PARK CITY, Utah – With no National League Hockey players participating, the U.S. Men’s National Team is going to look a little different at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
But that just means a major opportunity for college players, minor leaguers and Europe-based pros to claim their place in USA Hockey lore. After all, the greatest moment in American hockey history was when collegians such as Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig pulled off the Miracle on Ice in 1980.
That opportunity wasn’t lost on Jordan Greenway and Troy Terry, two college players who hope to be there wearing Team USA sweaters in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February. Greenway and Terry appeared with men’s Olympic coach Tony Granato at the U.S. Olympic Committee Media Summit last week.
“Being able to build on the legacy left by the 1960 and 1980 teams that won gold medals, along with so many other great Olympic teams we’ve had, that is definitely exciting,” said Greenway, currently a winger for Boston University and two-year player with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. “I’m going to work hard and look to take full advantage of my chance to make the Olympic team.”
Terry is another college player with international experience, a junior with the Denver Pioneers and scorer of the gold medal-winning shootout goal against Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championships.
Terry also spoke about carrying on the legacy of America’s finest college players wearing the red, white and blue at the Winter Olympic Games.
“Last time we won it was 1980, back when it was [only amateur athletes] and I think, you know, growing up as an American, American hockey player, the movie ‘Miracle’ … it’s so big to you and it’s such a great movie as a young American hockey player.
“Just knowing that it’s back that way [with non-NHL players], I mean a year ago I wouldn’t have believed you that I would have a chance to play in these Olympics, and just to have it back that way and have a chance to represent your country at the biggest stage is pretty cool.”
While the U.S. Olympic Team won’t be all current college players as it largely was in 1980, a college presence will be felt. Also eligible will be players with American Hockey League contracts only, and professional players from Europe.
The team already has extensive ties to college hockey in its coaching staff, most notably with Granato entering his second season as head coach at Wisconsin. Among his assistants will be Keith Allain, head coach at Yale, and Scott Young, who was assistant head coach at BU before taking a job in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ front office in July.
And speaking of BU, with the Olympic schedule in February, that means any Terriers like Greenway may have to miss the fabled Beanpot tournament, an annual battle for supremacy between the Boston area’s four Division I hockey teams.
“Obviously a great tournament,” Greenway said of the Beanpot. “I don’t know exactly how it’s going to go. Obviously I have a big commitment to honor for Boston University ... But [the Winter Olympic Games are] a huge stage, a once in a lifetime thing, this is just an opportunity that I have to take if given the chance.”
While the Beanpot will be the big sacrifice for Greenway, he and players from other schools will also miss regular-season games, as the Olympic tournament comes to a close just as conference playoffs are due to begin. But like the players recognizing the importance of playing for their country, Granato said that coaches too will be on board.
“I think it’s a tremendous honor for their programs to have their schools represented on the Olympic stage so I don’t foresee [coaches being upset] … I think it’s going to work out for everybody.”
While it’s unclear if NHL players might one day return to the games, Granato believes that as long as the current model lasts, it could be a major boon for college hockey. After his senior season at Wisconsin, Granato chose to wait a year so that he could play at Winter Olympic Games Calgary 1988 rather than turn pro.
“You’re gonna see young players that will be really exciting to watch and that you’ll be watching for a long time in the NHL post-Olympics,” Granato said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.