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From Coaching To NHL Skills Challenge To Rivalry Series, Life Moves Fast For Brianna Decker

By Keith Dunlap | Feb. 21, 2019, 1 p.m. (ET)

(C) Brianna Decker carries the puck in a Rivalry Series match against Canada on Feb. 17, 2019 in Detroit.


DETROIT -- When a social media movement starts up, the waves can spread fast and far.

Just ask U.S. women’s ice hockey forward Brianna Decker, a 2018 Olympic champion and 2014 silver medalist.

Decker was one of four women invited to take part in the NHL All-Star Skills Challenge last month in San Jose, California, alongside U.S. Olympic teammate Kendall Coyne Schofield and Canadian Olympians Renata Fast and Rebecca Johnston.

Although Decker’s performance in the Premier Passer competition wasn’t televised, a video shot by a fan in the stands showed that she breezed through the drill quickly. Taking it a step further, it appeared she’d actually run the course quicker than any of the NHL players who took part. 

In fact, thanks to the video, it was shown that Decker’s time was three seconds faster than the credited winner of the competition, Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers.

But only the winner received the $25,000 award, and that went to Draisaitl.

That’s when the movement started, with fans posting across social media that Decker should be paid as the winner.

Ultimately, Decker got her money, though it came after equipment manufacturer CCM stepped in.

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 “It definitely was a new thing for me,” said Decker, who plays for the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL. “I was definitely humbled by it. I think just the way we grew our sport that weekend was huge. The two girls from Canada and the two girls from the USA, it was awesome.” 

The Skills Competition came amidst a whirlwind few weeks for Decker, which continued this past week with the Rivalry Series between the U.S. and Canadian national teams.

Decker centered the second line for the Americans in the three-game series, which concluded on Sunday in Detroit. Although Decker scored a goal in last Thursday’s game in Toronto, the U.S. lost that game and Sunday’s game to fall 2-1 in the series.

Still, one year after the two teams met in the thrilling 2018 Olympic gold-medal game, Decker and the rest of the players were thrilled to have an opportunity to grow women’s hockey further.

“Anytime we can play these guys, it’s fun,” said Decker. “It’s what we strive for in this game and why we train. We are just trying to get the word out there. The more we can grow the game and the more fans we can get to watch us, that’s the most important thing.”

Back in January, the 27-year-old Decker also added coach to her resume after serving as an assistant coach for the U.S. under-18 women’s team that competed at the world championships in Japan.

The U.S. team lost to Canada in overtime in the gold-medal game, but severing as a coach gave Decker an entirely different perspective that has helped her as a player.

“It was a huge opportunity for me,” she said. “You learn a lot from being behind the bench. You view the game a bit differently. I was thankful for that opportunity and hopefully I can continue to help them out.”

Despite being in a position of authority, Decker said she didn’t have to do too much babysitting or curfew-monitoring of the younger players in another country.

“I think if you look at the girls on the national team right now, I think we are good examples for them on how to act and how to prepare yourself,” Decker said. “They took it upon themselves to do that.”

Life won’t slow down much in the coming weeks. Although Decker and the rest of the U.S. players will now take some time to rest, they’ll soon be back in training before this year’s world championship take place in April in Finland. 

The roster will be announced in the coming weeks, but it’s a good bet Decker will be a key contributor in the U.S. team’s bid to win its fifth straight world title. 

“We’ve got some work to do,” she said. “Just little things here and there. Just holding each other accountable and holding yourself accountable every single day between now and Finland.”

Keith Dunlap is a sportswriter from the Detroit area. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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