U.S. Markets closed

U.S. women forge new legacy by standing for all hockey players, then winning gold for themselves

Eric Adelson
Columnist

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – On Thursday morning, little girls across America will dream of being Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.

Her unforgettable golden goal, scored in the sixth round of shootouts here, is this generation’s Brandi Chastain moment. It will be replayed and relived in the minds of an untold amount of Americans, and it will be etched in not just women’s hockey history, not just hockey history, but sports history.

Yet that goal and this game is only the exclamation point at the end of a long passage that included Lamoureux-Davidson and her teammates imperiling their own dreams so that those same little girls could have a better hockey life than they did. Less than a year ago, the American players threatened a boycott – effectively laying down their sticks and hanging up their skates in the name of equal treatment. They risked this very Olympic moment they all wanted so badly.

They risked it without a shred of doubt, though. They would win the contract dispute, they would win the World Championships, and they would win this Olympic title because they believed their legacy into existence.

They knew it all along.

“There was no doubt in anyone’s mind,” said Gigi Marvin. “It was just a matter of how and when. And what an ending.”

Marvin, 30, took the first penalty shot in the shootout and although it was a time where most would be anxious, a smile crept across her face as she stared down the moment.

“I’ve done that so many times in my mind, and in life,” she said. “In Warroad [Minn.], where I’m from, we skate seven hours a day, it’s no joke. We create these games and moments in our minds as 7-year-olds.”

Gigi Marvin and the U.S. women’s hockey team finally snapped a 20-year gold drought. (AP)

She was 10 when she saw the American women win gold in 1998, and that’s when all of this started. That’s what most of these players kept as their childhood touchstone as they practiced and played, against girls and against boys, in rinks far and near, throughout their lives. But their path would be trying. Eight years ago, the women’s team was shut out by Canada in the gold medal match in Vancouver. Four years ago, they blew a late-game lead and lost in overtime. It was so devastating that forward Amanda Kessel couldn’t watch the replay and had trouble talking about it years after it happened.

“You don’t train that hard for second place,” said team captain Meghan Duggan.

There would be even bigger hurdles yet. In March of 2017, the team became fed up with unequal pay and unequal treatment compared to the U.S. men. They came together and decided to boycott the World Championships if USA Hockey didn’t give them a better deal. They knew they could end up watching the tournament they wanted to win. They knew the Olympics would also be made uncertain.

“We knew it could have an effect going into [Olympic] tryouts,” said Monique Lamoureux-Morando, who scored the goal that sent the gold medal game into overtime. “We were willing to put it on the line because we were willing to do the right thing.”

It was a daunting time, but it was also a preview of things to come. The players were sure, absolutely sure, and they went ahead with unyielding belief in the path they chose.

“I think of how I was raised and the values my parents instilled in order to stand up for what I believe in and voice my opinion even when it’s difficult,” said Duggan. “Those are the things you have to do to be a leader. My mom raised me that way. My dad raised me that way.”

USA Hockey came through, agreeing to a four-year deal only a few days before World Championships. The team won gold there, and to use forward Brianna Decker’s word, they now saw that they were “unbreakable.”

They trained for this Olympic tournament in Florida, sheltering as Hurricane Irma bore down on the Gulf Coast of the state. It didn’t matter; the destination was South Korea and a rematch with Canada. The destination was this game.

For a while on Thursday it looked bleak. The U.S. offensive attack was anemic, going 1-for-5 on the power play and unable to muster many rebounds off of easily saved shots. Canada went into the third with the lead, just like the U.S. had the lead four years prior.

And just like four years prior, the game would turn.

With less than seven minutes to go, Kelly Pannek whistled a pass right to the tape of Lamoureux-Morando, who broke in alone on the Canada goal. She had gone to her backhand a lot in this tournament, and it hadn’t worked out. “I definitely wanted to shoot it today,” she said.

She fired it over the glove of Canada goalie Shannon Szabados and suddenly it was tied. The players went into a 15-minute intermission after the end of the third and the faith in the locker room was palpable.

“Never a doubt for a minute,” said coach Robb Stauber. “I saw the looks on the faces of the players. They were dialed in.”

Back and forth it went in overtime, four-on-four on the big Olympic surface. Then it went to a shootout and it was tied after five rounds. Lamoureux-Davidson picked up the puck at center ice at the top of Round 6 and she knew exactly what she wanted to do. The move was called “Oops, I did it again” and she had practiced it for four years.

It showed.

“You saw Joc, how much patience did she have?” Marvin said, “And peace. We felt it all year long.”

There was still one more major moment. Maddie Rooney, the goalie who was born only months prior to the last U.S. women’s hockey gold, had to stop Canada’s Meghan Agosta on a final attempt. The bench looked over at the 20-year-old, and they saw a slight smile behind her mask. She knew, too.

Rooney made the save and there was bedlam. The Americans leapt over the boards and sticks and gloves flew everywhere. The mob of glee was so wild that forward Dani Cameranesi caught a teammate’s skate and it sliced her finger open. She grinned later as she talked about it, holding up her bandaged hand like it was another medal.

The scars only add to the story.

“We knew this was the team to do it,” Cameranesi said. “No one has done it in 20 years and we knew, inside that locker room, we had everything we needed.”

They knew the outcome of the game as they knew the outcome of the contract dispute as they knew the bond of the team.

“Our opponent is never the team we’re facing; it’s always the doubt,” Marvin said. “The biggest thing is the doubt and the fear. We were able to push everything away. Up 1-0, then give up two goals, tie it, then we’re in the shootout. How many times do you have there to mentally cave? We didn’t. Crushed the fear, crushed the doubt, trusted what was to come.”

What’s to come now? A new generation, inspired by what they are waking up to see on Thursday morning back in the United States. Some will just see the highlight of the golden goal. Others will look into the story of the team, how it came together and how it risked coming apart.

“What this group has been able to accomplish is way beyond sport,” said Marvin, “and that is something that is never going to fade. That’s something we’re so proud of. My little niece is going to wake up, and it’s going to affect her, way more than me, from what we did last March.”

There will be another gold medal match in four years, probably with these two teams. There will be many more chapters to this, one of the greatest sports rivalries there is. But there will never be another team like this one. Because of what these players did there will be “before 2018,” and there will be “after 2018.”

And because of these players, the after will always be better than the before.

More Olympic coverage from Yahoo Sports:
USA women’s hockey wins gold medal with shootout win over Canada
Rooney’s overtime save against Canada was downright legendary
Canadian player removes silver medal from neck right after receiving it
IOC strips Russian curler of bronze medal for doping violation
Vonn’s likely last Olympic race ends with a DNF