Jenny Potter decided early in life that she loved hockey, wanted to be a great player, and no one was going to get in her way.
That determination certainly paid off, and on Dec. 9 she will take her rightful place among inductees to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Potter, who in 15 seasons won 14 combined Olympic and world championship medals, is one of the most decorated players in U.S. women’s hockey history.
She became one of only three American women’s players to appear in four Olympic Winter Games, helping Team USA to a gold medal at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. Her 32 career points in Olympic competition are a U.S. record and second in the Olympic record books. As a 19-year-old in 1998, Potter helped the U.S. win the first Olympic gold medal ever awarded in women’s hockey.
She helped the U.S. capture its first-ever gold medal in the IIHF Women’s World Championships in 2005. She was also part of the 2008, 2009 and 2011 gold-medal teams. Her 10 world championship medals are tied for the most ever by a U.S. player.
In her other Olympic appearances, Potter helped the U.S. to a silver medal in 2002, a bronze medal in 2006, and a silver medal in 2010. She was USA Hockey’s 2010 Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year.
Potter was a four-time All-American during a college career that included one season at the University of Minnesota and her final three with the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The two-time WCHA Player of the Year was a three-time finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award and a three-time All-WCHA First Team selection. She helped the Bulldogs to the 2003 NCAA national championship.
Potter also played professionally for four seasons with the Minnesota Whitecaps and a year with the Boston Blades. She helped the Whitecaps win the Western Women’s Hockey League championship in 2008-09, earning league MVP honors.
Potter went on to coach nine years of high school hockey in Minnesota, served as head coach for two seasons at Trinity College and one season at Ohio State University.
Potter now serves as a member of USA Hockey’s Board of Directors, as president and head coach of the Northeast Wisconsin Hockey Association, and as chief executive officer of Potter Performance Group/Jenny Potter Hockey.
Potter took some time out from her busy schedule for a Q&A session with USAHockey.com.
USAHockey.com: What was the phone call like to tell you that you were a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2020?
Jenny Potter: Well, I was not expecting that. It was shocking and also very exciting news. Obviously, there’s so many great hockey players and people that have been inducted in the Hall of Fame, so I’m super honored to be included. It’s kind of like when I first made the Olympic team.
USAH: How did you get into hockey?
JP: We lived by an outdoor rink. There’s a park called Lewis Park. That’s the park I grew up at. A lot of ex-NHLers would come down there. I was fortunate to play with some high-level players but also grow up with my family and my dad teaching me hockey and allowing me to come in with the big guys to play.
USAH: Who were some of your biggest inspirations growing up and as you continued in your career?
JP: I would say that my parents fought pretty hard for me to allow me to go after things that I really, really loved. My passion was hockey. My parents did a lot for me to enjoy the sport of hockey and ultimately get to where I am today. They didn’t have a lot of money, made sacrifices so I could play hockey. My husband, he coached me, he trained me. Those people are probably the biggest part of my growth and development in hockey. Obviously, my kids, both of them were born while I was still playing. They got to come to a couple Olympics. My family definitely supported me and helped me to get where I really wanted to go.
USAH: What was it like for you to represent the U.S. and wear the red, white and blue?
JP: It was a huge honor. You just think about you’re representing not only yourself but, really, your country. So, to put on the USA jersey for the first time was pretty amazing. Obviously, there’s a lot of history behind what the USA teams have accomplished. The ultimate goal is to go to the Olympics and win the gold medal for your country.
USAH: How have you seen the women’s game grow since you first started playing?
JP: It’s been amazing to see. When people say that I’m a pioneer woman makes me feel super old. I feel like I wasn’t part of that process, but I really was. With the 1998 team being the first team in the Olympics, that really springboarded the growth of girls’ hockey. I remember after we won the gold medal, I was going around, and I hated public speaking. It really helped me grow as a person and also spread the word of girls’ hockey, hockey in general. You don’t have to be an Olympic player, but why not aspire to be that and set goals? That’s why I coach. I think there’s a lot to be taught in sports, not just hockey, but my love is hockey. Each Olympics after, it kept growing and spreading.
USAH: You are still involved in hockey in multiple capacities. Why was it so important to you to stay involved after your playing career was over?
JP: I just love the sport. I love helping players be the best they can. Our coaches are all about development. And really, it’s developing really good people on and off the ice. We’re obviously there for hockey because we all love the sport, and we want to help these players reach their goals. I think that’s the joy of teaching is you’re passing your knowledge on to the youth. There’s a lot to be taught and there’s a lot to be learned. It’s easy to work when you love something. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but it’s easier to show up to a hard practice when you love something. And I love hockey.
USAH: What advice or encouragement would you give to young girls that want to play hockey?
JP: Go for it. Don’t let anything step in your way. You’ve got to believe in yourself first. The more people push against you, the harder you push against them. There was a lot of people that told me girls don’t play hockey. I was very determined, since I was little, to be the best. And nobody was going to stop me, and the harder people worked against me, the harder I proved them wrong.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.