Another First for Gold Medal Team

1998 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team Becomes First Women’s Hockey Team Inducted to USOPC Hall of Fame

More than twenty years after they brought home gold, the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team continues to make history. 

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced today that the women’s team will be inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame alongside 12 other individual athletes in the Class of 2019. The addition of the 16th class brings the total to 154 inductees (individuals and teams).

The 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team is only the fourth inductee for ice hockey, being honored alongside the 1960 and 1980 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey teams and legendary coach Herb Brooks.

Additionally, the gold-medalists are only the fourth women’s team and the 11th team overall in the Hall of Fame. They are also the first team inductee since 2012.

Guided to victory by Head Coach Ben Smith, the team dominated international competition in the Olympics. Team USA twice defeated arch-rival Canada, including winning 3-1 in the final, en route to winning the first gold medal presented not only to U.S. women’s hockey but in women’s ice hockey at an Olympic Winter Games. 

“It was a great confluence of outstanding athletes coming together at a time when the [women’s] sport was looking for a foothold in hockey,” said Smith, who still works with USA Hockey in a scouting capacity. “Our players were deserving of every honor and, from my standpoint, it was great to be along for the ride with them.” 

Team USA closed out the tournament undefeated (6-0-0), outscoring its opponents 36-8. They boasted an impressive five players (Karyn Bye, Cammi Granato, Katie King, Gretchen Ulion, Laurie Baker) in the top ten scoring leaders for the entire tournament. Netminders Sarah Tueting and Sara DeCosta split time in goal, each allowing only 4 goals and winning three games. 

The 1998 women’s team was the first U.S. hockey team to bring home gold since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. But their impact extended far beyond those six games in Nagano, Japan.

12 players from the 1998 team went on to medal in at least one other Olympic games, including Jenny Schmidgall-Potter and Angela Ruggiero who medaled in four consecutive Olympics. Ruggiero, the youngest member of the 1998 team, is still the all-time leader in games players for Team USA, male or female, with 256 games. 

Despite all this, their greatest accomplishment is the growth of the women’s game. The 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team’s golden moment inspired thousands of American girls and women to play ice hockey, growing numbers from 28,000 in 1998 to 80,000 today and make women’s hockey one of the fastest growing sectors in the sport.

“It was a tremendous starting point for Women’s Olympics in the sport of ice hockey,” said Smith. “That team took advantage of the Olympic opportunity and, along with the Canadian team, helped to propel it to a completely different level. We see that today. They generated opportunities that are still unfolding in the sport.”

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