After the Hockey Place arena emptied, the Canadian women returned to the ice with cans and champagne bottle-sized Molsons, a few cigars and a desire to take turns posing in the Zamboni driver’s seat. It was, without question, one of the most unexpected yet completely understandable displays of exuberance we’ve ever seen.
Back in the media scrum near the locker rooms, the American women answered questions about failed power plays, the inability to solve goalie Shannon Szabados and how it felt to win silver while their rivals captured gold on home ice.
“I’m extremely proud. We played hard. We just couldn’t put the puck in the net,” said star defenseman Angela Ruggiero, early on in her comments.
But Ruggiero, one of the faces of U.S. women’s hockey for a decade, was overcome with emotion later when asked if she was proud of her team. That’s when the stakes for women’s hockey, in contrast with the NHL-laden men’s tournament, hit home. Said Ruggiero, in a choked-up voice and through tears:
“That’s what hurts the most. How close this team is. You could see it when the Canadian flag was being raised. We all grabbed each other, and it’s such a unique team to play on. I felt like this was the year we were going to win the gold medal.
“It’s really hard … you give your life to something, and come up short as a team. It’s just hard. That’s what’s amazing about the Olympics. I keep saying we did this as a team. We didn’t win together as a team, but I’m still proud of everyone.
“It’s different than playing on the men’s side. You really give your life to it, and make a lot of sacrifices. And you’re hoping to win that gold medal so … it’s going to be tough, you know, leaving these games. Luckily we have the Closing Ceremony to walk together one more time. I wish I could play many more hockey games with this team, that’s for sure.”
With that, she sniffled through another answer before finding her composure. Ruggiero, who was announced as a member of the IOC this week, said she wasn’t sure what the future held for her playing career. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I’m going to take a little time, get my feet wet,” he said. “This stings, obviously. I’m going to have to take some time.”