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Our Neighbor...Persistence proves dreams can come true for the 'girl next door'

Cloquet native and hockey writer Amy Gist interviews Cloquet Wilderness Coach and NHL veteran Corey Millen for the Minnesota Hockey Magazine. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal1 / 4
Amy Gist has acquired many media passes in the few years she's been working as a hockey journalist. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 4
Amy Gist works media at Stanford Arena during a Major League Soccer game between the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy. Contributed Photo3 / 4
Amy Gist is overlooking the Cow Palace in San Francisco from the ECHL SF Bulls press box. Contributed Photo4 / 4

Poised and confident, Amy Gist joins the group of all male reporters surrounding the Minnesota Wild hockey coach. The tall, slender 28-year-old extends her phone to record the interview for her story for the Minnesota Hockey Magazine. Ever the professional, Gist is dressed smartly in black and obviously knowledgeable about her favorite sport as she poses her questions to the coach.

Gist, with her big blue eyes and girl-next-door-looks, absorbed Cloquet's rich hockey culture growing up as her brother, Tony, played the fast-paced sport over the years. Like many hockey siblings, she grew up in the arena, learning to love the sound of skates on ice and the anticipation of the game. In her high school years, she even chose to leave her beloved dance team and become a hockey cheerleader.

Her future did not seem obvious to Gist in high school. She was undecided which direction to go until one day in class she heard about Osama Bin Laden for the first time. Three days later the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked.

With the encouragement of her parents, Art and Carol Gist, she enlisted in the military while still in high school, waiting until graduation to leave. Her grandfather had been in the Navy, so Gist followed his lead.

After 911, she was determined to help her country and became a part of Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan.

Gist had loved her French class in high school and decided she wanted to branch into another foreign language, Pashto. She was denied that opportunity at first because the language was one of the more difficult to learn. In the end, her hard work and persistence paid off.

After several years of being immersed in training, Gist realized her dream and became a foreign language analyst translating for the military from a base in Georgia, fluent in four languages. Even though she did not go overseas, the 18-year-old rarely saw her family.

"We only saw her twice a year ... but we did talk almost every day," her mom said.

Finally the day came when Bin Laden was killed during a raid.

Gist paused for a moment. Her eyes teared up slightly and her voice quaked with the emotion the memory evoked. Like many other Americans, Gist recalled sitting glued to the television watching the story unfold.

For many years the military was the focus of her life, but she kept her passion for hockey alive by displaying some of her memorabilia in her office and engaging in friendly rivalries with fellow coworkers.

One night she decided to attend a radio interview at a local bar featuring a hockey coach from the Augusta River Hawks. Her past and future began to intertwine in that moment and she caught hockey fever again.

After several years in Georgia, the hard-working young woman transferred to California to teach and became a Leading Petty Officer at the age of 26. But she also marketed her natural talent and passion for hockey, and blazed herself a new career path.

"The stars aligned," said Gist.

She is still surprised by how quickly her life switched paths but considers herself blessed.

One of her first writing gigs was blogging on the Blades of Teal website for the San Jose Sharks, bringing the number of viewers from a mere 3,000 up to a respectable 15,000. "Game on!" exclaimed Gist excitedly as she remembered.

She also appeared on the Shark Byte television fan show when fans were questioned. Gist sings the praises of social media linking fans to the athletes. She has built up a fan base of 1,200 on her own Twitter account and enjoys the interaction with friends, fans and athletes.

In 2012, Gist and a friend attended a hockey game in Philadelphia, which proved to be a huge turning point in her budding new career.

"We did a really stupid video for YouTube," said Gist, laughing. The girls wore Gongshow Gear apparel in the video, so naturally Gist sent the video to the company and inquired about a job ... and got hired as a content editor.

"She brings a lot to the table with her knowledge of the game and her contacts within hockey. She has a lot of passion for hockey and this is her biggest quality in my opinion," said Tyler Orr, operations manager at Gongshow Gear Hockey Apparel.

Besides writing for the company, the energetic Gist also attends many of the charity events, including golf outings, ping pong tournaments and galas.

"She is awesome to work with," Orr said. "She is always on the ball with any requests and is an upbeat person."

Gist has the enviable job of interviewing NHL players from all over the United States and Canada for Gongshow. Her first interview was with Tommy Wingels of the San Jose Sharks.

In the few years that she's been riding the whirlwind of the hockey world, Gist has interviewed players on all of the NHL teams. Sometimes it's a problem -- when watching a game with friends on both teams she doesn't know which team to cheer for.

"I feel like I have hockey schizophrenia," said Gist, laughing, cheering for one team, then the other.

Her favorite part of the job? "I like to inspire," said Gist, citing examples of several interviews of athletes who have overcome great hurdles.

The player she would still like to interview is Bernie Parente, who was a goalie for the Flyers.

"He is super fascinating," Gist said.

Gabe Landeskog is another person of interest to Gist because he is the youngest captain in the NHL.

Gist was deeply touched by the death of an aspiring sports journalist, Jessica Ghawi, who was shot and killed in the Aurora movie theater after narrowly surviving a similar shooting in Toronto one year earlier. Once in a while Gist writes a story in her memory and signs it (J), because it strikes her as something Ghawi may have written had she lived.

Gist has never considered her journalism work, but a passion, something that brought her joy, even while serving in the Navy at the same time.

"You just learn to balance," said Gist.

The writing was a new challenge to pursue after Gist felt she had met her self-imposed goals for the military and was feeling restless. For the most part, the military was during the week, leaving the weekends open for a quick jaunt to an arena to catch a game or interview.

There were times the driven writer would need to conduct a quick interview on her lunch break during the week.

Eventually, Gist decided it was time to move on from the Navy and took a short vacation to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. In the end, she decided to stay true to her passion for hockey.

Gist had been offered the job as beat reporter to cover several levels of hockey all over Minnesota for Minnesota Hockey Magazine. She decided to accept it, in addition for keeping her job at Gongshow Gear Apparel and various other websites she currently writes for.

The hockey season is just getting underway and Gist can almost hear the sound of skates on ice already and the anticipation curls in her stomach. She is ready to go.

Gist recently had her first job for the magazine, interviewing the Minnesota Wild coach and several players after a preseason game.

"I nailed it!" Gist exclaimed, glowing with enthusiasm when talking about the sport she loves.

The same week she interviewed new Minnesota Wilderness Coach Corey Millen. The organized chaos of the hockey season has now begun.

Gist was raised to be humble and hard working as well as a volunteer in the community she calls home at the moment.

"If I am not involved, I am missing out on life," said Gist.

When the weather cooperates, Gist takes to outdoor rinks at night to help her relax from her hectic schedule. She is also a Hot Yoga enthusiast and is taking classes to become an instructor in her spare time.

She attended a Wilderness hockey game in town with family recently. She wanted to be there as her young niece was introduced to the hottest game on ice, possibly keeping up the family tradition.