“It’s really crazy to think how literally far hockey has taken me,” said Minnetonka forward Presley Norby, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky * firstname.lastname@example.org
Three gold medals — emblems of international success — hang from an “It’s All About Hockey” sign in Presley Norby’s room.
Looking at them reminds Norby, a senior standout at Minnetonka, of a special 368-day span of her budding hockey career. She won gold twice at the Under-18 World Championships and another with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Four Nations Cup.
“It’s really crazy to think how literally far hockey has taken me,” she said. “I’ve been to Buffalo and Sweden and Canada. And then to be fortunate enough to be on teams that pull out gold medals is pretty awesome, too.”
She speaks with a tone of wonderment and not a trace of conceit. In some ways, Norby, 18, remains the 5-year-old who “just liked to skate around and be ditsy” on the backyard pond. Soon however, “It turned into ‘Dad, I want to go skate’ every day,” she said.
One state tournament championship, a trio of Lake Conference titles and those three gold medals later, hockey remains fun and fulfilling. Norby’s final season ended one victory shy of the state tournament, but Minnetonka coach Eric Johnson hailed her as “one of the best players I’ve ever seen in the state of Minnesota. She had a phenomenal career. She’s an outstanding competitor.”
And she is the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
One to relish a challenge, Norby grew up as a rare girl playing with the boys in St. Michael-Albertville. A family move brought her to Minnetonka, where as a wisp of a freshman she contributed six goals to the Skippers’ 2013 Class 2A championship team. As a senior this winter, Norby led her team with 33 goals.
Returning from Ontario, Canada, with her second consecutive gold medal from the Under-18 World Championships, Norby went straight from the airport to Pagel Activity Center to join the host Skippers in a conference showdown with Eden Prairie. She netted a hat trick in the 3-2 victory to ignite a torrid stretch run. She scored 14 goals in the final eight games.
“My first game back I was still in international play mode of doing everything twice as fast as I normally would,” Norby said. “After that game, I thought, ‘If I keep playing like that, good things will happen.’ I tried to be all over the puck and thinking one step ahead.”
Her efforts went beyond games. Norby said she is “always the one keeping score at practice” during drills. Should a coach doubt Norby, she rattles off the names of goal scorers to make her point.
Blaine defenseman Emily Brown, an All-Metro first team selection, won a gold medal with Norby in Ontario and played against her in the regular-season finale.
“Her hands are just so fast,” Brown said. “You look down at the puck for a second and the next thing you know it’s in the back of the net.”
Away from the rink, Brown enjoyed Norby’s humility.
“Sometimes when you’re around a player that good, you find out they are kind of cocky,” Brown said. “But she’s so down to earth.”
That’s due in part to her experience playing with the U.S. Women’s National Team for the Four Nations Cup. Norby, the only high-schooler on a roster of active and former college players plus former Olympians, skated on a line with Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight. The Wisconsin standouts gave Norby, who has committed to the Badgers, a little grief and a lot of mentoring.
“It’s always been in my mind to work hard and stay humble,” Norby said. “Team wins are what makes noise, not individual play. I would not be where I am without my teammates and coaches.”