In the state of hockey, players who have standout careers while wearing hometown jerseys become local royalty. Of course, Minnesota is the birthplace of some legendary players. And when a hometown hero on the men’s side falls in love with a hometown hero on the women’s side, it’s not just another Minnesota love story—it’s the Minnesota love story. John and Krissy Pohl are bona fide royalty on the ice, and for more than 10 years, they’ve called Woodbury home.
John Pohl grew up playing Red Wing hockey, earning the state’s coveted Mr. Hockey title in 1998 and going on to play for the University of Minnesota before spending eight years playing professional hockey. His professional career most notably included the Toronto Maple Leafs and time playing in Sweden following that. Krissy Wendell (now Krissy Pohl) also received the Ms. Hockey Award while playing for Brooklyn Park before going on to play for the Gophers. There she led the team to two national championships and was the first Minnesotan to win the Patty Kazmaier award for top collegiate player. She took her game to the world stage for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where she won a silver medal, and the 2006 Turin Olympics, where she won a bronze medal.
It’s worth noting their career highlights could be a whole story within itself.
The two met at the University of Minnesota, when Krissy’s brother, Erik, was the teammate and freshman roommate of John. John attended Krissy’s high school grad party, where she beat him in ping pong. There’s a bit of back-and-forth about who actually won this game, but Krissy insists, “that was the beginning of me beating him in many games over the years.”
In 2003, John’s brother was working in Stillwater, so the two brothers bought a house in Woodbury. When John and Krissy were newly married in 2007, he said he would live wherever she wanted. “Edina, Blaine, Minnetonka—you name it,” John recalls. Krissy, who had spent a lot of time in the city in those four years before they married, said she didn’t want to live anywhere but Woodbury.
“There’s so much green space, so many awesome parks, and also just this slower pace here,” Krissy says. “When we thought about raising a family, Woodbury just made sense.” The retail scene shouldn’t be discounted either. “Back when Woodbury had one Target, it was great,” says Krissy with a laugh. “When they built the second Target, I knew I was really home.”
Nearly a decade later, the Pohls now have three daughters, Emily (10), Anna (8) and Lucy (7). As much as the family is loyal to Woodbury, they’re also beginning to grow a legacy at Maplewood’s Hill-Murray School, where both John and Krissy work. John is the current learning coordinator, and will assume a new role as athletic director for the school this year, and Krissy works in admissions as the enrollment manager for the middle school.
John, who grew up in smaller Catholic schools, was attracted to the sense of community. For Krissy, the love came a little later. “I grew up in huge schools; even the university was a huge school, so I didn’t necessarily understand the appeal,” says Krissy. “I never thought I would work in a school and I never thought I would work with my husband—now I can’t imagine not working in a school…I totally get it now. I don’t think you can find a more family-friendly career.”
Both John and Krissy draw a connection between working at school and the strong sense of team they’ve experienced throughout their lives. “We played so many sports growing up. I liked hockey, but…it was social for us,” says John. “It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. Beyond sports, that’s what a school community can feel like. It’s cool to be at a place where that exists.”
Many years past their last days of competitive play, hockey is still a huge part of their lives, but it’s their daughters who primarily drive it now. Their three girls all play Woodbury youth hockey. “I couldn’t tell you what NHL teams should make the playoffs each year, but I could tell you the top U10 girls team and tournaments,” John says with a laugh.
The Pohl daughters, on the other hand, don’t miss their chance to fill out an NHL playoff bracket and want to watch highlights from the night before over breakfast. “It’s a huge part of our life, but our kids genuinely love it,” says John. “It’s safe to say there are many days when they’re more excited to go to the rink than we are.”
Both John and Krissy help with their daughters’ teams, though they’re rarely on the ice at the same time. “When I coach, I really just enjoy being out there with the girls. Very little was demanded of us growing up playing sports, and we try to recreate that,” says Krissy.
“The kids who do well are the ones who have fun,” John agrees.
When the Pohls aren’t hanging at hockey rinks, they’re assuming all the traditions of parents with young kids: lots of neighborhood pool time, family trips up north in the summer and the endless dodging of pleas for a family dog. And Dairy Queen. “We should have invested in Dairy Queen years ago—for a while there we could have probably single-handedly kept it in business,” John jokes.
It’s hard to completely separate the Pohls from their legendary hockey lives, but perhaps it’s these existing realities that make them so notable: they’ve achieved incredible things, while also achieving a next-door normalcy. The Pohls are the hockey royalty Minnesota fans live for—full of heart.