Team USA won the first-ever Women’s Hockey Olympic Gold Medal in 1998. Led by captain Cammi Granato, they beat their bitter rivals, Team Canada, to make history and change the face of Women’s hockey, not only for the US but the world.
The rivalry was already established, and Canada had got the best of Team USA. However, this was the first time they’d face off on the most prominent international stage; for Olympic Gold.
Granato, Bye, Ruggiero & Mleczko Lead the Charge
Granato, a USA hockey legend, led the way in both victories over Canada in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. However, several other contributors made it all possible. The captain was tied for the team lead with eight points, along with Karyn Bye, Katie King, and Gretchen Ulion.
The US women were a perfect 6-0-0 in the tournament and outscored their opponents 36-8. The turning point of the event and women’s hockey was the final round-robin game against the Canadians. Both teams had already qualified for the gold medal game, and the contest technically meant nothing. However, the teams, who had already developed a rivalry in several tournaments over the years, would say otherwise. That game was just a few days before the final match, and the result was paramount.
AJ Mleczko, a forward from Nantucket, MA., said, “Every single game we played against Canada mattered deeply to us. We could play on a pond in the middle of nowhere, and it would be heated and competitive and fierce, and this was no exception.”
The score was tied 1-1 after two periods, setting the stage for an epic third. Team Canada raced out to a 4-1 lead in the first five minutes. Then, Team USA head coach Ben Smith called a timeout and, according to Mleczko, said, ‘You win this game, and you have a dollar — you got a bag of doughnuts.’ She said, “We all, of course, looked at each other — it’s such a typical Ben Smith-ism. So, it became sort of a rallying cry, right? Bag of doughnuts!” A rallying cry that worked wonders.
Laurie Baker scored 72 seconds after the timeout, and Granato scored a few minutes later. Then, Jenny Schmidgall tied the score about a minute and a half after Granato’s tally. Twenty-three seconds later, Tricia Dunn notched the go-ahead goal while Angela Ruggiero and the rest of Team USA’s defense tightened up and gave them a chance to complete the comeback. Lisa Brown-Miller and Baker added insurance goals for a 7-4 victory.
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