If you’ve ever watched the Winter Olympics, you’ve likely dreamed of winning a gold medal. Female hockey player Jenny Potter has earned three! CANDICE MONHOLLAN talks to her about life on and off the ice.
Jenny Potter has spent the majority of her life playing the game she loves: ice hockey. She has participated in four Olympics, eight International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships and a 4 Nations Cup and earned five gold medals, seven silver and one bronze, as well as a Frozen Four title with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
She is one of three women to become an unofficial member (women aren’t recognized by the IIHF) of the Triple Gold Club, having won an Olympic gold, the Clarkson Cup, and a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships.
The mother of two, the 32-year-old Minnesota native continues her hockey career today with the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women’s Hockey League, one of two major women’s hockey leagues. Potter talks here about her life in the sport and how it all started with football.
Candice Monhollan: You don’t hear much about women participating in football. Why that sport for you?
Jenny Potter: Well, I really liked the aggressiveness of the sport. I was a tomboy growing up. I convinced my parents to let me play tackle football in fifth grade.
CM: What was it like playing with boys in football?
JP: I was a very shy kid and it was hard for me to fit in sometimes, but the boys were nice for the most part – probably because I hit harder than most of them and they were a little scared of me.
CM: How did the switch from football to hockey start?
JP: In eighth grade, the boys were getting too big, so that is when I made the switch to hockey. At least in hockey I could skate to avoid the hits.
CM: Is there any player you try to model your game after?
JP: There are so many good players. I just try to emulate the ones that are complete players – the ones that work hard, play defense, and play offense. The players that aren’t too flashy but do the right play.
CM: When you began your hockey career, did you ever make it a goal to play for Team USA in the Olympics?
JP: I dreamed of going to the Olympics in swimming, but soon realized that wasn’t going to happen, so I made it my dream and goal to go to the Olympics [for hockey] in 1998.
CM: Did you ever envision hockey becoming such a big part of your life like it has?
JP: No, I guess I never really thought too far ahead. I just kept playing and I guess I am still playing because I’m not sure what I really want to do since hockey is all I’ve ever known.
CM: You’ve participated in numerous international tournaments. Is there any game or moment in a game that stands out as one of your favorite memories?
JP: I think winning the gold medal in the Olympics is my favorite memory and that one is hard to top. I think also winning the Frozen Four in Duluth was another memorable moment.
CM: What has it been like playing hockey while trying to raise two children?
JP: Very challenging, but I have a really supportive family, so they have made it possible for me to keep playing.
CM: I read that you continued to skate even into your ninth month of pregnancy. What was that like?
JP: I didn’t actually skate into my ninth month, but I did compete and train up until my fifth month. After that I did running and swimming to stay in shape. I would say it was difficult because my balance was a little off.
CM: Have you ever thought about what you might do once you retire from playing?
JP: I have a lot lately but still try to figure it out. My kids keep me pretty busy and I like staying home with them.
CM: Can you talk a little about Potter’s Pure Hockey?
JP: My husband, Rob, actually had started it – I just helped name it after a few years. It’s a summer program – eight weeks – for elite hockey players. We have groups with pro guys, NHL draft picks, college, and top high school boys and girls. It is an intense program for those serious about making huge gains in their hockey development.
CM: What is the turnout like playing in the WWHL?
JP: I think it’s a start and has a long way to go. There were years that were really competitive and good and some not as much. I think only time will tell what will happen to it.
CM: Is there anything you think can or should be done to help promote women’s hockey?
JP: My dad and I came up with a proposal to help raise the level of women’s hockey internationally, but they went with a different plan. I think the focus really needs to be to help other countries raise their level, otherwise you don’t have much of a market and it’s really only between Canada and the United States.
CM: Is there any advice you’d like to give girls who want to pursue hockey as a career?
JP: I would say pick a school where you are going to get a great education first, then find a hockey program that fits in well with that. •