Ready to hear more about how a young hockey player from North Van will end up tending the twine in the Olympics? Read part 2 of my interview with NSWC grad Genny Knowles to find out!
Let’s go back to your youth and walk a mile in Genny’s shoes. Were you always a goalie?
It actually started with my brother playing hockey. My mom was always so busy so she signed me up for hockey so she could drop both kids off and pick us up at the same time. She's a smart lady that way. I went back and forth between figure skating and playing as a player on the NSWC team. I’ve always loved goaltending though, I always wanted to be up next in the rotation.
And then I remember being the last person to register in fourth grade and they said they needed a goalie full time. And really, I wasn’t a very good player. I liked being defensive anyways so I said why not and that was that.
Although since you brought it up, I remember my mom was a bit nervous…
Being a goalie is expensive…
(Laughs) Yep it is. But it was the best decision I could make. There’s lots of pressure and mental toughness required but I love that.
I played for NSWC for a year and then played Bantam with the North Shore Avalanche. After that in high school I left and went to Lawrenceville Prep in New Jersey before leaving in my junior year to go to Minnesota. I was on the varsity team at Lawrenceville, I didn’t play a ton of games but I gained more confidence and that’s where my skill really started developing. And then in the summer I trained a lot, Sean Murray is one of my goalie coaches, so I did a lot in the summer.
It was hard going back to school and not playing a lot but I learned what it takes to be a good teammate. The education was great, the girls were amazing and I loved the coaches. But I’ve really taken a big step since going to Minnesota.
Let’s jump ahead again to February of 2018. What do you do between now and then?
We have a couple tournaments and there’s a training camp in Minnesota before we head to Korea. I don’t even know if we stay in dorms or how that works. I’m taking online school in the fall, I’m not going to actual school until after the Olympics. I left in the middle of my junior year, I didn’t actually finish the 11th grade, so I’ve got some work to do to get my senior year completed.
So your life is like a big giant jigsaw puzzle and you’re trying to put the pieces together?
Yeah a bit like that I guess. There’s school, the Olympics…
Ah yes, the Olympics. That’s kind of a significant piece of the puzzle.
Yep it’s in the mix (laughs). It’s a sacrifice to be sure, but it’s such an amazing opportunity. I was really concerned because if I didn’t make the team then I wouldn’t have as much chance to play college hockey or really play anywhere. If I went back to my prep school, they need to keep their program going, they can’t sit and wait for me, there's another goalie. So it was a tough ten days but it turned out for the best. Completely worth it.
Tell me this - and this is going to be a gear-switch here, but in Canada it’s a little easier to promote the female side of the game. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but that said, in South Korea, and I apologize if I’m making assumptions here, but it must be difficult to get young girls into the game.
Honestly I haven’t really thought about that too much until you just brought it up. The awesome thing about it is - I was at a goalie camp a few weeks ago. There were three groups and these awesome developing goalies from Korea. So sure, it’s easier for Hockey Canada to choose their team because there are so many more girls who play hockey. Hockey in Korea isn’t as popular, but it’s great to see new girls coming into the game. And with the Olympics they’ll get some added exposure from the team.
Right, my team! It’s looking pretty awesome with what they’ve done. I’m hoping that development continues and I hope to be a big part of it.
Well I can tell you that you are a big part of it.
I guess I am! I can’t wait! In the end, the girls are awesome, the coaches are awesome, so to say I’m looking forward to it would be an understatement.
Heck yes it would be an understatement! Genny, thanks so much for doing this, I know you’re swamped, so get back to work and best of luck in the freaking Olympics!