The build-up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea has begun for the U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey Team.
A group of 23 players and the core of the national team staff officially gathered last Thursday at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida — part of the Tampa Bay metro area — to begin training for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games.
“Basically, it’s an opportunity to bring all of our players and staff on our national team together to begin training and preparation for the Olympic Games,” said Reagan Carey, USA Hockey’s director of women’s hockey and general manager of the 2018 Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team.
Carey said this residency period is a bit different compared to the build-up to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games when USA Hockey took extra players and made final cuts later in December.
“We picked this 23 with the intent of this being the team we’re looking to take to the Olympics,” Carey said. “But at the same time, it’s a long time between now and December or January.”
Carey added that USA Hockey still won’t name its final team until late December or January, allowing the opportunity to make adjustments along the way. The plan, however, is to concentrate on the smaller group leading to the Games.
“We just thought it would be a better use of our time to really focus on the team and the ones on the roster, instead of focusing on the final cuts,” Carey said. “It will be a good opportunity for us to start from the beginning with who we anticipate to be on our final roster.”
The roster features 21 players who helped the 2017 U.S. Women’s National Team earn a gold medal last April at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan. The team also includes 12 members of the silver medal-winning 2014 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team.
“There’s veteran leadership along with a lot of new players,” Carey said. “The combination of learning and growing together with that group is going to be a special process for us and we’re excited about it.”
The group is also looking forward to an exciting fall schedule intended to prepare Team USA for the Olympic Winter Games.
In addition to daily training and preparation, the U.S. will meet Canada — its biggest rival — at least four more times ahead of the Olympics, including at the 2017 Four Nations Cup, a tournament featuring Team USA, Canada, Finland and Sweden, which will be held Nov. 5-12 in the greater Tampa area.
“We have a pretty detailed process, and it’s not anything you can rush,” Carey said. “We’ll have a decent amount of international competition leading to the Olympics and some checkpoints to measure progress.”
Carey said the team will be together in an effort to form a closer, tight-knit bond.
“In the past, everybody would be in different towns and areas around,” Carey said. “It wasn’t centralized from a living standpoint, but from a training standpoint, it was. This time, everybody — staff and players —for the most part are in the same area, community and neighborhood. The more time they can spend together off the ice as well as on the ice, we feel it’s certainly a positive and an advantage for us.”
The team grew markedly closer during its first week of residency when Hurricane Irma passed through Florida. Team officials planned to have players spend time in an evacuation center during the storm, where they passed the time by playing games and telling stories.
“It turned out to be a time to get to know one another better, to bond, to have some friendly competition, just not in the same way we normally would,” Carey told USA Today.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will take the spotlight soon enough during the upcoming Olympic Winter Games. For now, the team will train in preparation to shine on the big stage.
“Our team has a mantra, that they’re part of something bigger than themselves,” Carey said. “And for them to kind of have a new opportunity to explore together, and to create a new journey with the team from the start will be something that’s a little different for them.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.