'Biggest Stage in Sports'
Denver's Terry Prepares for Winter Olympics
DENVER In two weeks, Denver junior forward and last year's World Juniors hero Troy Terry will fly over 6,000 miles across the International Date Line to Pyeongchang, South Korea, to put on the Team USA jersey again — this time, as a U.S. Olympian.
Terry, a 2015 draft selection of the Anaheim Ducks and a native of the Mile High City, returns to the international spotlight for the first time since his memorable performance at the World Junior Championships a year ago in Montreal, when the then-19 year old proved the catalyst for a United States gold medal win, scoring 'five-hole' on all four of his dramatic shootout attempts in the semifinal and final rounds.
Four months later, Terry won the national championship with the Pioneers, and now, sets his eyes on gold again.
"Any time I've been able to represent my country, it's an amazing experience, every time being able to throw on that jersey," Terry said. "It's something that I take a lot of pride in. You grow up watching the Olympics — and myself, Olympic hockey — and it really is the biggest stage in sports. To know that I'm going there to represent the United States of America is a really cool feeling."
Terry grew up not far from the Pioneers' Magness Arena, and during the NHL's lockout year in 2005, Colorado Avalanche star Joe Sakic — now Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Avalanche — was in Denver more than most years. Terry played with Sakic's son and eventually chose to wear Sakic's jersey number, No. 19.
Three years earlier, Sakic led Team Canada to the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, earning MVP honors for the tournament. This year, of course, there are no current NHL players on the roster — a controversial decision that is in part related to a complex dispute between the league and the International Olympic Committee regarding costs.
That leaves a U.S. team comprised primarily of professional American players currently playing in leagues outside of the NHL, particularly in Europe. Longtime NHLer Brian Gionta, at age 39, will captain Team USA — which also includes four current NCAA players: Terry, St. Cloud State's Will Borgen, Harvard's Ryan Donato, and Boston University's Jordan Greenway.
The last time college players were this involved with the national team at the Olympics was in 1994. And, of course, a team full of college players created the ultimate feel-good story in 1980.
"It's crazy," said Terry, referring to the 'Miracle on Ice' and gold-medal winning Team USA in 1980 in Lake Placid. "As a hockey player growing up in America, you live on the movie 'Miracle.' It's such an amazing story. I know some people might be upset that the NHL players aren't going, or what not, but I think it creates a really cool dynamic. Just look at our team — I'm only 20, and then you have guys who have played 14, 15 years in the NHL. The dynamic of the team is really interesting."
Once arriving in South Korea, Team USA — like all the teams participating — will have limited time to gel before the games start to matter. That's likely to be the biggest challenge for the team, once the jetlag wears off.
"We've already started," said Terry, whose parents will also travel to Pyeongchang for the Games. "There's already some video going around that we're studying up on a little bit before we get there, just so that we're not starting over when we get there, so that we have some knowledge going in. There's not much time, but I think as hockey players, with the way they've selected the team, they've got smart hockey players — that's what they said to me, they want smart hockey players, and I know we'll be able to pick upon the systems quickly.
"The biggest thing is finding team chemistry and roles for everyone. Sometimes that takes time, but we have a short period to do it. So we'll have to figure that out quickly."
While overseas, Terry will miss four games for Denver, critical NCHC league games against Colorado College and St. Cloud State. It's part of an important stretch run for the defending NCAA champions, who — fresh off a dominant sweep of Nebraska-Omaha — are just now starting to look like the consensus preseason No. 1 that many expected.
Indeed, on Tuesday, after practicing at Magness Arena, Terry insisted that his primary focus at the moment is on his schoolwork and the upcoming weekend series at North Dakota. And although the time will soon come when he'll shift focus to the Olympics, the reality is that he's been preparing for this moment for a long time. And, he says, he'll take with him the lessons learned not only from his prior international experience, but from his current head coach, Jim Montgomery, now in his fifth season with the Pioneers.
"I'm in my junior year, and every day in practice, I learn something," said Terry, whose 29 points are third-most on the Pioneers this season. "He's such a great hockey mind. Such a great detail-oriented coach. I couldn't be luckier. He teaches us stuff every day."
For now, balancing day-to-day schoolwork, Denver's season as reigning champions, and the upcoming Olympics isn't expected to be an easy experience for anyone, let alone a 20 year old college junior.
And whether he's part of another gold medal winning team at the international level remains, of course, to be seen.
At the very least, for Terry and his first Olympic Games, it's a golden opportunity.