In the two weeks following their thrilling, historic, gold-medal-winning game, the U.S. women’s hockey team has crisscrossed the country for puck drops, meet-and-greets, skill classes and more. And they’re finally seeing the impact of their win.
On the last day of their media tour, forwards Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi were losing their voices, but still excited to talk about the experience.
“It’s just been cool to come back and see the support we’ve gotten all over the place, and see the impact that the game actually had,” Cameranesi, 22, tells PEOPLE before the Rangers-Jets game at Madison Square Garden. “People who weren’t big sports fans or weren’t big woman’s hockey fans; everyone was so happy and so proud. To be able to bring it back to home soil has been a pretty incredible experience.”
“We didn’t necessarily see that in Korea, so it’s been cool to come back and see that here,” Brandt, 24, adds.
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The significance of their win has been particularly evident when they meet younger girls.
“That’s our overall goal — to impact and inspire young girls to do what they want and follow their dreams,” Cameranesi says. “So seeing young girls looking up to us — whether it’s wanting selfies or autographs, or asking questions about how we made it here — that was our main goal, and it’s really amazing to see it flourish.”
And their win also tampered down any ignorant comments about women’s versus men’s hockey.
“I feel like we haven’t heard nearly as many now since this last game,” Brandt says. “But I think it doesn’t really affect us. We have the confidence and we know that our sport has come a long way and that’s really all that matters.”
For the first time in months, the teammates are now split up — and heading back to their respective homes. They’re excited to share their medals with everyone who helped them get to the Olympic stage, and cap off a whirlwind year that started with a fight for fair pay, a world championship win and their Olympic gold. It’s a year that led forward Hilary Knight to suggest after the gold medal game that “they should make a movie on it.”
So who would Brandt and Cameranesi cast?
“A lot of strong and powerful women,” Cameranesi says, which Brandt echoed. “Jennifer Lawrence would be a good one. She can be the main character, she can be [team captain] Megan Duggan.”