The U.S. Olympic Women’s Team found itself in a new role after its historic gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“Everyone was a rookie,” forward Kendall Coyne said. “No one was an Olympic gold medalist before. This was new to every single one of us. This is the first time as a team that we were all rookies, and we embraced the moment together for the first time.”
Coyne said it was one of the most unique parts to winning the gold medal. It was one the players had a chance to share with the rest of the country, as the team visited multiple U.S. markets upon its return home in celebration of the momentous gold-medal victory.
“It has just been a whirlwind,” said Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. “It’s been overwhelming, the amount of support everywhere we’ve gone and how gracious everyone has been toward us. It’s just proud Americans, excited that we brought home the gold. It has been special to share with all of these different cities and communities.”
Team USA claimed its first gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, where women’s hockey made its Olympic debut. The U.S. won its second gold in dramatic fashion, as Lamoureux-Davidson scored the game-winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout against Canada, one of many outstanding highlights.
Lamoureux-Davidson was happy to capitalize when called upon in the shootout.
“You picture and dream of what that would mean to win a gold medal and the immediate celebration with family and teammates,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “The feeling and emotions when it actually happens is beyond anything you can dream of. It’s a special moment that will stand alone as one of the most memorable times in my life.”
Then, the celebration came back home.
“There’s no better feeling than to be able to throw gloves and sticks in the air and celebrate with teammates, but when we came back, I don’t think we realized the impact we had and how much it meant to people back here,” forward Hannah Brandt said. “It was pretty cool to come back to the U.S. and amazing to be able to share our experience with people all over the country. We’re just trying to get out and meet as many people as possible. Our goal is to continue to grow the game, we have an opportunity to do that, and it’s something we don’t take lightly.”
The U.S. women made an appearance on “Ellen” and were also honored at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles when the Kings met the Vegas Golden Knights. The team also visited Tampa, Florida, Washington, D.C. and New York City for media opportunities.
“It was awesome to see the support and congratulations,” Coyne said. “To see the young girls who were excited to meet us, some of them looked at us and said they want to go to the Olympics just like us. Those are the ones that stick with you forever.”
Players lived and trained in Wesley Chapel, Florida, in preparation for the Olympic Winter Games since Sept. 6, and they returned to the Tampa area for local media opportunities and a welcome-home recognition from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“When you come home, you see all the excitement in America around our team and people were telling us it was their highlight of the Olympics,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “When it’s going on, you don’t think of it like that, but when you come back, and all the excitement … that’s a big bonus and has been a really special experience to share with our teammates.”
The team also attended the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors NBA basketball game, and, as part of Hockey Weekend Across America, players were celebrated at the NHL Stadium Series game between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Just to see the support, the people wanting our autographs and wanting to take pictures, the game can only grow from here,” Coyne said. “We all knew a gold medal could inspire a whole generation of young girls and kids to follow their dreams. A lot of us are in this position because we saw the ’98 team win. To be the next wave to win a gold medal and hopefully inspire a new generation to play is exciting. It’s a platform we earned, and a platform all 23 of us take very seriously.”
During the tour, players engaged in local youth and girls hockey activities, an area that hits close to home for Lamoureux-Davidson.
“We put women’s hockey on display on the world’s biggest stage and created a lot of buzz around our team,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “Hopefully, that creates a lot of young girls who want to play now, but we need to get out to local communities and be a tangible face for these girls, and I think a lot of us are really passionate about that. We’re just trying to be good role models.”
Players also made their way to New York City where they made an appearance at the U.S. women’s soccer game against France as part of the SheBelieves Cup in Harrison, New, Jersey, before appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and other fan interactions at the NHL Store in New York City.
Two highlights for Coyne, Lamoureux-Davidson and Brandt were meeting members of the U.S. women’s soccer team, in addition to Venus and Serena Williams in a competitive tennis event at Madison Square Garden.
“Just to see other elite athletes in their element was pretty special, but the reason why I was so excited was just knowing how big hockey can grow,” said Coyne, who visited Madison Square Garden for the first time. “It’s no secret how big women’s tennis is and how much the women’s soccer team has grown over the last 20 years. I think it’s a platform that shows what we can do and what we’re striving to become. It’s exciting for us.”
Players were also honored at both New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils home games where they met and interacted with additional fans and supporters.
“For people to hold my medal, we heard all the time, ‘I never thought I would be able to touch a gold medal,’ but everyone was in awe of how heavy and beautiful they are,” Brandt said. “It was cool to share it with as many people as possible. It has a couple scratches and dents from it being out, but I don’t care because I want to share it with as many people as possible. Being able to share our medal was the coolest thing.”
Lamoureux-Davidson was also willing to hand off her gold medal.
“People were always so gracious when we hand our medals over because I don’t think they expect that,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “We want to share our medals and share our experiences with other people because we didn’t get here by ourselves.”
The best part for Coyne is the excitement of knowing how many watched and were inspired by the gold-medal win. That inspires and motivates the U.S. Olympic Team to work hard, motivate and inspire others in their new role as Olympic gold medalists.
“I think the moment it hits you is when you win and you’re standing locked arm and arm with each other, hearing the national anthem with your flag raised above all other flags … that’s the moment you fight back tears,” Coyne said. “You think of all the hard work you put in that tournament, and you understand the magnitude of the win, but when we landed on U.S. soil, saw the reception, congratulations, thank yous and USA chants, we had never seen anything like that for our sport. It was amazing and even through every year, not just the Olympic year, I hope the excitement for women’s hockey continues.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Sun., Feb 11||Finland||Preliminary||W, 3-1||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Tues., Feb 13||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||W, 5-0||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 15||Canada||Preliminary||L, 1-2||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Mon., Feb. 19||Finland||Semifinals||W, 5-0||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 22||Canada||Gold-Medal Game||W, 3-2 (SO)||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN