February 17th, 1998
At some point in their lives, each of the players at the Big Hat stadium had been told they could not play ice hockey. Each of them forced to scrape places in boys’ teams because there was nowhere else to join in.
Yet here they were now, contesting the final of the women’s ice hockey tournament at the Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998.
Canada entered the six-nation competition in Japan as favourites, having won every previous women’s World Championships.
But USA were in great form and had beaten their biggest rivals 7-4 in the group stage. They started the final better too, going into a 2-0 lead with goals from Gretchen Ulion and Shelley Looney.
The Canadians pulled one back with a strike from Danielle Goyette in the third period, setting up a thrilling finale. They withdrew their goaltender as they went in hunt of the equaliser, but this left them vulnerable, and when Sandra Whyte sped down the left she was able to shoot into an empty net.
The buzzer soon sounded, prompting the entire US squad to bundle on top of one another in the centre of the ice.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) May 26, 2017
They were worthy winners, having gone unbeaten throughout the tournament and outscoring their opponents 36-8. The two teams may have been great rivals, but afterwards they realised this had been about so much more than a game of ice hockey.
Canadian coach Shannon Miller perhaps summed it up best of all.
“It was a real empty feeling to lose,” she said. “But when they showed Cammi Granato’s face on the big screen and the medal around her neck, my feelings changed completely.
“I realised a gold medal was being hung around the neck of a female hockey player and I couldn’t believe the effect it had on me.”