Aspen elated to have ‘impressive, elite’ Knutson on board
Emily Knutson wanted to step away from coaching hockey to be a skiing coach and for five years, she was content being on the slopes and away from the rink.
The one notion she couldn’t get out of her head was that the urge to get back on skates was still there – and it was burning. Living in Aspen, a small hockey market, it didn’t take long for her to be picked out of a crowd.
“Aspen is actually a major hockey hotbed,” Knutson said. “(Aspen Junior Hockey director) Shaun Hathaway found me and wanted to bring me on board with the Lady Leafs and I couldn’t say no. I realized I missed the game too much. Last year was a fight or flee-type of year and the first year we had a 14U AA team. We had the numbers and the girls all had heart and we had a great first year.”
Now, Knutson has found a happy medium by still continuing as a skiing instructor, in addition to coaching the Lady Leafs 14U AA team and Hathaway couldn’t be happier.
“Emily brings a wealth of hockey knowledge and life experiences through her impressive journey as an elite player and coach,” said Hathaway. “Her desire to roll up her sleeves and lead our girls is huge for Aspen Junior Hockey. We understand that her presence and leadership will have a positive effect on the entire program. She has already proven her ability to inspire her players in Aspen, and in a short time has made a lasting impact on girls playing hockey— many want to be like her.
“Our biggest hope is that she remains in Aspen to strengthen, improve and help build Lady Leafs hockey into a leader and model for girls hockey development.”
Knutson played NCAA Division I hockey at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., and later transferred to NCAA Division III St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where she also served as an assistant coach. She also played and coached at the North American Hockey Academy (NAHA) in Stowe, Vt.
“Her resume is impressive,” noted Hathaway.
When she first joined the Lady Leafs, Knutson wasn’t sure what to expect, but any questions she had about the caliber of play in the organization were quickly answered early on in her tenure.
“Aspen hockey is intense,” said Knutson. “This year, we’ll be playing AA teams and also some AAA teams. We went to San Jose for a tournament last January against AAA programs and even after we lost pretty badly our first game, these girls kept coming and coming and even though we didn’t win, we tied our last game, so there was some definite satisfaction there. To me, it was good to lose games because that’s what builds character. Playing the top teams in the country can only make us a better program in the long run.”
Building the Lady Leafs program is in full swing and Knutson added that she sees the organization getting better and better each year.
“I grew up in California and North Dakota and back then, they weren’t exactly hockey hotbeds,” Knutson said. “I had to go to Vermont (NAHA) to get exposure and that’s when Clarkson recruited me. Nowadays, these girls in Colorado don’t have to leave home and they can play here with the intent to improve their game and get college scholarships. To me, wins and losses don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. It’s putting in the time and effort, training, playing games how you practice. These girls all want to be hockey players. For just being teenagers, these girls all respect one another, respect the game and embrace the development model we have here.
“The way these girls are off the ice should hopefully translate to the scoreboard.”
— Matt Mackinder