Red Knight Alum competes in 2018 Olympics

BSM alumni Kelly Pannek heads to Pyeongchang to compete in the Olympics.


Pannek skating with the US Women’s team

Ingrid Lundberg, Staff Writer

For many kids, going to the Olympics and representing their country on the world’s greatest stage is only a dream, but for 2014 BSM graduate Kelly Pannek, it will become a reality. This winter at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Pannek will represent the United States on the Women’s National Hockey team.

Pannek had a very successful high school hockey career. She was a member of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team, a top five finalist for Ms. Hockey (she won Ms. Soccer), captain for three years, and she led BSM to a runner-up finish at the 2014 Minnesota Class AA State Tournament. Pannek is proud of her time at BSM and everything that it taught her. “BSM hockey taught me a lot about being a leader. Looking back, I was so young, inexperienced, and naive about leadership, but during my time in high school, I was able to learn so much on what being a leader should really look like,” Pannek said.

For Pannek, high school was just one step in her journey to becoming an Olympian. After graduating, she moved on to play Division I hockey at the University of Minnesota, where she continued to excel on the ice, winning the NCAA Championship in 2015 and 2016. Pannek has been at the University of Minnesota playing on their hockey team since she was a freshman. However, this year, Pannek took a year off of college to train with the USA women’s ice hockey team in preparation for the Olympics.

Pannek has noticed a difference in the training between the teams. “I would say the mental training and the expectation to bring your best every day is the biggest difference between training at the Olympic level and the collegiate level. Everyone is physically t and physically prepared to compete every day, practice, and put in the work in the weight room. The most difficult part is the mental training that is needed to compete. Every day you have to be mentally ready for everything that comes at you on a given day and still be able to give your best,” Pannek said.

Although this will be Pannek’s first Olympic experience, she is no stranger to playing on the National team. “I got invited to camps in 2015, the summer before my sophomore year. I made the Under 22 National Team in 2015 and 2016 and then in the spring of 2017, I made the Senior National Team for the World Championships,” Pannek said.

Pannek and the rest of the Women’s National Team won the World Championship in 2017, but it wasn’t without controversy as the team decided before the tournament to fight for equitable treatment and pay with USA Hockey. “Women’s equality in the workforce is a very relevant topic in our society, and it’s no different in the sport. The leaders of our team were at the forefront and ultimately we wanted to set a precedent with USA Hockey, to treat us like the elite athletes that we are and give our program certain things to help push the women’s side of the sport forward. If an agreement hadn’t been reached, we wouldn’t have participated in the World Championships that we were hosting in April. Fortunately, an agreement was reached right before the tournament, so we were able to play and win,” Pannek said.

Pannek still can’t believe that she will be an Olympian. “The two words that come to mind are honored and humbled. Anytime I think about the fact that I will be an Olympian come February, I just think of how rare of an opportunity it is and how special it is to represent your country on the biggest stage. As an athlete, this is what everyone dreams of, and it’s not lost on me that so few people actually get to have this dream realized,” Pannek said.

Pannek would like to thank everyone that got her to this point in her career. “This accomplishment goes beyond me. So many people have helped me get to this point, and when I play I want to make them proud and show how grateful I am for helping me get here,” Pannek said.