SOCHI, Russia – T.J. Oshie lived his high school years about a half-mile from an outdoor rink in tiny Warroad, Minn., pop. 1,781. Gigi Marvin lived four blocks from the same rink. Oshie, as everyone now knows, is starring for the Americans in these Winter Olympics. Marvin, as hockey fans know, is a standout forward for the women's team here.
Two U.S. hockey Olympians, one town, one "Frosty Festival" in which they were elected king and queen, and one legendary scuffle between them.
But we'll get to that.
For the rest of the world, Oshie's dazzling four-goal display against the Russians was a revelation. For Marvin, sitting in the stands on Saturday, it was a flashback.
[Photos: T.J. Oshie hangs out off the ice]
"Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was back at the Warroad arena or in Sochi," she said. "The kid is so talented. We've seen it growing up."
Warroad is six miles from the Canadian border, just south of Winnipeg, and somehow the town has sent seven of its residents to the Olympics since 1956 (with Oshie being the eighth). All of them have won medals, including Dave Christian with the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team, and Henry Boucha, Oshie's second cousin, who won a silver with the '72 team. (Marvin has a silver medal from the 2010 Games.)
Warroad calls itself "Hockeytown, USA," and it continues to earn that label on a daily basis in Sochi. The high school both Marvin and Oshie attended had 113 students.
"You sit together, eat lunch together, same homeroom," Marvin said Sunday. "For study hall, you go to the rink."
Yes, the rink, the magical launching pad to hockey fame, is the centerpiece of the town. It is constantly filled with everyone from elite players to tots. There is even skating on Christmas Day, with a bonfire nearby to cook holiday dinners. On New Year's Eve, kids skate through midnight, with fireworks going off in the northern sky.
"There's something so special about it," Marvin said. "Everyone gathers at the rink, every day, all the time. Only time we'd come out is to use the hand dryers."
Oshie moved to Warroad with his father from Washington in 2002, while Marvin's family is hockey royalty in the town with a lineage going back more than a century. Oshie fit right in, just like pretty much everyone in Warroad, except for that dustup at a camp when he and Marvin were in grade school. Legend has it that Marvin won.
"I remember a lot of them; I just don't remember that one," she said diplomatically. "We're just fierce competitors. We both want to win the puck and things just boiled over."
Things are clearly smoothed over now, even though Oshie went to North Dakota and Marvin went to hated rival Minnesota. T.J. and Gigi were king and queen for a day at the Frosty Festival in 2005, and they will undoubtedly be king and queen for a year when they're done with this tournament.
They should enjoy it. The way Warroad produces hockey stars, there will be a new king and queen in 2018.
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