Tonight in Montreal, Team USA defeated Team Canada, 5-2, in Game 3 to take the inaugural World Cup.
Over the history of the sport of ice hockey, very few international tournaments have ever been held that qualify as true world championships involving the very best each country had to offer. For the first time ever, Team USA can legitimately lay claim to being the best in the world.
Team USA finished with a record of 6-1-0, with two wins over Team Russia and three wins in four games against Team Canada (5-3-0). The last two wins came in Canada.
This tournament victory is the biggest win ever by a US hockey team. The 1980 Miracle on Ice led to 1996, no doubt about it. But this win surpasses 1980 because this win was no miracle, despite the last minute heroics tonight, and it came against the world’s best.
The record of 5-1-0 against Teams Russia and Canada is very convincing indeed, even though Canada put up a gallant fight and the teams were closely matched.
The relevance to college hockey comes in that Team USA was dominated by players who came through the US college system. About 17 of the Team USA players, including many of their key players, went through college hockey on their way to the pros. These players came from schools like Wisconsin, Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth, even Division II and III schools like Bemidji State and Hamilton.
This is something that those of us who have spent years following college hockey and Team USA in its various incarnations can rejoice in.
U.S. hockey has taken a long time to get to this point. For a long time, despite the many big wins by US teams and great performances by US players, US hockey always took a back seat to Canada. But tonight, for the first time ever, every player, coach, and administrator involved in developing American hockey players can celebrate a well-earned world championship win by US hockey.
It may not have been followed as closely by the average U.S. sports fan, but the large hockey community that exists in the US knows the ramifications of this win. And the college hockey community played an integral role in making it possible. Without college hockey, it might not have happened.
The history of U.S. hockey has a number of great milestones. 1960 Squaw Valley and 1980 Lake Placid rank among them. But on September 14, 1996, a new milestone was reached. And from this day forth, in the world of hockey, nothing will ever be the same again.
It is truly a great day for U.S. hockey.