MINNEAPOLIS — She was already established as one of the true legends of Minnesota girls high school hockey, and as one of the greatest women’s college hockey players of all time, winning two national titles with the Minnesota Gophers.
As a high-scoring forward Krissy Wendell was also an American standout, skating for Team USA in two Olympics and wearing the red, white and blue in nearly 150 international games.
Eleven years ago, Wendell and her husband John Pohl — also a national champion with the Gophers — established their credentials as hockey parents and are raising three girls. About the only shortcoming one can see in Wendell is her ability to keep a secret. It was announced Wednesday, Sept. 4, that she is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2019, which is something those closest to her already knew.
“She was nice enough to tell me when she first got word from USA Hockey a couple months ago. She told me not to say anything, so I kept it quiet until it was announced,” said Hamline University women’s hockey coach Natalie Darwitz, who has been a friend and teammate of Wendell for more than two decades.
Darwitz, who was inducted into the USHHOF last year, saw a glimpse of Wendell’s humble, thankful nature when she shared the big news.
“In typical Krissy fashion, she sent me a note that said, ‘Hey, I got inducted. Obviously you’re a huge part of it,’” Darwitz said. “When I was inducted last year, I made a note to talk about Krissy because she’s the first teammate that comes to mind when you want to say thanks. That kind of speaks volumes about what she does on and off the ice.”
Originally from Brooklyn Park, Wendell was a standout athlete in youth hockey and baseball, playing catcher in the Little League World Series in 1994.
After winning the Minnesota Ms. Hockey award in 2000 at Park Center High School, she skated four seasons with the Gophers, taking 2002 off to win a silver medal at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Her final year at the U of M ended with Wendell finishing second — behind Darwitz — in scoring for all of college hockey, and becoming the first Gopher to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to college hockey’s best player.
After winning an Olympic bronze medal at the 2006 games in Turin, Italy, she and Pohl were married and are raising three daughters, ages 11, 9 and 7.
“They’re into soccer, hockey and lacrosse and they keep us busy here. Enjoying every minute of it,” Wendell said. Pohl is the athletic director at Hill-Murray and Wendell works in the admissions department there. “The only coaching we do is our own kids. We’ll have three different teams in Woodbury this year, and there’s plenty of ice time there. It’s worth every minute getting to spend time on the ice with our daughters and their friends.”
As for putting on the pads and playing hockey herself, Wendell said those days are done.
“And I think it’s good that way,” she joked. “I got really lucky and got to do some amazing things. It’s been really fun and today I just really enjoy spending that quality time with my kids.”
Others included in the class of 2019, which will be officially be inducted on Dec. 12 in Washington, D.C., are NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Boston College and NHL star Brian Gionta, Vermont and Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, and renowned D.C. area youth hockey organizer Neal Henderson, who becomes the first African American inducted into the USHHF.
Opened in 1973, the USHHF is located on Hat Trick Avenue in Eveleth, Minn.