Throwback Thursday: When New England’s Women Helped Win Hockey Gold

The 2014 women’s hockey team, made up of many local players, will try to do what they haven’t done since 1998.

US-Canada hockey

Associated Press

As Olympic sports go, women’s ice hockey should have special resonance here in Boston. The U.S. will face off against Canada for Gold tonight, and if Team USA’s players weren’t born in the region, then they at least likely play here. (Twelve of the 21 women on the roster this year played for either the Boston Blades, Harvard, Northeastern, or B.C.)

The 2014 team has the chance to do what they’ve done just one time before: take the gold medal. That first win came in 1998 at Nagano, when the U.S. beat defending world champion Canada. Then, too, the roster was filled with locals from Massachusetts and New England. Not only was it U.S. hockey’s first win since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, it was the first Olympics to feature women’s hockey at all. The teammates became household names in the way U.S. gold medalists do. As women in a newly featured sport with a suddenly huge audience, that gave the victory special meaning. Sports Illustrated columnist Leigh Montville wrote at the time, “This was a victory over preconceptions, misconceptions, over tunnel vision, tradition … over whatever causes you want to name that have kept women in the athletic back seat for virtually all of time. Hockey! This was a final statement of how things have changed.”

Sixteen years later, and women’s ice hockey isn’t a novel idea to Olympic viewers. American victory, though, is elusive. We lost to Canada in the finals in 2002 and 2010, and we took bronze in 2006. Starting tonight, Boston women and their teammates have a chance to right that.