Q & A with Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps

You may have heard Amy Menke’s name before. She penned the heartbreaking article on The Player’s Tribune titled: The Death, and Life, of a Hockey Program, which was published less than a month after the co-captain of the University of North Dakota’s women’s hockey team found out that school was eliminating the women’s hockey program.

A little less than two years later you also may have heard that Menke found herself raising the Isobel Cup as a champion in the NWHL with her hometown team, the Minnesota Whitecaps, after an overtime thriller. There is little doubt that it has been a wild ride for Menke in those two years since hearing the heartbreaking news that no one is ever prepared for. 

Amy Menke
Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps. (Photo Credit: Troy Parla)

Menke wasn’t just part of the NWHL champions, she was a big contributor to the expansion team, especially once the calendar flipped to 2019. One month after winning the first championship of her career we spoke with the 24-year-old forward from Shakopee, Minnesota about a myriad of topics that covered highlights in her career and what it’s like to be a champion, finally.

The Hockey Writers: You picked up points in seven of your last eight games – all of which came during 2019 (3g-7a), you really heated up at the end of the season. So what changed for you?

Amy Menke: I think probably just getting comfortable again, being on a schedule and getting into hockey shape as the season went on. I think I did get off to a slower start. I didn’t make the starting lineup on opening night and I think that was a big motivator where I said: okay, this isn’t a joke. I don’t want to be sitting out anymore and I made that personal goal of mine – to be in the lineup the rest of the year. Ever since then I was in the lineup and I started to feel more comfortable. 

Amy Menke, Gigi Marvin
Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps skates the puck past Gigi Marvin of the Boston Pride. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

I also was playing with the same people consistently and that helps a little bit too. So when I started playing with Hannah (Brandt) and Kendall (Coyne Schofield) – obviously they’re a huge factor in me producing points – I think a cone with a stick could get a couple of points (laughs) if it was on a line with those two. Getting comfortable with how they play, how fast Kendall’s game is, how smart Hannah is – it was easier as the season went on playing with them and working with them as a line. They’re okay (laughs).

Menke’s Magical Moment

THW: Your goal in the Isobel Cup Final…what do you remember? What a shot! The timing of it (1:22 after Buffalo’s goal) was clutch.

AM: What I remember was – this whole season breaking out of the zone Coach Ronda (Engelhardt) had been telling me to stay wide because I tend to move towards the opposite winger. So we break out of the zone and that pops in my head, and I stay wide. Kendall has the puck on the left side through the neutral zone and she found me open on the far side, she sauced it through the whole zone. It went right through the defenders and somehow landed right on my stick and I was like: oh! Okay!

I just kept skating and I remember looking over my shoulder trying to see if Hannah or Kendall was with me and I didn’t see either of them. I saw the video later and I think I would’ve had Hannah if I dropped it back in a good spot. I’m obviously glad I didn’t because I looked up and knew I had to shoot. I just shot it. Upper right corner has kind of always been my shot since high school (laughs) so that’s kind of my go-to whenever I don’t know what to do or have a good shot. I just try to flick it up there in the corner, shelf it high, and that one went in. I was pretty excited about it.

Having it come 90 seconds after (they scored) was huge for us because we didn’t have to go into the intermission or start the second period down a goal. It just lifted some weight off of our shoulders as a whole to be back even.

Amy Menke, Colleen Murphy
Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps tries to get the puck past Connecticut Whale defender Colleen Murphy. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

Minnesota Nice

THW: What do you recall about the Cup Celebration after the game?

AM: That was really cool. We were just joking about it on the ice after. Even before the game a lot of us were saying we’ve never won anything big – whether it was high school – some of us never went to the State High School Tournament in Minnesota, and in college most of us have never won a National Championship unless you’re a Gopher or played for Clarkson; or you’re a little bit older. So we were all joking and I remember telling Kendall after we had won: This is what winning feels like! This is awesome! And she says: why is everybody saying that? So I said: a lot of us aren’t Gophers or Olympians! She thought that made sense and for a lot of us, this was our first really big win.

It was fun to experience. Even Hannah Brandt said: it never gets old. Winning things like this never gets old, no matter how many times you do it.

We got back to the locker room and our rink guys had taped up some tarps over our lockers assuming that we’d be spraying champagne, which we did (laughs). It might’ve been one of our teammates, I don’t know who bought the champagne but it was all waiting there for us which was awesome. That was a lot of fun. The only thing was that none of us brought goggles, so you could tell a lot of us were rookies or new to this winning thing and we didn’t prepare that well (laughs). We pretty much sprayed all of the champagne we could, filled the Cup with some champagne and beer and we had some fun in the locker room for a little bit.

The Minnesota Wild were playing that evening and invited us to come to their game. Their rink is only a couple of blocks away from ours, so as people were ready we walked over in a couple of groups. They put us in one of the suites, gave us some more champagne, and their mascot came up and celebrated with us; they gave us a minute on the Jumbotron which was cool.

The next day was Monday and a lot of us took off of work that next day and I was one of them. I couldn’t drag myself into work after that kind of celebration. I had taken that day off well in advance knowing that win or lose I probably won’t want to come into work that next day.

Cup Crazy

THW: You mentioned your day job, what can you tell us about it?

AM: I am an account manager at Protolabs. What we are is a manufacturing service, known for our speed, a quick turnaround for prototypes and production parts. 3-D printing, CNC machining, injection molding – stuff that I had no idea about when I went into it (laughs). It’s kind of an engineering sales job and I have no background in engineering so it is fun and challenging – to learn my role and what goes into it. It’s a full-time job, I do 40+ hours a week and they have been awesome with my hockey career. I’ve rarely had to leave work or take off from work for hockey but when I do my manager is super flexible and extremely supportive.

Amy Menke, Shannon Doyle
Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps tries to get the puck away from Shannon Doyle of the Connecticut Whale. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

After we had won the Isobel Cup I get back to my cubicle on Tuesday and they had streamers and balloons in the Whitecaps colors, and we have two TVs on our sales floor that were playing my goal from the Final on a loop – for literally the next two weeks. I had to beg the manager (laughs) like: I think we’re done! People messaged me saying I think I’ve watched your goal about a thousand times, it’s such a nice shot!

THW: The team has been traveling with Cup since then. I know we saw some of the team at a Minnesota Twins game, right? Where else have you been?

AM: The next couple of days as the celebration continued, the Minnesota Twins reached out and said they wanted us to come to the home opener which was cool; and they had us sing the seventh inning stretch. That was really fun. Then we just hung out and went to some local bars around the stadium. It’s fun to bring the trophy around because it draws attention. Some people know what it is and some people have no idea. So they’ll ask and we say it’s our version of the Stanley Cup and then it kind of clicks for most people and they think it’s cool. Lots of people offered to buy us beers to pour in the Cup or just to give to us. We had a lot of fun.

Amy Menke
Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps tries to carry the puck past Metropolitan Riveters defender Chelsea Ziadie. (Photo Credit: Troy Parla)

It was cool at the Twins game when we were standing in the grandstand area and the people that did know who we were, what the trophy is, they’d ask us to take a picture with their daughters or for their daughters and we absolutely did it because we’re trying to spread awareness, spread the word, and grow the game. The little girls would get so excited, or so excited that they couldn’t talk or got shy. A mom told us that ‘you’re making her day. She’s not going to be able to be quiet about this, she’s loving this.’ That’s really cool to hear.

Maybe a week later the Minnesota Timberwolves invited us to their game. They put us up in a suite and brought us down to the court in between quarters and they put us on the Jumbotron and that was nice. The Minnesota Lynx always win so we want to invite them to our game, and we’ve heard that they are going to have us to a game when their season starts. The minor league baseball team, the Saints, they invited us too so we have that on our calendar this off-season.

Amy Menke
Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps. (Photo Credit: Troy Parla)

THW: Are you scheduled to have a few days alone with the Cup?

AM: Yup, we have that all figured out. The coaches had us fill out a chart with what days work best for each of us, so we all have three-to-five days with the Cup. I have a Sunday to a Wednesday, so I’m thinking I’m going to bring it to my hometown in Shakopee and bring it to the rink. 

I used to coach for the Shakopee girls high school team last year, I reached out to the head coach Ann Hunt and she said she’d help me organize, reach out to the parents, the youth association, and invite all of the girls and boys so they can come and take a picture with the Cup. I’ll do that for a couple of hours and I was also thinking about bringing it to my cabin and just having a nice day with it. I know my job expressed interest in me bringing it in so I’ll probably bring it there one of the days too.

Jenny Ryan, Amy Menke
Jenny Ryan of the Metropolitan Riveters defends against Amy Menke of the Minnesota Whitecaps. (Photo Credit: Troy Parla)

Long, Winding Road

THW: How much did it mean to you to be named Captain as a senior at UND?

AM: Coming into my freshman year at UND I sort of set that as a goal. I knew looking at my class that there was a lot of really good talent and a lot of really good leaders. Whatever it may be, if I end up being a captain or an alternate, or a leader outside of wearing a letter, that’s fine with me. I think I connect with my teammates on a personal level and I think they trust me a lot, I’m easy to talk to I think and I think they agreed. I’m looked to as a social leader as well as on the ice. It was a lot of fun and it means a lot, especially that it was our last season as being a women’s team there; it was kind of cool to be the captain. I shared it with Halli Krzyzaniak and we split it 50-50. It was a lot of fun and a great honor to do that.

Amy Menke
North Dakota’s Amy Menke. (Photo: Cono Knuteson/UND Athletic Media Relations)

THW: What was playing with the Whitecaps as an independent team like and what was it like playing in Sweden (2017-18)?

AM: Last year was my first year out of college so I was coaching the Shakopee girls high school team which is a big time commitment on top of working a day job. The Whitecaps as an independent team, we just scrimmaged college teams and scrimmaged against the Shattuck St. Mary high school team like once a month. We really only had a handful of games and practices throughout the season so it wasn’t a huge time commitment last year and it was very flexible so if you couldn’t come to a game or to a practice it was no harm, no foul. Often times we actually needed more players, I think one time we played Shattuck we only had six forwards and four D. I just remember thinking: I’m dying out here! I’m glad we moved into a league because it was a lot of fun, and I definitely would have kept doing it, but it wasn’t as competitive as I was looking for coming right out of college.

University of North Dakota’s Amy Menke battles for a loose puck. (Photo Credit: UND Athletics)

After that Whitecaps season last year my coaching was pretty much done and I dropped everything to join the Djurgården women’s hockey team in Stockholm for the last month and a half of their season (five regular season games, four playoff games). That was cool. I texted my old UND teammates that I was going over there and Gracen (Hirschy) was just finishing her student-coach at Aurora College, she reached out to them and asked if she could come and play too and they said absolutely. The same thing happened with Halli, I knew she was looking to join a team so we told her where we were going. So we had a little UND party when we got out there, and a few of our old UND teammates were there already like Andrea Dalen, Josefine Jakobsen – we had a little UND clan out there. It was pretty comfortable and a lot of fun, having a group to hang out and be tourists with for two months while everyone was at school or working. It was a lot of fun.

THW: What is your interest level in playing again next season?

AM: Absolutely. I definitely plan on playing competitively as long as I can. I plan on staying in Minnesota and trying out, staying on the roster as long as I can.