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New U.S. Women’s National Team Docuseries ‘Defending Their Ice’ Opens With A Nod to the Past

By Dan Scifo, 03/07/24, 1:45PM EST


The first of six episodes, “Trailblazers,” pays tribute to the women who inspired today’s stars.

Team USA's Hilary Knight, in the navy blue jersey, looks back toward her teammates on the ice.

The 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, put women’s hockey on the map throughout the world, but especially in the United States.

The U.S. team picked to represent the red, white and blue defeated rival Canada twice in Nagano, including by a 3-1 margin to win the first-ever gold medal in women’s ice hockey at an Olympic Winter Games.

The new six-episode docuseries “Defending Their Ice: The Story Of The U.S. Women’s National Team” offers a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s team as it prepares for the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship. 

The first episode, titled “Trailblazers,” debuts at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PTSaturday (March 9) on NHL Network and discusses not only the 1998 U.S. Olympic Team’s historic victory but also how current stars, like Hilary Knight, Taylor Heise and others, are continuing to grow the game, all while preparing to defend their world championship gold medal on home soil.

“When I first started, I didn’t know women played hockey,” said Knight, 34, a four-time Olympian who captained the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2023 Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Ontario. “But then, 1998 was the birth of women’s hockey in the Olympics, and I was able to watch it on TV. When we won, I was jumping up and down on my friend’s couch. I didn’t understand the magnitude of the win, but I was so happy for our team and our country.”

Men’s hockey has been represented in every Olympics since 1920, predating the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924. But women didn’t have the opportunity to play hockey in the Olympics until 78 years later in Nagano.

The first step to becoming an Olympic sport was the creation of the Women’s World Championship in 1990. Former national team member Ellen Hughes explained the significance of that event, which was held every other year early on.

“That’s the pinnacle of the pinnacle,” Hughes said. “There was no Stanley Cup. The World Championship is where you judge yourself to be the best team. The stage doesn’t get any bigger.”

After defeating Canada 6-3, last season for their 10th all-time world title, theAmericans seek to defend their title on home soil during the upcoming Women’s World Championship, set for April 3-14 in Utica, New York.

It’s the first time the U.S. has hosted the Women’s World Championship since 2017, when the team won gold in Plymouth, Michigan.

“To be able to host the world, and have them come to us, and have our fans in the stands … that’s a huge advantage to us,” Knight said. “It’s a responsibility and an honor that we don’t take lightly.”

Knight won an Olympic gold medal in 2018 and also owns nine world titles, including the one from 2017. She holds the all-time record for career appearances, goals and points at the Women’s World Championships.

“When you think of women’s hockey, you’re going to think of Hilary Knight,” said Cammi Granato, captain of the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team. “She’s going to be the first person in the U.S. that’s going to come to mind.”

In 25 years since the U.S. won the Olympic gold medal in 1998, the number of women and girls in the sport tripled, and with the emergence of the PWHL, young girls can now see themselves playing hockey as a career. 

Knight, who wears No. 21 like Granato, attended one of Granato’s hockey camps following the 1998 gold medal. Knight used one of Granato’s sticks and wore her gloves at the camp, and now she finds herself doing the same as a role model for young girls across the country, including several current teammates.

“It’s funny, when people come in it takes them awhile, and then all of the sudden, a couple days later, they’re showing me the picture we took together years ago when they had braces,” Knight said. “It’s really cute to see the same thing that sparked their dream, and we share that together.”

Heise, 23, has played in the last two Women’s World Championships, earning a silver and gold medal, and was recently the No. 1 pick in the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League draft. She shared a similar full-circle moment, as she once sent her mother a photo of Knight’s locker and explained how she was sitting next to the U.S. captain at the time.

Heise has enjoyed her own opportunities to potentially meet the next generation of U.S. hockey stars.

“There are all of these opportunities for girls to look up to you and to meet you,” Heise said. “When I was young, there wasn’t always meet and greets and things where you can legitimately see someone. Any opportunity for little girls to get on the ice with someone they look up to is huge, and that’s definitely been something that USA Hockey does a great job of doing.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, USA Hockey will be celebrating the women across our game throughout the month of March. To learn more about Women’s History Month, visit


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