5 Fun Facts About USA Hockey's "Secretary of Defense," Maddie Rooney
Whether or not you're a big hockey fan, you probably know what went down during the women's gold-medal match at the 2018 Winter Olympics — you know, the one where the US women's hockey team won their first gold medal in 20 years after defeating Canada in a sudden-death shoot-out. That historic win wouldn't have been possible without goalkeeper Maddie Rooney, who made 29 saves during the match to help put Team USA on top. It was such an impressive showing that someone changed Rooney's position from "goaltender" to "Secretary of Defense" on her Wikipedia page.
In Beijing, Rooney has split the goaltending duties with longtime teammates Alex Cavallini and Nicole Hensley, but regardless of who's in the net when the US faces off against Canada once again, Rooney has already cemented her legacy — and she's had a lot of fun along the way. The two-time Olympian and world champion told USA Hockey that this has been a constant in her career: she plays her best hockey when she's having fun. Here's what else you should know about one of Team USA's brightest (and most intimidating) stars.
She Grew Up Playing on Boys' Hockey Teams
Rooney started out in youth leagues, then, when she was a senior in high school, she tried out for — and made — the boys' team, after two years playing on the girls' varsity squad. Rooney told USA Today that she wanted the challenge before starting her college career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She ultimately won the starting goalkeeper position on the boys' team, finishing the season with the same save percentage as the goalie from the year before.
She Put Off Her Professional Hockey Career to Finish College
In 2018, the opportunity to sign with a professional hockey team was well within reach for Rooney, who had just stunned the world with her performance at the Pyeongchang Games. However, she decided to return to school at Minnesota-Duluth and put all her energy into playing college hockey and earning her degree.
"Honestly, I really loved college hockey. I loved the routine of it all. And if it wasn't for Duluth, I don't think I would have made that Olympic team," Rooney told Just Women's Sports. "And I also just wanted to get my degree. I majored in business marketing, and I definitely want to pursue something in that field once I decide to hang up the skates."
She Once Challenged Justin Bieber to a Game
Following Team USA's first-place finish at the 2018 Winter Games, Rooney tweeted at Justin Bieber that if he ever needed a goalie for his beer league hockey games, she was in. "I'm a huge fan," Rooney gushed during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," showing off the Team Bieber shirt underneath her jersey. "I want him to notice me. That would be awesome. I want to go stop his shot, too." While Rooney's tweet remains unanswered, the challenge presumably still stands. Maybe this Olympics she'll finally catch his eye?
She Coaches Girls' High-School Hockey
Rooney has been an assistant girls' hockey coach at Centennial High School in Circle Pines, MN, since 2020. The program is run by her former youth-hockey coach, Sean Molin. "I coach to give back to the girls with the same dreams and aspirations that I had. I had so many inspirational coaches growing up that made such an impact on me on and off the ice, and I hope I can be looked to as that from a young hockey player," Rooney shared in her bio. "I coach not only to motivate, teach, and support others, but also to learn and grow myself."
She Models Her Gameplay After Canadian Goalkeeper Marc-André Fleury
In an interview with Just Women's Sports, Rooney said that she's always looked to Canadian hockey player Marc-André Fleury for inspiration, especially when it comes to goalkeeping. "I just love the fun he has with the game. And I've always tried to model my game after his as well," she said. Rooney added that she's also inspired by women's national-team goalie Jessie Vetter and retired forward Meghan Duggan, who was a strong leader early on in Rooney's career.