconsin and Minnesota where Krissy and Natalie were both playing, and I knew I wanted to be like them.”

Following up that questions, I asked, who inspired her outside of hockey?

“Serena and Venus, their repeated excellence is unheard of.  Their dedication they must have to repeatedly be winners is something I looked up to.”

When Kessel was playing in a scrimmage prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi she suffered a concussion.  While she did play and help the women’s team win silver, symptoms of her concussion started to manifest after she returned home.

I asked her what it was like to be sidelined from this?

“At first, I was confused I didn’t understand what was going on, I didn’t want to believe I was still having concussion symptoms. They just kept getting worse and worse. I had a sensitivity to light.  It was a weird lull in my life because when the Olympics end you are a star for a month and the whole word is watching you. Then (all the sudden) you go to nothing it becomes pretty depressing.”

It was a long battle, and after close to two years she was able to get back on the ice.  I asked Kessel what that felt like.  You can hear the happiness in her voice when she talked about.

“Just happiness. It felt like I was back to myself and I was having fun again.”

Another question that shows Kessel’s exuberant spirit was when I asked her about winning the gold on the Olympic stage.

“No better feeling in life. In a moment all your dreams come true.”

Amanda Kessel is part of the NWHL team, the Metropolitan Riveters.  I asked her about being one of the names that will go down in history of women’s hockey as those who pushed for their own professional league and grew it.

“I just want to do as much as I can to grow the game and inspire the next generation of young girls.  It is something I strongly believe in and I think that we can continue to grow. It will have a really solid foundation for girls to look at when they are young and realizes that can have this as a career.”

The New Jersey Devils have entered into a partnership (the first of its kind) with the NWHL.  The Metropolitan Riveters play their home games at the Prudential Center and share resources with the Devils.  I asked Kessel what she thought of this landmark partnership.

“It’s a huge step. We are grateful to have support from the NHL, its something that I think the league does need.  We need help to get it started and we are really happy. I am a huge Devil fan, (I am) proud of their organization that they were willing to take that leap of faith and invest in us.”  She also added, “It is exciting as well because the Devils “have a pretty good team”

Concurring with Amanda about being a huge Devil fan, I told her as a fan this is exciting to see the culture the Devils are cultivating in NJ, especially in women’s hockey.  Last year we had an NHL Thurgood Marshall winner, Laura Lima, from Newark. Kessel added that

Although I could guess the answer to this question, I had to confirm it (mostly for my Pittsburgh Penguin loving boyfriend).  I asked Kessel who here favorite hockey player of all time was.

Without skipping a beat, Kessel chuckled and said “Phil Kessel.”

On the subject of her brother Phil, I asked her what she and her brothers liked to do outside of hockey.

“Play cards or Scrabble.  We get pretty competitive playing Scrabble.”

I followed up asking if they were good wordsmiths (I was really excited to use “wordsmiths” in a sentence.)  Kessel answered again with a chuckle.

“We are good at that game.  I know how to use the little words…they think it is cheating.”

We then talked about what she was considering doing once her playing career was finished.

“I have an  entrepreneurial mindset.  I will look to use that.  Right now, I am coming up with a clothing line (athleisure) with Gongshow Gear.  Pretty excited about that.  I have way to many clothes and I love fashion so I am pretty excited to work with them.”

I ended the interview with what she would tell the young girls who are coming up in sports right now.

“Be confident, have fun and love what you are doing.”

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Kelly is the New Jersey Devils Lead Writer and Rugby Analyst for Double G Media. She is also the site's Social Media Manager.
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