ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Several members of the U.S. Women’s Gold Medal Hockey Team were greeted like rockstars at the Xcel Energy Center Sunday night.
After years of living and playing hockey in Minnesota, dropping the puck before a Wild game was something several of the Minnesota natives—and Olympians—had never done. When it came time, they received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Hannah Brandt of Vadnais Heights said it was a surreal experience. Her U.S. Women’s Hockey teammate, Kelly Pannek, agreed.
“It’s incredible to be back home, see friends and family and meet all these people that are excited to meet us,” Brandt said.
“We’ve had the opportunity as a team to do a lot of things together so it’ll be really fun to be at a Wild game, our hometown team, and do it with some of the Minnesota players from the team,” said Kelly Pannek, a member of the team.
Before Hannah Brandt, Maddie Rooney, Kelly Pannek, Lee Stecklein and Dani Cameranesi were greeted by a hero’s welcome at the Wild game, they stopped to sign plenty of autographs for their home-state fans.
Young girls were star struck as they met their favorite players, who they had cheered on during the Winter Games last month. The Olympians said the biggest joy of their new-found fame is inspiring the next generation of female hockey players.
“It’s incredible to see how excited they are to see us and see these medals, it’s them we really did it for,” said Stecklein. “It’s a dream of ours from when we were little and we are hoping to inspire them one day too.”
As their appearances and parades wind down, the Olympians' lives are slowly returning to normal. They've loved all of the opportunities, but said most of all they're just happy to be back home in Minnesota.