by Andrew Podnieks|08 FEB 2022
Denmark defender Simone Jacquet is the very personification of determination.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Hockey fans take pleasure in watching young players develop into stars, marvel at their next gen skills and even faster skating and shooting. Young stars most certainly drive interest in the game, but it should never be at the expense of the older players, the veteran players who know a thing or two about game preparation, training, and mental toughness.

So here we look at the top players over 30 at the Olympics, players who have endured and persevered, led, and shown the way for young stars in their programs.

Hanae Kubo (F, JPN), 39
The oldest player in Beijing, Kubo first appeared at an IIHF event back in 2000 at the Women’s Worlds. She has since played at six WW tournaments and is now in her third Olympiad after 2014 and 2018. She is the all-time leader in games, goals, assists, and points in WW play as well as Olympic competition. And she has two assists this year on Japan’s ten goals so far while averaging nearly 13 minutes of ice time per game.

Simone Jacquet (D, DEN), 34
The poster child for determination and love of the game, Jacquet, like every one of her teammates, is playing in her first Olympics. She also has only one top-level Women’s Worlds on her resume. But she played her first games for Denmark back in 2004, at Division II of the Women’s Worlds, and between that year and 2016 she played another ten lower division WW tournaments. Jacquet played only at the league level from 2016 to 2020, and then was back on the senior team when it played in the top pool last year for the first time since 1992. Look up the word perseverance in the dictionary and you’ll see Jacquet’s picture.

Jenni Hiirikoski (D, FIN), 34
The all-world Hiirikoski made her international debut in 2004 and has been the best blueliner in the world since. She was the MVP at the 2019 Women’s Worlds and seven times has been named IIHF Directorate Best Defender. Still at the height of her powers, Hiirikoski is trying to add to her medal collection in Beijing which to date includes two Olympic bronze as well as a WW silver and seven WW bronze.

Nicole Bullo (D, SUI), 34
Playing in her record-tying fifth Olympics, Bullo is averaging 14 minutes a game in Beijing. The Swiss have won only two medals in women’s hockey, and she was part of both teams—bronze at the Sochi Olympics eight years ago and bronze at the 2012 Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. 

Baiwei Yu (D, CHN), 33
Yu has one assist so far this year and is a +1 on a team that struggles to score, but the defender is also the only Chinese player here who also was in the lineup 14 years ago when Harbin hosted the Women’s Worlds. Yu also played at the 2010 Olympics, and is not only the most senior but the most experienced player on a blue line that needs her kind of leadership.

Jocelyne Larocque (D, CAN), 33
Was it really 11 years ago that Larocque made her Team Canada debut? Indeed, she has been on the blue line for her country every year since 2011, winning medals in all ten events. This year in no different. She is a +7 and playing 18 minutes a game as an assistant captain, and is one of the best puck-moving defenders around. 

Nana Fujimoto (G, JPN), 32
One of the few goalies in Beijing in her thirties, Fujimoto is in her third Olympics and shows no sign of slowing down. She has played in all three games for Japan so far this year, winning two and losing in a penalty-shot shootout to China. She made her senior debut in 2008 and has appeared in five Women’s Worlds at the top level.

Hilary Knight (F, USA), 32
Knight is one of those players who hasn’t changed much over the years because she hasn’t had to. Playing with her is very simple. Put the puck on her stick, and she’ll put it in the net. She has two golden goals to her name in Women’s Worlds history and she has led the WW in goals on five occasions and in points four times. Her shot is second to none, and her willingness to fight for space around the blue ice is one of her trademarks.

Johanna Fallman (D, SWE), 31
She has been there and back, and knows only too well how far it is. Fallman played at the inaugural WW18 event in Calgary in 2008, after which she played in eight Women’s Worlds and the 2018 Olympics. But she has also been with the team the last couple of years after it was demoted in 2019 to Division I-A, and she is now trying to help the team back to the top pool, starting with an important qualifying win to play in Beijing.

Pavlina Horalkova (D, CZE), 30
Like Fallman, Horalkova knows how wonderful the top division of the women’s game is thanks to having experienced Division I. She played with the Czech team that won bronze at the 2008 WW18, one of only two medals the nation has won in that event (2014), and since then she has been a mainstay on the Czech blue line. This is, however, her first Olympics, as it is for everyone on the team, which qualified for Beijing late last year.