Minnesota-native, Jonna Curtis Is A Champion On And Off The Ice
I could not be more excited to write about one of Minnesota’s true hockey ambassadors in the State of Hockey. Minnesota Whitecaps forward, and Elk River native, Jonna Curtis has accomplished so much in her high school, collegiate and professional career. Yet, she remains so humble and unselfish about her success and what she wants to accomplish in the game next. I had the absolute honor and privilege of speaking with Jonna last week and was impressed with her attitude and humbleness, from start to finish.
Sure, stats and accomplishments usually define success in sports. Even if that is true, Curtis has an amazing resume and is easily one of the best players in the Premier Hockey League (PHF) today. However, what is even more impressive than her career achievements and stats, is her goals (big-picture type of goals, not the top-shelf snipe type of goals) and what she wants to do for the game. We’ll start with the stats and achievements, just because I have to begin somewhere. Just a few highlights of Jonna’s career thus far:
- 2012 Ms. Hockey Finalist in Minnesota
- Set the points and assists record at Elk River High School
- Attended the University of New Hampshire where she was a two-time captain and scored 106 points in 122 games
- Two-time Hockey East Honorable Mention at UNH
- She was the 2018-19 NWHL Newcomer of the Year
- Two-time NWHL All-Star (2018 and 2019)
- Won the Isobel Cup in 2019 with the Minnesota Whitecaps and reached the Isobel Cup final with the Whitecaps in 2020, before it was cancelled due to COVID
- Alternate Captain with the Whitecaps for two seasons, including 2021-22
- Notable seasons in terms of stats:
- 2009-10 at Elk River (28GP – 35G ,26A = 61 total points)
- 2010-11 at Elk River (25GP – 39G, 23A = 62 total points)
- 2011-12 at Elk River (25GP – 34G, 24A = 58 total points)
- 2015-16 at University of New Hampshire (36GP – 16G, 17A = 33 total points)
- 2016-17 at University of New Hampshire (35GP – 21G, 21A = 42 total points)
- 2018-19 with Minnesota Whitecaps (16GP – 8G, 11A = 19 total points)
- 2019-20 with Minnesota Whitecaps (21GP – 14G, 22A = 36 total points)
- She has 3 goals and 0 assists in the 4 games so far this season with the Whitecaps
I told you that she has an impressive resume, didn’t I? To say that Curtis has dominated at every level in hockey, is a hockey rink-sized understatement. Her presence on the ice is much, much larger than her 5’4″ frame may suggest.
If that all isn’t impressive enough for you, when I asked Jonna about what she wants to accomplish next in the game, she didn’t hesitate even one-nanosecond when she replied “I want to help grow the game and to continue that growth.” Being the star she is, she admitted that she does not play hockey for the pay, but it’s a good opportunity to inspire young girls to play hockey. That’s pretty awesome, if you ask me.
So let’s see what we have established so far about Curtis… she was successful in high school hockey, check. She dominated in collegiate hockey, check. She is a champion and all-star in more ways than one in the NWHL/PHF, check. She is an inspiration and role model for young girls looking to begin their hockey careers, check. Oh, and I forgot to mention that when she isn’t playing hockey, she’s an engineer for 3M Company in St. Paul. So, she’s super-smart too!! If you haven’t seen Jonna in action, check out her first of two goals in the Whitecaps’ home opener.
Not only were the Whitecaps short-handed, not only did she steal the puck away, not only was Curtis hooked, slashed, shoved, tripped by two Pride members, AND crashed into the net, but she also drew a penalty and scored the goal. What else can one do to lead her team? Buy popcorn during intermission?
I asked Curtis what was going through her mind as she raced to the net during this play and she said she just kind of “blacked out because two girls were slashing me, and I was just trying to get the puck to the net.” She added that she didn’t expect the puck to go in, but that’s hockey, you just never know.
She would later add an empty-net goal from beyond the redline to “ice” the game. She said that her coaches did give her some post-game grief about not crossing the red line before shooting, but with her accuracy, why bother?
Knowing that she in an engineer in her “spare time”, I asked Curtis how her full-time job with 3M and the Whitecaps’ season works together. She said that they have hockey practice usually either at 6:00 AM before work, or at 7:00 or 8:00 PM at night. Seeing as the PHF games are on weekends, they will usually fly out for road games on Friday nights and return Sunday nights for the weekend. That sounds like an incredibly busy season to me. She has been at 3M for three years this coming August, says Curtis.
If you aren’t familiar with the PHF, there are six teams in the league being from Minnesota, Boston, New Jersey, Toronto, Buffalo and Connecticut. Each team plays 20 games during the regular season, plus the playoffs. As I said earlier, in the last two years, the Whitecaps have won the Isobel Cup or qualified for the final before the championship game being cancelled due to stupid COVID. Curtis said that about 90% of the Whitecaps members either work full-time, coach hockey and/or go to school away from hockey.
The Whitecaps’ home opener this year was my first PHF and Whitecaps’ game. I went with my wife and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I mean, how can someone NOT enjoy hockey? Not to mention the two girls’ hockey teams in attendance and all of the fans lining up against the hallway as the players went on and off the ice to get a fist-bump, a high-five, or for one lucky fan sitting behind my wife and I, a game-used puck from their favorite player.
Whether the Whitecaps players know it or not, there are scores and scores of young girls and boys that look up to the Whitecaps women, who don their jersey and hit the ice every weekend. They are an inspiration, they are a role model, they are the reason why some kids get into hockey. So you may ask who Curtis’ inspiration was to start playing hockey at the tender age of four? “Her dad”, she proudly stated.
Jonna said that pre-COVID, most, if not all of the Whitecaps games were sold-out or very near to being sold out. If you never have had the pleasure of attending a Whitecaps game, you must do so. Put it on your hockey bucket-list if you must, but get to the Tria Rink. If you have young, aspiring hockey stars in your home, you absolutely have bring your kids to a Whitecaps game!! Seeing women’s professional hockey and having the up-close, personal experience with the players that kids can have, is something you won’t find anywhere else in the State of Hockey besides Tria Rink in beautiful downtown St. Paul.
You want hockey royalty? Look no further than Tria Rink and the Minnesota Whitecaps. My deepest and most sincere thanks to Jonna for taking the time in her busy schedule to meet with me, and to everyone involved in the Whitecaps and PHF for doing what you do to inspire the young hockey players of today. I hope to chat more with Jonna this season and perhaps, some of her teammates and coaches as well. Look for more Whitecaps coverage later this year!! Until then, be well and go Whitecaps!!!