After appearing in her first Olympic Games in 2014, Amanda Kessel thought her hockey career was finished. Crippling symptoms from a concussion she suffered in a pre-Olympic scrimmage resurfaced after she returned home from Russia. After months of searching for a remedy, it was her return to an active lifestyle that helped to speed up her recovery. Now cleared by her doctors, Kessel is back doing what she loves most, putting the puck in the back of the net for Team USA.
The life of an elite athlete seemed destined for all three Kessel kids. First, their father was a standout quarterback at Northern Michigan University and was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 1981 NFL Draft. Phil and Blake, Amanda’s two older brothers, played hockey, and when Amanda was about four years old she joined them on the ice. And like some kind of Olympic hockey oracle, Phil’s pee-wee hockey coach was none other than 1980 Miracle on Ice defenseman Bob Suter. A friend of the family, Suter recalled seeing Amanda routinely outplay boys on the ice.
In high school, at Minnesota’s prestigious hockey prep school, Shattuck-St. Mary, Kessel played with fellow Team USA forward Brianna Decker.
In 2013, appearing in her second World Championship gold medal game, Kessel scored the game’s lone third period goal, breaking a 2-2 tie with Canada to give the U.S. the win. Kessel won her second World Championship gold medal with Team USA in 2017.
In her 2012-13 season at the University of Minnesota, Kessel and Co. finished with a perfect 41-0 record and the national championship. It was the first time in Division I women’s hockey history that a team had gone undefeated. Kessel led the nation with 46 goals, 55 assists (101 points) over 38 games. That same year she was honored as the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, handed out to the top women’s hockey player in the nation.
Kessel’s second breakout moment came when she made her return to hockey after a year of dealing with debilitating post-concussion symptoms. After missing the 2014-15 NCAA season, Kessel began her hockey comeback with the Golden Gophers on February 5, 2016. That March the team won another national championship, and in 13 appearances, Kessel scored 11 goals while making 6 assists.
“Great speed” and “shifty” is how Amanda Kessel has described her play on the ice. She not only has a tremendous shot, but also plays a selfless game, creating plays for her linemates as often as she is seen snapping the puck on goal herself.
“It’s pretty cool – and pretty scary for other teams – that there’s still a lot more Amanda Kessel can do to get better.” Brad Frost – Kessel’s one-time head coach at the University of Minnesota after Kessel made her return to international competition at the 2017 World Championships, via SportsNet.
At 17, Amanda Kessel was invited to try out for the 2010 U.S. Women’s Olympic team heading to Vancouver. Regardless of her young age at the time, Kessel believed she had a real shot at making the team, and was crushed when she was cut.
In 2016, Kessel told The New York Times that she had sustained a concussion during the lead up to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Kessel said she slammed head first into the boards in a pre-Olympic scrimmage after getting her feet tangled with another skater.
Kessel took a couple months off to recuperate, and was feeling better when she joined the U.S. women’s team – and her brother Phil, who was playing for the U.S. men – in Sochi, playing in all five games of the tournament. Kessel finished her first Olympics with 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) and a silver medal.
Unfortunately for Kessel, symptoms from that pre-Sochi concussion would manifest once she returned home, inevitably keeping her out of the game for nearly two years.
Outside the rink
Amanda has a passion for golf, and although people might think her hockey skills could help her out on the green, she admits putting is the weakest part of her game.