LITTLETON — It's been quite the journey for Olympian Nicole Hensley.
“The past few months have been a whirlwind," said Hensley ahead of Sunday's meet-and-greet at Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.
"Obviously being over in Korea with the team was an absolute blast and to come out on top, it's just the cherry on top. It’s something nobody can take away from you or your teammates.”
In this year's Winter Olympics, Team USA defeated their arch-rivals Canada in a championship shootout to claim their first gold medal in 20 years.
Since their victory in PyeongChang, Hensley has been on a celebration tour.
She and her teammates have explored the Big Apple and Disneyland.
There was stops for the Today Show and Ellen.
The 23-year-old was a guest of honor for the Colorado Avalanche, dropping the puck in the ceremonial faceoff prior to a game against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
But on Sunday afternoon, she made a special trip to her childhood rink.
“Our team always says that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves and this is part of that. To give back to a community that gave me so much growing up," said Hensley. “I’m just so happy to be here and get the chance to see so many young kids and hopefully inspire them to follow their dreams.”
Hensley, a former player for Colorado Select and the Foothills Flyers, spent an hour skating around with current club players before holding a Q&A session and signing autographs.
She had three key pieces of advice for the next generation of super star hockey players:
"Don’t let anyone stop you. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t play with the boys or that you shouldn’t be playing hockey. It’s 2018. And go out and be yourself on the ice and just work hard and do your best."
"Always listen to your coaches," she said with a laugh. "Gotta throw that one out there, the coaches love that one."
Hensley, who wants to one day be a women's head hockey coach, plans to return to her alma mater Lindenwood, where she is a video coordinator for the women's hockey team.