Hometown heroes: Vadnais Heights honors Olympic hockey sisters
Marissa and Hannah Brandt gained an international following as sisters who played on two different hockey teams in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. On Thursday, it was time to celebrate at home.
For the first hour or so, around 300 adoring fans and young hockey players lined up to take photos with the duo at the Vadnais Heights City Commons, just northeast of the Twin Cities.
Allie Gerard, 11, was at the head of the line.
“For our age group and even for the girls, we really looked up to them and it’s such a cool experience to have one, or two actually, Olympic players in Vadnais Heights,” she said.
Hannah Brandt wore her Team USA jersey and the gold medal her team won in Pyeongchang. Marissa Brandt, who was born in South Korea and adopted as a baby, wore her Korean hockey jersey. She’s now an honorary ambassador for Korean adoptees.
Both Brandts developed their hockey careers in Minnesota: Marissa played for Gustavus Adolphus College and Hannah, for the University of Minnesota.
“You have made accomplishments which are extraordinary,” Robin Brandt said in a speech. “But what I’m most proud of the love that you share for one another, the support that you give each other. This is really what it is about for me.”
Seven Minnesotans played on the first U.S. women’s hockey team to win in 20 years.
“To be able to do it with familiar people from Minnesota, some of my best friends, was even more special,” Hannah said.
Marissa was one of the assistant captains on a team that had players from both North and South Korea.
“Having the addition of the North Korean girls, it actually worked out really well. The girls gelled well with our team and they’re disciplined, they work hard, eager to learn. Something you just appreciate so they really mixed well with our group of girls in the locker room,” she said. “Everybody’s laughing, giggling, having fun. We couldn’t have asked for a better group.”
When asked to choose the most memorable part, Hannah didn’t talk about gold.
“For me personally it was just kind of being in the village, seeing her, being able to spend time with her,” she said. “I think it might never happen again for two sisters to be on different teams at the Olympics and for me that was probably the most incredible thing about everything that happened.”
“Just being there in my birth country and having her there with my family so just the whole experience in itself was amazing,” Marissa said.