Hannah Brandt didn’t step on to the ice and instantly fall in love.
No, 5-year-old Hannah wasn’t a fan of hockey right away. Her feet were so cold that she almost quit on the spot.
Lucky for Team USA, as Brandt won a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics this past February, she didn’t quit. Brandt and the U.S. Women’s Olympic squad defeated rival Canada in a shootout, 3-2.
“I think that was my only one bad memory of hockey and I think that’s why it probably stuck, because of how cold it was,” Brandt said with a laugh. “I was almost crying. It was so cold outside where I was learning to play that I was ready to quit.
“I got used to that and I was fine. I’ve loved every second of it after that first time.”
Brandt honed her skills on a variety of ‘cold’ outdoor lakes, ponds, and even more indoor facilities. The Vadnais Heights, Minn., native was even able to get quality time in at the Vadnais Sports Center, built in 2010 while Brandt was in high school.
She chatted with us about VSC, winning gold, and growing to love hockey in our latest Q&A.
HTG: Well, we have to kick things off by saying congratulations on that whole gold-medal thing. How amazing was it to accomplish that feat, especially in your first year as an Olympian?
Hannah Brandt: (Laughs) Thank you. There’s nothing like winning a gold medal but especially in your first Olympics it makes it more special. It was just so unreal.
I got plenty of texts and messages from people, everyone just saying how excited they were for my teammates and me, and how proud of us they were. They’d been watching and following along the whole way, so that was cool to hear from so many people and know how much support they had for us.
HTG: And it was quite the dramatic finish. When it was coming down to the shootout, what was that mood on the bench like? I know from a fan’s prospect an oxygen tank would have come in handy waiting with bated breath…
Brandt: I feel like we were pretty confident. I think everyone was in a little different place. Some people couldn’t watch. I would put myself in the less-nervous category, because I was pretty confident (goaltender Maddie Rooney) was going to make the save there and we were going to win the game.
HTG: Back to where it all began, tell us about growing up playing the game.
Brandt: I had a friend whose cousin was (University of Minnesota star) Winny Brodt and that’s really what got me into hockey. Because of that connection with the Brodt family I started in the Roseville Youth Hockey Association, but from age 8 all the way through high school I played for White Bear Lake.
I loved playing on those teams. I still have some of my best friends from those teams, and I think that’s why I loved hockey so much was because of the connections and friends we made growing up, getting to travel with those teams and stuff, it was just a blast.
HTG: White Bear Lake’s neighbor, and your hometown, Vadnais Heights added a sparkling new facility with the VSC in 2010. Two rinks, five fields, a dome and connected restaurant—how great was that?
Brandt: The Vadnais facility was put up when I was in high school, so I spent a little bit of time there in season and in the summer but not as much as I would have liked before I went off to college (at the University of Minnesota). It’s a beautiful arena with lots of amenities; it’s a great thing for the White Bear Lake community and surrounding areas.
HTG: Had it been around when you were younger, think you would have practically been living there?
Brandt: Oh for sure. If it had been there when I was growing up, I’m sure I would have been there all the time.
I think it’s great that there’s more ice available in this area and I think also with the other stuff they have, the turf, how that allows kids to do other sports is huge. I’m a big advocate for people doing other sports other than just hockey. I think that helped me a lot, and it’s important for other kids growing up.
HTG: Closing comments? Want to end with your favorite emoji?
Brandt: The one with the sunglasses, I like that.