Home / News / Sports News / The U.S. women’s hockey team hasn’t won gold since 1998. Will the spell be broken in South Korea?

The U.S. women’s hockey team hasn’t won gold since 1998. Will the spell be broken in South Korea?

Passion forming with each tighten of the lace

Years of the identical routine perfected right now

Rituals which might be practiced and shared behind locker room doorways.

— Kacey Bellamy

It may have been a catastrophe.

Hurricane Irma was on a path towards the Tampa, Florida, space on Sept. 9, and authorities have been bracing for a direct hit. As it occurred, the finest women’s hockey gamers in the United States had simply begun coaching in Wesley Chapel, just a few miles north of Tampa International Airport.

Even although the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning had determined to evacuate its gamers, Team USA determined to shelter in place at the Saddlebrook Resort, the place they have been staying. One agent who was anxious about his purchasers informed USA Today, “Why isn’t the women’s team evacuated? Is it because they are just girls … to me this is stupid, they are our Olympic team.”

But Reagan Carey, the basic supervisor for the team, had thought it by, even going as far as to seek out out the quantity and the energy of the metal trusses in the shelter space at the Saddlebrook Resort. So on Sunday morning, Sept. 10, the team members deserted their residences for the shelter, becoming a member of different evacuees to attend out the storm, which misplaced steam from its unique designation as a Category four. Still, 80 mph winds howled exterior the constructing as Irma handed over. The ladies performed playing cards, visited with Hilary Knight’s bulldog pet, Winston, in a separate pet space, and made hockey followers out of their fellow refugees. Captain Meghan Duggan later known as it “a big sleepover,” and by the subsequent morning, they have been capable of return to their quarters and their lives.

“We were kind of scared,” stated Kacey Bellamy, the veteran defenseman and considered one of six gamers who’re in Pyeongchang for his or her third straight Olympics. “But the negative turned into a positive. It was a great bonding experience for us, the kind of thing that brings a team closer together. Plus, I learned how to play [the card game] euchre.”

By Tuesday, they have been again to training and serving to out in the neighborhood. Irma light right into a metaphor for a team that has needed to climate a variety of storms over the years.

There was the crushing loss to Canada in the gold-medal sport in Vancouver eight years in the past. And the devastating Three-2 time beyond regulation loss in Sochi in 2014 that gave Canada its fourth straight gold medal. And the battle with USA Hockey final spring, when the ladies threatened to boycott the 2017 IIHF world championships in the event that they weren’t given dwelling bills, journey lodging and medal bonuses befitting representatives of the United States of America.

Not solely did they win that battle, however in addition they went to Plymouth, Michigan, for the world championships and beat Canada Three-2 in time beyond regulation in the last — incomes the team’s fourth consecutive title. “We’ve been through a lot together,” stated Bellamy, now an assistant captain on the team. “I think that’s made us stronger.”

Resilience is a component and parcel of hockey, however for feminine gamers — who typically begin out enjoying with the boys, who quit the consolation of dwelling, who struggle off waves of challengers and modify to a succession of coaches all to pursue their Olympic goals — effectively, you simply bounce off the boards.

You would possibly even write a poem about the sport you like.

Actions which might be outlined as the norm inside the team

Replaying the previous of 1 sport, one play, one second

That has triggered one yr of coaching in opposition to that one team.

It was a catastrophe.

What occurred in Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome on March 6, 2014, is excruciating to look at, even 4 years later. Team USA had a 2-Zero lead on Team Canada late in the third interval of the gold-medal sport. But with Three:26 left in the sport, Canada’s Brianne Jenner fired a shot that will’ve gone broad had it not ricocheted off Bellamy’s proper leg and previous goalie Jessie Vetter. Coach Katey Stone clapped her fingers and informed the team to not panic, that they have been OK.

As time wound down, Canada pulled goalie Shannon Szabados, and Team USA’s Kelli Stack received off a clearing shot that headed for the empty internet … and bounced off the left aspect of the left put up. “When those things start to happen in the game of hockey,” Stone later stated, “you start to wonder if it is your night.”

It wasn’t. Just 55 seconds away from lastly beating Canada for the gold, Marie-Philip Poulin tied the rating at 2-2 to ship the sport into time beyond regulation. Team USA had its possibilities in OT — the left-handed Bellamy virtually ripped one previous Szabados — however then the refs made some questionable calls, leaving the U.S. short-handed at simply the improper time. At eight:10 of time beyond regulation, Poulin fired the sport winner previous Vetter.

Imagine what it was like watching the Canadians rejoice after which ready round to just accept your silver medals.

“All that work, all that hope,” stated Bellamy. “Gone just like that. It took me five months to get over it. March, April, May, June, July. I’m big on watching videos of games, but I didn’t look at that one until August. I needed to get my motivation back.”

Part of that motivation has to do with the team that beat the Americans, the team that all the time appears to beat them. USA vs. Canada in women’s hockey is considered one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports activities. It began manner again in 1916 and captivated the world when women’s hockey debuted as an Olympic sport at Nagano in 1998. The U.S. won that gold-medal sport, however the Canadians have won each Olympics since.

The rivalry is so intense that 10 preventing majors have been handed out in one 2013 sport, ensuing in six U.S. gamers and 5 Canadians crammed into the penalty containers. But they’re additionally buddies who share a love of the sport and infrequently play on the identical collegiate and professional groups. Caroline Ouellette and Julie Chu, one-time captains of Teams Canada and USA, respectively, first met at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 and at the moment are teaching at Concordia University in Montreal collectively whereas elevating Liv Chu-Ouellette, born to Caroline final November.

Both shielded by completely different armor

Separated by a easy borderline

Sharing the identical frenzy for the sport and rivalry

Colors, nations, teammates

All united on the identical ice

Bellamy, a women’s research main at the University of New Hampshire, likes to put in writing poetry in her spare time. “They’re mostly about nature and people,” she stated. “But I did write this one about hockey.” In truth, USA Hockey used the poem for a video to advertise the “Bring On The World” tour earlier than the final Olympics.

That’s Bellamy’s voice narrating her phrases in the video, an ode to the challenges of the sport in basic, and the rivalry in explicit. There is a depth of feeling to the poem that explains why and the way Bellamy and the different 5 three-timers have stayed at the high of the American team for therefore lengthy, by three completely different coaches (Mark Johnson, Stone, Robb Stauber) and all the ups and downs.

“Eight years ago, I was just a rookie with my eyes wide open, in awe of where I was, who I was playing with,” stated Bellamy. “Now I’m 31 and still in awe of the responsibility. The Olympics is about more than the rivalry with Canada. It’s about representing the country. It’s about showing people how beautiful women’s hockey can be. It’s about the little girls with sticks, the little girls we used to be.”

Two years in the past, Bellamy wrote a robust “Letter to My Younger Self” for The Players Tribune. Addressed to 15-year-old Kacey, she recalled forsaking her household and buddies in Westfield, Massachusetts, to attend the Berkshire School and the way the first two weeks “are going to be the worst two weeks of your life.” She informed her about the buddies and coaches who modified her life, about getting her coronary heart broken when she was reduce from USA Hockey’s under-22 team, about utilizing the rejection as motivation to make the senior nationwide team.

“You’re going to play for the U.S. team for a long time,” she wrote. “But never take anything for granted. Make the most of the opportunities you have.”

Each enjoying for the crest on the entrance of the jersey

And sticking up for each identify on the again

Relax. Just like in Tampa, it may not be the catastrophe they’re predicting.

Some individuals who care deeply about Team USA fear that Pyeongchang will be as a lot a disappointment as Sochi or Vancouver or Turin or Salt Lake City have been. They surprise why Stauber, a former NHL goalie who assisted Stone in Sochi, did not identify any feminine assistants to his workers. And whereas he did coach the team to the world championship final April, and beat Canada 5-1 to win the Four Nations Cup on Nov. 12, Team USA has misplaced the previous 4 video games to Canada in its pre-Olympic warm-up.

A 2-1 time beyond regulation loss to Canada at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Dec. Three was notably painful as a result of the tying aim was scored by Poulin and the profitable aim by Jenner, their Sochi nemeses. And it occurred in entrance of members of the 1998 USA Olympic team, who have been honored between durations for the United States’ solely gold medal.

Afterward, Stauber stated, “For us, it’s not necessarily about the 20 years, but more about, ‘It’s time.’ We’ve got to bring home a gold medal. We’ve got a pretty good vision. We’re sticking with it, and we like our direction.”

That course included the addition of three gamers since Irma: defenders Cayla Barnes and Sidney Morin and ahead Haley Skarupa. When the last roster was named after the second interval of the Winter Classic at Citi Field on Jan. 1, veterans Bellamy, Duggan, Knight, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Gigi Marvin have been on it, however ahead Alex Carpenter, Team USA’s main scorer in Sochi, and defender Megan Bozek weren’t — main some to take a position that they didn’t purchase into Stauber’s system.

Stauber stresses a managed possession sport that typically takes the puck again into the impartial zone. As for the lack of a feminine coach, he does depend on his veterans to assist the youthful gamers. Bellamy has been working with the 18-year-old Barnes, who had been on the point of play for Boston College when she was requested to report back to Wesley Chapel. “She’s wise beyond her years,” says Bellamy. “Very poised … she’s just wonderful to have around the locker room.”

While the latest outcomes in opposition to Canada have been disappointing, it is value retaining in thoughts that in the American males’s final exhibition sport with the Soviet Union earlier than the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” sport, Team USA was crushed 10-Three.

In Pyeongchang, each archrivals beat Finland and the Russians in the first two video games of Group A play — although there was some hand-wringing as the U.S. received off to gradual begins in the first interval of each video games. It was Bellamy who broke the ice at eight:02 of the first interval of the victory over the Russians, getting into the assault off a go from Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and firing a seeing-eye shot previous Russian goalie Valeria Tarakanova. Team USA then put the sport away in the second interval, because of a extra aggressive mindset and two targets by Lamoureux-Davidson inside six seconds — an Olympic file.

By profitable these first two prelims, Canada and Team USA assured themselves of a spot in the semifinals, that means that their sport tomorrow means nothing… and their subsequent one all the pieces.

“We’re starting with a clean slate in South Korea,” says Bellamy. “This time will be different.”

Or, as she as soon as wrote:

Mistakes result in success

Errors result in victory

Pride results in gold

About Zeeshan Iqbal Soomro

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