Goaltender Jessie Vetter is making her Olympic debut in Vancouver after winning the world title with the U.S. team in 2008 and 2009. Vetter played in both championship games, winning a shootout in 2008 by stopping all six shots she faced. Known for her easygoing nature, Vetter will be a key player in the U.S. bid to win gold in Canada.
Vetter played four years for the University on Wisconsin, leading the Badgers to four consecutive NCAA championship appearances and three titles (2006, 2007, 2009). Vetter finished with 39 career shutouts, a .941 save percentage and 91 total wins, all NCAA records. Her senior year, Vetter won the 2009 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the nation's top women's player. In her first season with the Badgers, as a redshirt freshman, Vetter became the first freshman and goalie to be named the NCAA Frozen Four's Most Outstanding Player. She also set the single-season records for goals against average with .078. Vetter graduated from Wisconsin in 2009 with a degree is sociology.
One of Vetter's trademarks is her laid-back attitude, which she brings with her on the ice. Goalies can be superstitious or serious, at least during games, but Vetter has a reputation for being anything but. "Throughout the game I'll be joking with the refs and joking with my team," Vetter said. "And, sometimes, some of my teammates will yell my name to, you know, get me back in focus. But that's just the way I am. It's just having fun out there. And hopefully that carries over to the rest of the team."
At Wisconsin, Vetter played for coach Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team who is now the women's national team head coach. When Johnson was named the coach, Vetter told her U.S. teammates that he was the right man for the job, something they quickly agreed on. "His teams are so successful because he keeps it so relaxed and you have fun," Vetter said of Johnson. "You just play hockey. You don't think too much. You just go out there and you play the game that you love. That's the type of attitude he brings to the teams that he coaches." Before coaching her in goal, Johnson got his first look at 13-year-old Vetter at his son Chris' little league all-star game. Vetter, playing shortstop for the other team, hit a home run off Chris, whom Vetter later became friends with.
Growing up with three brothers, Vetter became a goaltender by default. Older brothers Jake and Joey and younger brother Jonnie needed someone to play goalie in street hockey, so they'd dress Jessie up in the gear and have her stand in the net. Though at that time, she hadn't yet mastered the position. "Basically I was the shooter tutor at that age because they shot it too quick," she said, referring to a training device placed in front of the net with five holes to practice shooting. "I was definitely forced into playing goaltender at that age and now I'm happy that they did it because I really enjoy the position."
With the boys
Until college, Vetter played mainly with the boys' teams, including in high school. She was named the Monona Grove varsity team's MVP in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Her freshman year, her brother Joey played on the varsity team, and though Jessie was on the junior varsity team at the time, they practiced at the same time and played in one game together. Jessie said Joey made sure none of the guys gave her a hard time. Jake also played during high school, but Jonnie gave up the sport early on. "I think he spent too much time on the ice with all of his older siblings so he didn't play hockey," Jessie said.
As a Packers fan, Vetter grew up with Brett Favre and is still a huge fan despite his signing with the Vikings -- on the day Favre signed, she said, she spent all day at her computer reading the news and listening to the press conference. She even considers herself a temporary Vikings fan, especially since she lives in with the U.S. women's national team. "I still have a Brett Favre poster hanging in my room right now," she said. But she's not likely to end up with any Vikings gear, even though she bought a Jets t-shirt when he played for New York. "I don't really like purple," she said.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.