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5 Tough Minnesota Women Who Inspire Us To Embrace The State’s Coldest Season

Current status: Brodt Brown is playing her final season for the Whitecaps. The team captain and mother of two young sons hopes to defend the NWHL championship the team won last spring.

What's next: Though she's closing out a 23-year run at the highest levels of women's hockey, Brodt Brown isn't leaving the ice. Her business, Os Hockey Training, is developing future generations of female players. When she's not shuttling her boys to games and practices, she's often conducting clinics to introduce women of all ages to the sport. Don't rule out a comeback, either: Brodt Brown's mom, Marlene Brodt, still plays amateur hockey at age 72.

Her Minnesota takeaway: There were no girls' hockey leagues when Brodt Brown was a kid. Her father, Jack Brodt, thought the state's game should be open to all, and his daughters were eager trailblazers. "Back in the day, girls could only play down in the park with their brothers," she says. "My dad, I don't know if he's a visionary or what, but he says, 'If the boys can play, why can't my girls play?' So he put my older sister into boys' hockey at Roseville, then me, then (sister) Chelsey. It opened up a whole world to us."

On longevity: "No matter your age, hockey is a great way to meet people, and it's great for your overall health and well-being. I work with the Women's Hockey Association of Minnesota. At our Hockey 101 clinics, we could have 18- to 60-year-olds on the ice with us, learning to play the game. People can play hockey a lot longer than you'd think. And I'd much rather go to hockey practice than go to the gym."

MAGGIE NICHOLS Age: 22 Hometown: Little Canada

Best known for: Winning two NCAA all-around championships and two national team titles at the University of Oklahoma, plus a gold medal in the team competition at the 2015 world championships. Nichols also was the first athlete to tell USA Gymnastics about abuse by Dr. Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts; she earned the 2019 NCAA Inspiration Award for her courage.

Current status: In January, Nichols will begin her final season at Oklahoma. Her legacy already includes 17 perfect-10 scores, four national co-championships in three different events and 12 first-team All-America honors. She'll vie for her third consecutive national all-around title, which would be an NCAA record.

What's next: She plans to retire from competition at the end of the college season. After graduating in June with a degree in communications, she will pursue a master's degree in sports broadcasting and hopes to land a job with a major network. Coaching college gymnastics could be in her future, too.

Her Minnesota takeaway: "Swaggie Maggie" credits her home state with giving her the encouragement to aim high. "A lot of people talk about 'Minnesota nice,' and that helped me become who I am," she says. "When I was trying to make the world championships team and the Olympic team, I always felt so much love and support from people in Minnesota, even from people who didn't know me. That's something very special. It's one reason I'm proud to be from Minnesota."

On the lessons of gymnastics: "My sport taught me to be mentally tough, and to be independent. When you're out there competing, you're all alone. You have to figure things out on your own. And I was always a little daredevil in gymnastics, which carried into other parts of my life. Whenever I've been afraid to try something new outside of sports, I have that daredevil inside of me, pushing me to go ahead." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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