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This Date in History: Women’s Ice Hockey Wins the Gold

One of the most resounding ice hockey coach pep talks in history was delivered by Fred Shero to the 1974 Philadelphia Flyers — “Win together today and we walk together forever.”

With that phrase in mind, the United States Women’s Team won the first gold medal in women’s hockey by defeating Canada 3-1 in Nagano Japan during the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. Women’s World Championships had been held since 1987. Canada had won every title, with the United States second at each tournament.

Canada was favored as it had not lost a game at the World Championships and had lost only once, to the United States, in seven international tournaments. But they were closely matched, as leading up to the Olympics, the two teams played each other 13 times, Canada winning 7 and the United States 6 times. In the round-robin pools, the USA met the Canadians in the final game, after they had both qualified. Canada led 4-1, but the Americans scored six unanswered goals to win 7-4. After the game, American player (Sandra Whyte) taunted Canada’s leading scorer, Danielle Goyette.

When they met in the final game, a great deal of bad-blood remained between the two power-house squads.

Gretchen Ulion and Shelley Looney scored for Team USA before Canada’s Danielle Goyette made it 2-1 with 4:01 to play. Sandra Whyte, who assisted on Ulion’s goal, got an empty-netter with 8 seconds to play to seal the 3-1 victory. USA Goalie Sarah Tueting made 22 saves. It was one of two victories the Americans posted over their Canadian rivals in the tournament and they finished with a 6-0-0 record while outscoring opponents 36-8.

For those women, mostly college-hockey stars but unheralded among average sports fans, that was their time and they have walked together ever since.

The memories remain: Tueting leaping in her crease as the horn sounded. Karyn Bye and captain Cammie Granato in a long embrace. The whole team holding hands and waving American flags.

The gold-medal winners also included Sara DeCosta, Tara Mounsey, Angela Ruggiero, Colleen Coyne, Sue Merz, Vicki Movessian, Chris Bailey, Lisa Brown-Miller, Laurie Baker, Jenny Schmidgall, Alana Blahoski, Katie King and Tricia Dunn.

The legacy of that medal win can still be felt. It lead directly to a rise in interest in women’s soccer, basketball, and (of course) ice hockey. Today, women’s hockey is dominated by Canada and the United States and continues to thrive as some of the Scandinavian countries are starting to emerge with Sweden winning a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics. The entire team was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in December of 2009.

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