At the U.S. women's hockey team press conference, the overwhelming sentiment was that they are trying to focus on the present. They aren't worrying about a potential gold-medal match up with Canada; they aren't thinking about retirement; aren't concerned about losing six-straight exhibition games to Canada in fall 2009.
Angela Ruggiero had been saying that this would be her final Olympics; that she wanted to quit while she was still playing her best, instead of having her career wind down. Cammi Granato, who was the women's team captain in 1998 and 2002, tried to go for one more in 2006 and was cut from the team right before the Olympics. Ruggiero certainly doesn't want that to happen. But now, playing in her fourth Olympics, she is showing no signs of slowing down on the ice, and says she's going to take it "year by year." She also said she doesn't want to turn it into a Brett Favre scenario, where she is constantly changing her mind. We can all appreciate that.
The outcome of the Olympic tournament certainly might affect her decision. At her first Olympics, in 1998, the U.S. team won the first-ever women's hockey gold medal. In 2002, they lost to Canada in the final; in 2006 they didn't make the final, falling to Sweden in the semifinals. They went on to win the bronze-medal game over Finland.
The U.S. women have won the last two world championships. But Canada has won the past six exhibition games. Everyone on the team, as well as head coach Mark Johnson, has downplayed the significance of those losses. Four of the six came before the roster was finalized. Ruggiero said that with 15 new players, it was a tense when the cuts were looming. After the final roster was named in mid-December, they played Canada twice, and still lost both. But Ruggiero said they outplayed Canada in both games, and Johnson was happy with how they had played."We want to peak in February, not September or November," said captain Natalie Darwitz.
So the women are focused on their opening game against China on Sunday, Feb. 14. China's team is improving but still nowhere near ready to compete with Canada and the United States. It should be an easy win. But as they learned in Torino, nothing is guaranteed at the Olympics.
-Pamela Barone. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NBCOHockey
Swimming star and 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps visits the Olympic Winter Games.
They aren't worrying about a potential gold-medal match up with Canada; they aren't thinking about retirement; aren't concerned about losing six-straight exhibition games to Canada in fall 2009.