What Comes Around, Goes Around

International Victories, Like The 1996 World Cup Of Hockey, Inspire The Next Generation Of U.S. Stars

Tony Amonte was 9 years old when he was bitten by the hockey bug. He can vividly recall watching the “Miracle on Ice” in his parents’ house in Hingham, Mass., and then recreating the events in Lake Placid, N.Y., with his brother in their basement.

“It’s pretty much etched in my memory,” Amonte said. “We were all trying to be [Mike] Eruzione, being from Boston and all. We probably should’ve tried to be Mark Johnson.”

Like so many other American hockey players, Amonte’s experiences on that February day in 1980 would serve as the inspiration that would lead to long and distinguished careers.

It’s been 20 years since Amonte carved his name into the annals of USA Hockey by scoring the winning goal at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey that lifted the U.S. to the top of the hockey world and into the conversation among the game’s international powers.

“It was the pinnacle of my career,” said Amonte, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. “It was really an unbelievable experience. I watched the Canada Cup a few years before and I dreamt about playing in it, so it was great to be on a team with all those guys.”

“Those guys,” as Amonte puts it, would be hailed as “the greatest generation” of American hockey players. The nucleus of this team – Amonte, Keith Tkachuk, Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Doug Weight, Brian Leetch, Bill Guerin, Chris Chelios and Mike Richter – would go on to represent the U.S. in future competitions, including the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where they won a silver medal.

“I take pride in what we accomplished with that group, and [that] we helped some of the younger stars who are in the game today,” said Tkachuk during his induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

“The reason you see these younger players in the league now is because of the ’96 Team. Like the 1980 Olympics were for me. It’s a whole different ballgame now with USA Hockey.”

Now the torch has been passed to the next generation of stars who will see what they can do against the world’s best at this year’s World Cup of Hockey starting on Sept. 17 in Toronto.

“That generation of players did a lot for USA Hockey and for young American players growing up. They were successful on the ice and good role models for us guys looking to hopefully represent the U.S. one day,” said Zach Parise, who captained the U.S. squad at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

“A lot of credit has to go to those guys. We grew up watching them and now we’re in that same situation.”

When Dean Lombardi thinks about that 1996 squad and he still marvels at the lethal combination of skill and grit on display with a roster that included six Hall of Famers, 23 Stanley Cups, 87 All-Star Games, numerous postseason awards and too many individual milestones
to mention.

That’s why the general manager of this year’s squad, along with his management group, looked to take a page out of Lou Lamoriello’s 1996 playbook and craft a team that has both the same skill and mindset to succeed on the international stage.

Members of the U.S. team that stunned Canada to win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey secured their place among the game's elite and inspired the next generation of American players.Members of the U.S. team that stunned Canada to win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey secured their place among the game's elite and inspired the next generation of American players.

“That group of athletes compiled a startling collective resume,” Lombardi said. “But despite the record of individual accomplishments, like their forefathers in 1980, they buried their egos, they accepted their roles and they pursued a higher cause.”

This current crop of American stars has already accomplished a great deal but they know that a respectable showing in an international competition is no longer good enough. A victory at the World Cup would catapult them into the rarified company of their predecessors.

“We want to have a better result for some pride,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, one of 12 returning players from the 2014 Olympic squad. “We had a lot of confidence rolling in Sochi and all of a sudden you lose, you can’t finish the job, and you can’t take home any hardware. We need to have more pride than that and show ourselves and show our country what we’re all about.”

Issue: 
2016-08

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