Natalie Darwitz started skating at age 5.
The daughter of a hockey coach and a self-described "rink-rat" went on to become one of the most acclaimed players in U.S. women's hockey history.
After playing against boys on outdoor rinks while growing up in Eagan, Darwitz made the Eagan High School girls' varsity team as a seventh-grader. After her sophomore season, she was selected to play for the U.S. women's national team. At 15, she was the youngest player to be named to the team. In her four seasons at Eagan, she had 487 points in 102 games.
Darwitz played three seasons for the University of Minnesota, earning All-American honors in each. During her junior season, she set an NCAA single-season record with 114 points (42 goals, 72 assists) in 40 games. She helped the Gophers win two NCAA championships, including scoring the game-winning goal with 68 seconds left in the Gophers' 4-3 victory over Harvard in the 2005 championship game.
She finished her Gopher career with 246 points (102 goals, 144 assists) in 99 games. She was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, presented to the top women's college hockey player, in all three seasons.
In 10 seasons with the U.S. national team, Darwitz was a member of three teams that earned medals at the Winter Olympics (silver in 2002, bronze in 2006, silver in 2010). She was a member of three teams that earned three gold medals at the IIHF Women's World Championships (2005, 2008, 2009) and five silver medals (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007). She was the captain of the national team from 2007-2010. She played on 10 teams that competed in the four Nations Cup events.
In 2008, Darwitz received USA Hockey's Bob Johnson Award, recognizing player excellence in international hockey competition.
She began her coaching career as an assistant to her father at Eagan. She served as an assistant coach for the Gophers in 2008-09 before returning to play for Team USA.
In 2011, Darwitz became the head coach of the Lakeville South girls' team.
In 2015, she was named the women's hockey coach at Hamline University. She quickly developed Hamline into one of the top programs in NCAA Division III. The Pipers reached the Division III Frozen Four in 2018 and 2019.
In 2018, Darwitz became just the fifth woman to be named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth. In 2019, she was named to the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame.
Teams: Eagan High School, Gophers, U.S. national team