Wednesday, 5 February 2014

US hockey stars earning well-deserved attention heading into Sochi

Although the recent history of women’s hockey dictates that its highest peak of media attention comes during the Winter Games, all signs point to a significant growth in interest. In the last month alone, several periodicals have shown remarkable attention to the fearless, frozen females that don the United States jersey.

Julie Chu has certainly emerged as one of the media darlings during the lead-in to Sochi. When Ralph Lauren revealed the outfits that US athletes shall don during the opening ceremonies, Chu was one of the female athletes selected to model. She has also been featured in print ads for Citi Bank, testament to her growing popularity.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Chu’s impact as an athlete and role model came through an advertising campaign with Bounty paper products. Proctor and Gamble, the parent company of Bounty, is continuing their “Thank You, Mom” campaign from London 2012.

Recognizing the impact of moms as an invaluable source of support in the young lives of athletes, Chu and her mother Miriam helped kickoff the campaign for Sochi 2014. The kickoff took place on October 28, 2013 in New York City, which also featured the screening of P&G’s “Raising an Olympian” series of short films.

Chu would be joined in New York City a few days later by players Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan. This titanic trio would participate in the US Olympic Committee’s 100 Days to Sochi celebrations. Proudly donning their USA Hockey jerseys, they would perform a hockey demonstration on a makeshift rink in Times Square.

For Knight, that would prove to be just the beginning. Quickly emerging as hockey’s girl next door, she would also be featured in the January 2014 edition of Cosmopolitan along with the Jan/Feb 2014 cover date of Shape Magazine. In both editions, Knight shared various workout tips.

Of all the magazines that featured Knight, the most prominent and glamorous coverage may have come in the February 10, 2014 cover dated edition of People Magazine. Posing with US teammates Jessie Vetter, Kendall Coyne, Kelli Stack, Kacey Bellamy and Brianna Decker, all six were beautifully decked in red evening gowns.

Photographed on December 16 during the US training camp at the Schwan Super Rink, located in the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, it was a special and empowering experience. After morning practice and a quick shower, the six were pampered by hair stylists and makeup artists while being fitted. The most exciting aspect was the opportunity to wear $1.8 million worth of diamonds from JB Hudson Jewelers. Although the only event that may supersede such jubilation is the chance to have the gold medal adorn their jerseys in Sochi.

Another pair of prominent players from Team USA was part of the media frenzy surrounding US hockey. Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, the greatest hockey playing sisters in the world, have also earned a significant spot in the limelight. From the outset, the sisters (along with Hilary Knight) were featured on trading cards issued by the Topps Company.

Following in the rare opportunity to be immortalized on cardboard, the Lamoureux sisters were also featured in two popular publications. The two shared workout tips with Oxygen Magazine (featuring snowboarder Elena Hight on the cover) while being part of a player spotlight in Sports Illustrated’s preview of the Sochi Winter Games.

While there is a lot more progress to be made before women’s hockey is on the same level of popularity as men’s hockey, the outpouring of attention leading into Sochi represents a significant victory. Considering the vast number of female players earning the attention, it holds the potential for more players to be household names, similar to the likes of Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggerio, players whose footsteps they have proudly followed.

Photo credits: Julie Chu and her mom Miriam (Neilson Barnard, Getty Images)

US national team, Barclay Kruse, People Magazine

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