Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Andrea Kilbourne-Hill: Character On and Off the Ice

By  0 Comments

Silly boys, hockey is for girls!

That is the first thought that comes to mind when you consider the success of 2002 Olympian Andrea Kilbourne-Hill. She and fellow ice hockey teammates earned a coveted silver medal during the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Andrea’s life has continued to be one teeming with courage and optimism.

She currently lives in her home town of Saranac Lake, New York, with her husband, Dan, and their two children, Stephanie, eight, and Thomas, six. Hockey is still very much a part of her life, as she loves the sport, and she tries to do anything she can to introduce and hook kids and adults.

“I coach with our local association and love seeing the joy in the kids’ faces. I have worked with USA Hockey for many years, including coaching at U18 development festivals, coaching at National team festivals, and I was the athlete representative on the last Olympic team selection committee,” she explained. “I saw all those opportunities as professional development opportunities in which I could work with and learn from so many talented people. Now that I’ve pulled back from coaching competitively, I’m not as involved in USA Hockey.”

Dreams on Ice
Andrea admits not actually remembering when she started to play the game; for her, it’s as if she always played. Her parents related to her that her brother, who was three years older, played, and little Andrea was always at the rink anyway. Her mom and dad let her put on skates too so she wasn’t just watching him.

“My brother definitely inspired me. He was a Division 1 hockey player for the University of Vermont and a real role model in terms of work ethic and love of the game. My parents always encouraged me. Of course, there was the driving, camps and equipment,” she continued. “They also helped me navigate being one of the few girls playing on the boys’ team and then later, trying to become an elite athlete and make a national team.”

What was it like playing with boys versus girls? Andrea noted that when she was young, she didn’t have much choice. There was one town team for kids her age, mostly boys, and they were her friends anyway, so it was fine in her mind. Not until middle school did she begin to feel a sort of disconnect from her male teammates.

“That’s when I started playing for a girls’ team as well. Even though I was the youngest player, I liked the camaraderie of the girls’ team,” she recalled. “However, I knew I had to continue to play boys to improve my game so I did both through high school.”

Skills Development
She attended Northwood School in Lake Placid, where she played ice hockey until her graduation in 1998. She then attended Princeton University, graduating in 2003. She was a leading scorer on the Princeton Tigers women’s ice hockey team, scoring a total of 76 goals and 94 assists. At the 2002 Olympics, Andrea scored one goal and one assist in the tournament, thus helping her United States team take the silver medal.

She was also a member of the United States teams that took second place in both the 2004 4 Nations Cup and the 2004 Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada. She taught as an elementary teacher for some time at Saint Agnes Catholic School in Lake Placid, New York, and coached girls’ ice hockey at Lake Placid High School for three years, then moved to her alma mater, Northwood School, beginning with the 2008–2009 season. In 2014, she led the team to its most wins in a single season in the program’s history.

“My husband, Dan, is terrific and has always supported me in my endeavors. Whether I was traveling every weekend for hockey, or going to coach with the U18 team for a week in Maine, Dan steps up and takes charge. I couldn’t have had the career I’ve had without him,” she emphasized. “I’m back in the elementary classroom this year, teaching a third- and fourth-grade class and loving it. For the last eight years, I was at Northwood School, where I was coaching, recruiting, doing college guidance, and being a dorm parent. I loved Northwood, but I realized the lifestyle was unsustainable for me. I wasn’t able to be with my family as much as I wanted and I was missing a lot of my own kids’ experiences.”

Olympic Memories
Andrea sheds light on the difference between playing hockey in high school and college, admitting that she is a very serious person and took every game she played very seriously. She would get upset if she missed a chance to put her team up or made a bad play that led to a goal against them. “Obviously, the Olympics are more intense and there is more pressure, but I tried to approach each game as just another day at the rink. I tried to just go out and play my hardest, which is what I’d been doing since I was five years old,” she reiterated.

“One of my fondest memories is bittersweet. When we lost the final game and our hopes of gold medals were dashed, we were all obviously sad and disappointed. They were getting ready for the medal ceremony on the ice, and we were basically standing around shocked that we had put in so much time and energy into the goal of gold, and then it was gone. I looked up in the stands and saw my parents and brother, who were just beaming with pride and trying to smile and get me to smile. That’s when I realized that a silver medal is nothing to be ashamed of or disappointed in!”

It’s All in the Family
It is no surprise both her children are athletic, and Andrea makes every effort to be active as a family. Stephanie played hockey the last two years, but she didn’t love it, so she’s not playing this year. She is into gymnastics and this year she will take ski lessons and learn to speed skate.

This proud mother extolled, “She loves performing in any sense, be it theatre, dance or piano. Thomas is more aggressive and is loving hockey this year. He also plays soccer and lacrosse. It was Thomas’ idea to become 6ers, which means hiking the six mountains that surround Saranac Lake, and we are almost there, with just one more left.”

In addition to her busy life, she still manages to maintain some fun hobbies, including taking the family dog, Captain Cuddles, for long walks in the woods. She also hikes and bikes with her kids and husband, and she adores reading. She cooks when there is time, and now that her children are getting older, they cook together. “Tonight, my daughter made black bean soup while I made homemade rolls and it was so relaxing and fun to be in the kitchen with her,” Andrea beamed.

Skills and Character
Andrea is inspired daily to live the most fulfilling life she can and to help her children realize and achieve their own goals. What is her advice to others striving to reach what they think are unreachable goals? “I once heard someone say something to the effect of, ‘Don’t moderate; stuff in as much good stuff as you can.’ My favorite days are those where I’m going from start to finish and I just collapse into bed at the end, but I’ve done and experienced so much! I realize that I was pretty lucky to have a talent for something I loved. I could have fallen in love with figure skating and been lousy at it. I think finding the balance of talent and passion is key for success of any type.”

Frozen in time are her memories, and it is certain that the ice won’t be far from her feet as time goes on. HLM