USA Hockey Magazine

February 2018

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FEBRUARY 2018 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM // 39 It's been 20 years since Sandra Whyte and her U.S. teammates celebrated the first gold medal in women's hockey at the Olympics. Just as the "Miracle on Ice" inspired what would later come to be known as the "great- est generation" of NHL players, Granato and her teammates opened the door for females of all ages to find a league of their own. "At the end of the day it's cyclical," said Sue Merz, one of those 13 players who reunited in Boston earlier this fall to help kick off The Time Is Now pre- Olympic tour. "I look at the women who came before us, players like Cindy Curley and Kelly Dyer, t h e y p ave d t h e way f o r u s a n d d i d n 't g et this chance to experience this. I look at our opportunity in '98 as what it was, and we cap- italized on it. I know it made an impression on a fair number of athletes who are playing hockey today." Even 20 years later, most of those women look like they could still lace up the skates and compete for Olympic gold. Instead they are happy to look ahead in hopes that this year's team can take the sport to even greater heights. "I know we made an impression on these women and because it's so much bigger now than it was even 20 years ago," Merz said. "These women are going to have an even big- ger impression on the next generation of girls' hockey, and sports in general." Many of these women on that 1998 team continue to have an impact on the game, whether it's as a mom whose kids are now playing hockey or following the lead of their long-time coach and mentor Ben Smith, who was recently inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. "My daughter just started Learn to Play and she's getting into it. She's 4 and loves it," said Katie King, who is in her 10th season coaching the powerhouse women's hockey program at Boston College. "I think the whole thing has grown so much and seeing so many girls starting at such a young age is amazing. The number of girls' teams has just escalated so much and it's fun to see." Standing in the way of Olympic gold and glory will once again be a familiar red and white roadblock. After losing in Nagano, Canada has owned the Olympic podium, winning four straight gold medals, including a come-from- behind victory at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. In fact, other than a stunning semifinal loss by the Americans at the 2006 Olympics, it's been the North American rivals facing off with gold on the line in every major international tournament. The U.S. has won eight of the last 10 IIHF Women's World Championships, including last year in Plymouth, Mich. But it's Olympic gold that drives this group of U.S. players to follow the path of the 1998 pioneers and take that final step up the medals podium in PyeongChang, South Korea. "That was a powerful group of women that did something amazing by sticking together and putting their minds to bringing home that gold medal," Duggan said. "When I think about the team and the spe- cial group we have right now, there's a lot of parallels. To me, this is the group that's going to do what that group did 20 years ago." P "When I think about the team and the special group we have right now, there's a lot of parallels. To me, this is the group that's going to do what that group did 20 years ago." –Meghan Duggan 2018 SUMMER GCHOCKEY.COM REGISTER ONLINE TODAY! FULL DAY HALF DAY WEEKLY HOCKEY SCHOOL E U R O P E A N

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