BOSTON (AP) When executive director Dave Ogrean thinks back on his tenure at USA Hockey, the American victory in the inaugural women’s Olympic tournament is among the highlights.
”At that time, we had a chance to do something brand new, and had a clean sheet of paper in front of us,” he told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. ”To build that program and have a clear idea what the measuring stick would be. And to do it. I have never felt the adrenaline and the blood rush out of my body like I did when the buzzer went off at the end of that game.”
Despite starting largely from scratch, American hockey officials made it their goal to win the gold medal at the Nagano Games in 1998. That would mean knocking off favored Canada, which had beaten the United States in the first three world championships by a combined score of 19-5.
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”To watch that go from start to finish and to get the result we all had in our minds eye four years earlier is probably as satisfying as anything I have done here,” Ogrean said.
Ogrean, who has announced he will step down this summer, spoke to reporters as part of the 10th annual Hockey Week Across America. The event, which has been expanded from a weekend to an entire week, is designed to promote the sport and all of its aspects, with days devoted to coaches, players, officials and local rinks.
”I get to play the sport all the time, so I’m always excited about playing hockey,” two-time Olympian Hilary Knight said on the call. ”It’s just a great way to celebrate the sport.”
Later Wednesday, Knight did her part by hosting an outdoor event on a rink in Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Four-women, goalie-less teams played abbreviated games on a shrunken rink while a few dozen fans – many of them female youth hockey players – watched.
”We’re trying to find ways to transcend the sport and bring it back to its roots outdoors,” Knight told the players before the mini-tournament began.
In a state of the game talk, Ogrean said the sport was ”in very good shape, though that does not mean we are ever satisfied.” On the women’s side, he said he would like to see the two struggling professional leagues in North America sort things out and become one, healthy league. He also expressed the hope that more women’s players would go into coaching when their careers are over, taking on more of the jobs that are still going to men.
The call also fell on the 37th anniversary of the U.S. victory over Russia in the 1980 Olympics.
”We never get tired of celebrating the Miracle on Ice,” USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said.