We’re feeling the love for America this July 4 at THN. Editor in chief Jason Kay posted a top 10 ranking of the best American players of all-time and now we’ll recall some of the country’s top accomplishments.
Peak moments for USA Hockey are happening with greater frequency these days as the program expands and excels. But its accomplishments go back a long ways, with the defining moment happening in 1980. From 10, we countdown the best moments in American hockey history.
10. T.J. Oshie’s Sochi shootout
We kick it off with a very recent show put on by Oshie at the Olympics in February. Under international rules, any player can be used in the shootout after the first three go. So American coach Dan Bylsma kept picking Oshie, who converted four of his six attempts. In a preliminary game against the host Russians and in front of Vladimir Putin, Oshie’s star lifted the Americans to a win and made Russia’s road tougher.
Oshie received such a bump from that game that his jersey ranked 17th on the NHL sales list for the 2013-14 season.
9. Olympic silver medal, 2010
With the Canadians hosting the world in Vancouver, USA had a chance to depress its northern neighbor in the gold medal men’s hockey game. Before the event, the Americans weren’t a favorite – their roster was criticized for including such players as Chris Drury, Tim Gleason and Ryan Callahan. On skill, the Americans didn’t match up well against Canada.
And although USA lost that gold medal game, it was some of the best hockey ever witnessed. After Canada took a 2-0 lead in the second period, the US first got a goal from Ryan Kesler, but had to pull Ryan Miller late in the third period as they tried to tie it up. Zach Parise scored with only 25 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. It didn’t end the way the Americans would have liked, but this game won’t soon be forgotten by anyone.
8. First American taken first overall in the NHL draft, Brian Lawton
Out of Mount St. Charles Academy, the Minnesota North Stars picked New Jersey’s Brian Lawton first overall in the 1983 draft. Lawton scored 112 goals and 266 points in only 483 career games with Minnesota, New York Rangers, Hartford, Quebec, Boston and San Jose, but his draft also included Pat LaFontaine going third overall and Tom Barrasso going fifth overall. This was the start of things to come.
7. World Junior Championship gold, 2010
Canada dominated the World Junior Championship from 2005-2009, winning five straight gold medals. And the Canadians had all the arsenal capable of making it six in a row, with a roster that included Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Ellis and Alex Pietrangelo.
But although Eberle scored two memorable goals in the dying minutes of regulation to send the gold medal game to OT, it was the Americans who had the magic. John Carlson’s wicked wrister off the rush won the gold for America and Canada hasn’t won another since.
6. First World Junior Championship gold, 2004
A strong collection of junior talent is a signal of a strong hockey program and the Americans announced themselves at the 2004 WJC. Led by Zach Parise and Al Montoya, they got to their first junior gold medal game since 1997 and second all-time. The finish in this one wasn’t as exciting as 2010′s – it ended on a Marc-Andre Fleury blunder that still forms opinions about the goalie’s reliability. But Patrick O’Sullivan’s goal led to the first American triumph at the WJC – and the country has won two more since.
5. Cammi Granato inducted into the Hall of Fame
In 2010, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted its first two women. Canada’s Angelea James was one, and the USA’s Granato was the other. Granato had a decorated international career and was an inspiration to young girl’s hockey players in the US. She captained the Americans in the 1998 Olympics when they won gold and played in every women’s World Championship event for the US from the first one in 1990 until her last in 2005. In all, Granato scored 54 goals and 96 points in 54 international games.
4. First American inducted into Hall of Fame, Hobey Baker
The namesake of college hockey’s top individual award, Baker famously turned down an offer to play for the Montreal Canadiens. He is recognized as the USA’s first hockey star and played at Princeton. He was always an amateur, never played for the Stanley Cup and died young. Baker perished in 1918 at the age of 26 in a plane crash. Nonetheless, he was part of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class in 1945.
3. Women’s Olympic gold medal, 1998
Women’s hockey was introduced at the Olympics in the ’98 Nagano Games and though the Canadian-American rivalry was fierce, the Canadians were the gold medal favorite. The teams played twice in the tournament and it was the underdog Americans winning both. The gold medal game was a 3-1 final that was finished off by Sandra Whyte’s empty-netter and the Americans went 6-0-0, outscoring their opponents 36-8 in Nagano. The Canadians have won every women’s Olympic gold since, but this success by the Americans helped launch a program. The entire team was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
2. 1996 World Cup
If the 1980 miracle inspired a generation of American hockey players, the 1996 World Cup team inspired another. This group of all-stars wasn’t quite the underdogs the rag-tag collection of college kids was in 1980, but no one expected they’d come back from a one-game deficit to Canada. This tournament, formerly known as the Canada Cup, didn’t end with a single game, but a best-of-three series. Canada won Game 1, but the Americans won the next two in Montreal to claim the championship. Brett Hull and Mike Richter starred for the Americans, who stole a win from Canada on Canadian soil and set up the Red, White and Blue for success in the next decade.
1. Miracle on Ice
Everyone knows this story by now. A collection of college kids representing the Americans at the 1980 Olympics came up against the Soviet buzz saw that dominated Olympic events. Led by the inspirational coaching of Herb Brooks, the Americans overcame a 3-2 third period deficit to knock off their Cold War rivals. The winning goal was scored by Mike Eruzione, who never played an NHL game. Sometimes forgotten is that the Soviet game wasn’t the last one. The Americans still had to beat Finland to win the gold medal, which they did by overcoming a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2.
Here’s the Eruzione winner against the Soviet Union.