The first time Amanda Pelkey put on a USA Hockey jersey she was just three years old, skating on the rink that her dad built in their front yard in Montpelier. “I still remember that time,” says Pelkey who is now a forward on the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team and got confirmation on January 1 that she was on the team of 23 headed to PyeongChang.
After skating in Barre as a kid, then at the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Pelkey became the star of the UVM Catamount team and the all-time leading player earning 105 points, 49 goals and 56 assists.
Despite her small stature—she is just 5 feet 2 inches—Pelkey can outskate just about anyone. ““It’s kind of a bittersweet situation because when I was younger, I was told that I’m a smaller player and need to be bigger, faster and stronger,” Pelkey has said. “I really took that to heart and worked through that.” At the Florida facility where she and the team currently are training, she gets tested on speed and works on sprints and plyometrics. Training often starts at 7:30 in the morning and goes until 2:00 in the afternoon—a mixture of time on ice and in the gym.
It’s a routine that, as a pro skater, Pelkey is now used to. After graduating from UVM in 2015, Pelkey became the first woman to sign with the Boston Pride pro team and six of her teammates, including star forward Hilary Knight, are Pride team players as well. “It definitely helps to have been playing at the pro level with these women for the past few years. I’m just as proud of being a good teammate as a good player,” Pelkey says.
Pelkey was on the team that won the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship gold medal in both 2016 and 2017. She also won two gold medals in the IIHF Under-18 World Championships and in the Four Nations Cup and helped the Boston Pride win the inaugural Women’s National Hockey League Isobel Cup in 2016.
This past fall, Pelkey played with the U.S. Women’s Team in a series of games against the Canadian national team. The two top-ranked teams in the world have been going head to head and in the last game of the series, faced off in front of a crowd of 17,000 in Edmonton, Alberta.
The game went into sudden-death overtime with Canada scoring a 2:1 lead. “It was amazing to realize that there were crowds this big coming out to watch women’s hockey,” says Pelkey, who is inspired by the rise she has seen in women’s soccer. “We still don’t make as much as the men do or get the level of support they do, but that’s changing.
Pelkey grew up skating on a co-ed team in Barre and in Florida, the women’s team often trains by playing men’s high school and Division III college teams. “I love it because to grow, you have to go up against the guys. And if you have speed, size doesn’t really matter,” says Pelkey.
As for Pelkey’s secret? “My biggest advice to aspiring athletes is you have to love what you do. It’s a dream come true that I get to play hockey professionally.” —L.L.
Photo by Joe Lemke/USA Hockey