How Pyeongchang performance led to Gigi Marvin's NWHL all-star turn

Boston Pride center Gigi Marvin marauded around the ice for Team USA, skating in all five player positions before landing at center on the golden Olympic squad. And now the veteran has booked a ticket to the NWHL All-Star Game with her play as a pivot.
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Michelle Jay

Michelle Jay

As Gigi Marvin runs down the laundry list of injuries she’s suffered throughout her career, you start to get the idea that if Hasbro is ever looking to give Operation a refresh, they might be able to use her silhouette. She’s suffered collarbone injuries, shoulder ailments and bad hips. She’s had knee surgeries and wrist surgeries, too, not to mention battling back from concussions. That’s on top of all the bumps and bruises that come from a life spent pushing the human body to its limit in pursuit of Olympic gold.

And knowing all that, it should come as no surprise that there came a moment, one the 31-year-old Marvin remembers vividly, where she thought it might all be too much, where she seriously considered walking away.

“I was like, ‘Is it worth it? Putting my body through this kind of torture constantly and the mental pursuit of excellence in everything single thing you do?’ It’s a grind. I had that one moment,” Marvin said. “And I kind of smiled, prayed about it, and was like, ‘Nope.’ There’s so much good. I love my teammates, I love the joy of simply skating, I love the pregame skates, I do love the training, I love seeing what can happen when a team collectively pursues a goal together.”

At the time, Marvin was gearing up for her third Olympics with Team USA, a trip to Pyeongchang that would finally, at long last, see the world-best American side stand atop the podium. But not without some dramatics, of course. After regulation and overtime solved nothing, Marvin stepped onto the ice as Team USA’s first shooter in the shootout. It was a moment in which she said she felt entirely at peace, as evidenced by the visible smile on her face. She made no mistake, scoring the first of what would be three American goals en route to Olympic gold.

“I love doing shootouts, and I’m grateful that I felt a lot of peace because I didn’t plan on missing the puck on my deke,” Marvin laughed. “But thankfully there was enough composure to see an opening and take a second chance to shoot it in.”

Looking back now, almost one year later, Marvin calls that Olympic tournament the most fun she’s ever had playing the game. And she also credits it for pushing her to the success she’s seen this season in the NWHL, her seventh in the professional women’s game. Prior to the tournament, Marvin had been moved around the American lineup, playing both wings and both sides of the blueline, which speaks volumes about her almost-unrivalled mind for the game. But with USA looking to tweak and tune before making the trip to Korea, she was met with a question: how would she feel about stepping into the middle of the ice as a center? “And I’m like, ‘Well, I’ve played four other ones,’” Marvin said. “‘I might as well play a fifth.’”

The shift to pivot paid dividends in Pyeongchang, as she scored twice and registered three points for Team USA, and it’s likewise helped Marvin step into an important and productive role with the Boston Pride. In 12 games this season, Marvin has six goals and 10 points. It’s the most goals she’s scored in any of her three NWHL seasons, not to mention the highest goal-per-game rate of any NWHL or CWHL season in her career.

“One thing I love about our team, they’re very offensive minded, they’re very fast and we have a lot of depth with the Pride,” Marvin said. “It’s been a fun year so fan, we have great talent top to bottom, so I would credit a lot of it to really enjoying playing forward after playing defense for seven years. I’ve always loved the offensive side of the game, the creative aspect, and that coupled with our phenomenal team and the depth we have has made it a good season so far.”

So good, in fact, that her campaign will have an extra road trip tacked on: this coming weekend, Feb. 9-10, Marvin will be heading to the 2019 NWHL all-star weekend in Nashville, where she and her fellow all-stars will round out a double-header that begins with the Predators’ Saturday matinee against the St. Louis Blues.

Once the excitement of the All-Star Game is in the rearview, however, Marvin and the Pride will have important business to take care of before the post-season. Boston is in a dogfight with the Minnesota Whitecaps and Buffalo Beauts for top spot in the NWHL, which could prove to be all-important come the post-season. With that gold-medal feeling still coursing through her veins, too, Marvin wants nothing less than another Isobel Cup on her resume.

“That would be my third professional championship, winning one with the (CWHL’s) Boston Blades, one in the second year with the Pride,” Marvin said. “You don’t get to do that too often, be the last team standing at the end, and it’s so special. Our whole team with Boston is focused on that and doing what we can to put ourselves in the best position possible at the end of the season.”

So, if Marvin can add another championship to a trophy case that now includes Olympic gold, will it then be time to step away from the grind and finally give her body the rest it so greatly deserves? “I don’t know. I don’t put a limit on it by any means,” she said. “Serena Williams is 36, won a Grand Slam, gave birth, came back, and almost won another one. Tom Brady is 42 and dominating the NFL. Nicklas Lidstrom was 42 when he retired…This is just the life that has been given to me and I���m very thankful and hope to play as long as I can.”

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