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Women’s ice hockey Olympian Jesse Compher, 22, of Northbrook, shared her U.S. Olympic silver medal on March 5 at the Northbrook Sports Center in Northbrook.
Compher, a 2017 Glenbrook North High School (GBN) graduate, appeared at the Try Hockey for Free! event sponsored by USA Hockey, the Northbrook Bluehawks and the Northbrook Park District.
Compher won the silver medal in Beijing, China last month competing on the 2022 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team against Canada.
“Just being named to that roster was certainly one of the greatest moments of my life,” Compher said. “It’s been my dream my whole life.
“I hope I inspire kids out here to try hockey and to have them enjoy it, and kind of show them that, especially girls, that there is a future for girls’ hockey and women’s hockey,” Compher said. “If they keep working hard and dreaming, and fall in love with hockey today like I did, that hopefully one day, they’ll be able to wear the USA jersey too.
More than 60 children ages 3 to 9 were registered to try ice hockey, said Susan Walsh of Northbrook, Try Hockey for Free! event coordinator.
“Jesse has been a huge inspiration to our younger hockey players, especially young girls coming through the program,” Walsh said.
“We really like to think of ourselves as a hockey family and we’re looking to build that family,” said Walsh, the parent of Bluehawks players Aidan, 10, a fourth-grader and Liam, 8, a third-grader. “My son (Aidan) plays on a particular team that has three young ladies on it and they are amazing,” Walsh said.
“It’s by playing with these incredible girls and seeing people like Jesse Compher, gender isn’t really in their heads.
“They see each other as teammates.”
More than 200 boys and girls are league players, said Seamus Caruso of Northbrook, president of the Northbrook Hockey League and Northbrook Bluehawks.
“Northbrook has a long history of hockey, figure skating, speed skating, we’ve got Jesse Compher who started in our program and who’s just won a silver medal at the Olympics, I mean, that’s fantastic,” Caruso said. “It’s great for the kids to see that and really see what they can achieve.”
Caruso is the parent of two Bluehawks players James Jacob, 12, a seventh-grader and Cash Jacob, 9, a fourth-grader, and Evie Caruso, almost 2.
“For the girls, hockey is becoming more popular,” Seamus Caruso said.
“She (Evie) loves coming to the rink and running around while her brothers are playing and she likes to play with the (hockey) stick in the driveway so we’re hoping that she’ll play hockey too,” Caruso said.
As a former Bluehawks skater, Compher is familiar with Northbrook Sports Center ice.
“I’ve always loved it,” she said. “We’ve been here probably hundreds of times,” said Jesse’s father Bob Compher of Northbrook.
Bob and Valerie Compher are also the parents of Morgan Compher and J.T. Compher, who plays in the National Hockey League for the Colorado Avalanche.
Jesse Compher is the family’s youngest child and attended Hickory Point Elementary School, Shabonee School and Wood Oaks Junior High School, all in Northbrook.
“I was always at this rink watching him (J.T.), so I thought I might as well try, and then I fell in love with it,” Jesse Compher said.
“We’re super close,” she said. “Traveling for hockey our entire lives has brought us closer. I’m lucky to have my siblings and wouldn’t be here without them.”
Ken Johnson of Grayslake, Bluehawks director of hockey development, is a 1978 GBN graduate who played GBN Spartans football and ice hockey.
“Northbrook should all be very proud of her,” Johnson said of Jesse Compher.
Females account for approximately 10 % of Northbrook Bluehawks players, he estimated.
“We’re trying to get more and more girls involved,” Johnson said. “I think once they give it a shot, they’ll stick with it. Let’s grow the game.”
Addison VanAcker, 4, of Barrington spent time on the ice with Jesse Compher.
“It’s really cool to have visibility for girls to look up to, women and their successes,” said Addison’s mother Emily VanAcker who, “grew up playing hockey (in Wisconsin).
“So it’s fun . . . next generation,” Emily VanAcker said.
Nick D’Addezio of Deerfield held his son Jason D’Addezio, 3, as the tot touched Compher’s silver medal.
“It was very, very cool, it was an honor to meet Jesse,” Jason’s father said. “It’s just a testament to her coming back to the community and trying to essentially give back from her success.”
Jesse Compher will try out for the 2026 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team to ideally win gold in the Winter Olympics in Italy.
“That’s the goal,” she said. “It’s certainly cool to have a silver medal. It’s not what we went to Beijing to do, we wanted to come home with gold.
“But it’s still incredible to come home with the silver medal, bring it back home, especially to this rink, and share it with the people who got me there, so it’s cool.”
Compher thanked, “everyone who supported me.”
Northbrook, “is home and I’m happy to call it home,” she added.
“I’m very lucky and fortunate for everything I was given in this town growing up.”