In front a crowd of young hockey fans and press assembled at AMALIE Arena in Tampa, Florida, the public was introduced to the US Women’s National Team who will represent the country at the upcoming 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea.
Forwards: Meghan Duggan, Kelly Pannek, Brianna Decker, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Hannah Brandt, Hilary Knight, Dani Cameranesi, Alex Carpenter, Kendall Coyne, Annie Pankowski, Amanda Kessel, and Amanda Pelkey.
Defense: Lee Stecklein, Megan Keller, Kali Flanagan, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Emily Pfalzer, Megan Bozek, Gigi Marvin, and Kacey Bellamy.
Goaltenders: Nicole Hensley, Alex Rigsby, and Maddie Rooney.
This is the first time in recent memory the women’s team announcement had it’s own ceremony separate from the men’s national team.
In 2014, the women’s team was ‘revealed’ during the Winter Classic prior to the announcement of the men’s team, even though the women had been together and training since September.
The ceremony, broadcasted on NHL Network and hosted by anchor Jamison Coyle, signified a new beginning for the US Women’s National Team. One they fought for in their near boycott of the Women’s World Championships in early April.
As part of the demands to receive a fair and equitable wage for their full-time work for USA Hockey, the Women’s National Team required the organization to make an effort and put more money into publicizing the team. Seeing the women get their own time in the spotlight at the unveiling ceremony at the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning is a good start into the changing mindset at USA Hockey.
Being in Tampa was not just because the arena was open at this time of year. (Sorry, Lightning fans.)
In preparation for the Olympic games, the team is ‘centralized’ in one location starting to begin training. Preparing for Sochi saw the team centralized in Boston. This September they’re trading in their winter coats and rain boots for flip-flops and shorts as they’ll train in Tampa at the fancy new Florida Hospital Center Ice complex, which boasts ‘the largest hockey complex in the Southeast United States.’
“I think anytime you’re trying to convince people that spend a lot of time in hockey rinks to come to Florida that’s not a hard sell, but certainly there was a lot more to it,” said USWNT general manager Reagan Carey. “We had a great relationship and great meetings with Florida Hospital Center Ice leadership team and the ownership there, as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jay Feaster … and a number of representatives from the city as well.”
“Having the Florida Hospital Center Ice facility is just terrific. It’s brand new. It has an Olympic sheet [of ice]. It’s got all the training off ice as well for us. It’s perfect for us our team.
“So having that setup is going to be a great advantage for us,” continued Carey, “but also having the support of Tampa. We’ve met so many great people that are willing to help us and make sure that our team has everything they need as they’re training and leading up to the Olympics. We’re excited about it.”
Best day ever? Best day ever.
Some of our local youth girl hockey players going head-to-head with the #USWNT ???? pic.twitter.com/M2IE5pDmMX
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 5, 2017
‘Excited’ or some variation of the word was heard a lot throughout the press conference and in subsequent interviews.
What wasn’t heard often, if at all, the words: ‘gold medal.’
Instead, the team, along with Carey and head coach Robb Stauber, talked about the ‘ultimate goal’ without saying that specifically what it was. Although anyone who has followed women’s hockey even the slightest bit knows the ‘ultimate goal’ is to defeat Team Canada enroute to a gold medal.
The past two Olympic games, the US Women’s Team has earned silver medals at the hands of the gold medalist Canadians.
The roster assembled for the Olympics contains most of the players who beat the Canadians twice at the 2017 Worlds. The US team was pretty dominant during the tournament, and as Carey saw it, is a result of growth and experience.
“[USA Hockey has] so many great players right now; our player pool is very deep,” said Carey. “That made it very hard [to pick a team] … We’ve got twelve returning Olympians, that gives us great leadership, and then a lot of new talent as well. Everybody on our roster been on a national team in the last few seasons. For us we know it’s the right fit and the right talent for our group.”
“I think at the end of the day when you’re looking at the last few players is ‘do they fit into the vision of the team?’,” added coach Stauber. “We feel strongly in our vision, and being very creative and using our imagination.
“At the end of the day, we have to make some tough selections at the end, and kind of project who is going to fit best in six to nine months from now. That’s never easy to do.”
Kelli Stack and Jessie Vetter (who was returning to action after having a baby) are two of the past Olympians who did not make this squad out of selection camp this past week.
It’s not every day you get to tend goal against @Hilary_Knight ???? #USWNT pic.twitter.com/wXDoaGUjJB
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 5, 2017
The roster was constructed primarily with speed in mind.
“We’re based on speed. We’re trying to be the fastest team in the world,” said Meghan Duggan who will be participating in her third Olympic games. “I think we’re really pushing the pace of the game which is exciting to be a part of; very creative team, super dynamic.
“Everyone can play. Everyone can contribute offensively and defensively, solid backing of our goaltenders. Just a great, great group that’s coming together at the right time.”
Per Carey, a few days will be spent in Tampa to get things organized before everyone goes on their way. The team will reconvene in Tampa in September. Once together, the team will train and take place in scrimmages and pre-Olympic friendlies (or not so friendlies) against Canada and other squads; details of which will be released in coming months.
The best part about all of this: not only are the women living their dream in representing their country, every single woman on that stage will be paid a fair, living wage for doing so.
It’s about time.