Hilary Knight, decked out in her navy blue United States uniform and her long brown hair tamed by a stylist, stood on the ice at Ice World in Abingdon, frozen mid-shot near one blue line.
Children shuffled around the facility's other ice rink to the beats of Ke$ha and Fall Out Boy as their parents watched from the heated lobby, most of them unaware that one of the world's best female hockey players was in the building for a photo shoot last week.
After snapping dozens of pictures of Knight wielding one of their brand new hockey sticks, STX, the Baltimore-based sports equipment maker, put the finishing touches on its promotional campaign to announce that they had signed Knight, the goal-scoring forward and one of the faces of the U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey team, to a five-year promotional agreement.
Knight and STX officially announced their new partnership Thursday morning.
"They're a technology-based company and that's one of the reasons why I was really excited about this opportunity because I know they are going to be innovators on the hockey end," Knight said. "And being a female ambassador on the women's side, I think it's extremely important and I'm happy that we can both be committed to pushing that process forward."
STX, which initially grew their business through innovations in lacrosse equipment four decades ago, has been eyeing the hockey equipment business for nearly three years. In June, they announced their intentions to enter the hockey market.
"I heard they were coming into the hockey world and knowing them from the field hockey and lacrosse side I thought it would be a great idea to have my agency reach out to them," Knight said. "They're a great company — good innovators and great technology — so why wouldn't I get involved and try to make this work?"
STX sent prototypes to Knight, a 24-year-old California native, who tested them out in practices. She liked that the sticks were durable yet light, making them easy to shoot and stickhandle with.
"I've loved them and that's why we've taken that step forward and I'm going to use their stick in Russia," Knight said. "And furthermore over the next five years."
STX senior global brand manager Matt Hoppe feels their partnership with Knight, who will use their sticks next month at the Sochi Olympics, will help generate interest in their products.
"It's huge," Hoppe said. "Hilary is one of the most elite-level hockey players in all of the world on the female side. So for her to make the choice to jump into our equipment, especially the stick right before the Olympics, it's a testament to the quality of our products."
STX also sent prototypes to a wide range of players, from NHL stars to youth hockey players, and Hoppe said the feedback has been mostly positive. Their sticks will go to full retail in April and the company plans to launch a line of gloves and other pieces of protective equipment this fall.
After a decorated college career at Wisconsin, Knight was selected first overall by the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women's Hockey League. In her rookie season, she became the first American-born player to be named league MVP while leading the Blades to the championship.
Knight also represented the United States in the Vancouver Olympics four years ago.
"Last time, it was incredible," Knight said after posing for a picture with a player from Calvert Hall who recognized her. "It was sort of a kid-in-the-candy-shop moment. And this time, I'll be one of the veteran players and I'm excited for that, too. We have a great group of girls and I'm just excited to go over there, represent the country and show the world what we have."