Over the last few seasons, Winter Games medalist Natalie Darwitz has experienced several coveted milestones. From the transition from world class competitor to assiduous coach, along with the treasured milestone of becoming a mom, it only adds lustre to her lasting legacy as a role model.
Adding to such a series of memorable moments was an opportunity to join an accomplished sorority. On December 16, 2016, Darwitz became the last USA Hockey women’s player/alum to practice with an NHL club. Among the other names that have enjoyed the same sensational moment included Hilary Knight with the Anaheim Ducks, along with the Tampa Bay Lightning extending an invitation to blueliner Anne Schleper, who also held a hockey camp for youngsters with the franchise.
The opportunity for Darwitz to practice with the Wild bore similarity to Schleper’s experience, as the chance to skate with the Wild signified the start to Minnesota’s Girls Hockey Weekend, of which the Wild is a proud sponsor. Having established herself as one of the greatest to wear the colors of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the chance to don the Wild jersey for one special day serves as the glorious denouement to her playing career, solidifying her legacy as one of the greatest players to hail from the State of Hockey.
In addition, there was a strong feeling of reciprocation. The Wild’s kind gesture, along with the gracious and friendly reception from head coach Bruce Boudreau, extends the franchise’s growing legacy as a proud supporter of women’s ice hockey in Minnesota. Of note, the franchise has served as a key sponsor for Let’s Play Hockey, which recognizes the Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award recipient, along with the Senior Goaltender of the Year Award.
As a side note, Darwitz is not the only member of the USA women’s ice hockey program to hold ties with the Wild. Prior to their inaugural season, the club hired the likes of Alana Blahoski and Karyn Bye, members of the historic gold medal team from the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, to serve in consulting capacities, becoming one of the first NHL clubs to provide employment for women’s hockey players.