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Final Buzzer: Skating on Olympic Ice

02/02/2018, 3:30pm CST
By Natalie Darwitz

I’ve played in what feels like thousands of games in just as many different barns around the world. I’ve skated on hundreds of sheets of ice--indoors and outdoors.

But skating over those Olympic rings on the ice in our first game of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City was on a whole other level.

Sure the silver medal felt nice hanging around my neck -- of course not as nice as gold would have felt -- and the numerous accolades that came with those Games were a sweet side dish, but what I remember most was just being on that Olympic sheet and looking up to find my family in the stands. That’s the memory that replays so vividly in my head over and over again.

I got in to hockey thanks to my family, namely my older brother Ryan and dad, Scott, who coached him. As the youngest of three I had two options:

  1. Get carted to tapdance with my mom and sister, Nikki.
  2. Get carted to hockey with my dad and brother.

I chose the later and soon instead of just watching, I was on the ice. I learned the game in my brother’s hand-me-down gear and from the moment I stepped on to that first sheet of ice all I ever wanted to do was play the game.

When I was growing up, options for girl’s hockey were limited. There was no National Women’s Hockey League; there weren’t even any girl’s programs. And you can forget about a women’s Olympic team.

Today it is amazing to walk into a youth rink and see girls playing hockey by the bunches. To go to a girl’s high school hockey game and see the stands packed, that is what it is all about. Today, to be able to have female role models to look up to and want to emulate is truly amazing. For me growing up other female players were not visible until Team USA won gold in 1998. That there proved to girls across the nation and around the world that there was that opportunity to play the game on an elite stage. Now young girls can to watch their favorite high school player, college player, and see Team USA on TV in the Olympics.

I had the privilege and honor to wear and represent the red, white and blue for 10 years in 21 international competitions, including three Olympics (2002, 2006 and 2010). And while that came with plenty of success as a team and individually, it wasn’t ever about that for me. Instead, it was about the people who sacrificed so much or had an impact on me off and on the ice for me to get to that moment; The moment I got to skate on a sheet of ice that had the Olympic rings beneath it. That moment I got to show girl’s that if you work hard and dream big enough, you really can accomplish anything. 

To go to a girl’s high school hockey game and see the stands packed, that is what it is all about. Today, to be able to have female role models to look up to and want to emulate is truly amazing.

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