GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - For an Olympic hockey team to be successful, they must act as a unit with no previous alliances clouding current relationships. Except possibly when a quarter of your roster hails from Minnesota
They know that you're all about hockey," says Gigi Marvin, a defensive player for Team USA. "Then you say you're from hockey town USA and it takes it up to the highest level."
"I guess there is a little bit of a sub group when I get to play with a Gopher," says Lee Stecklien, a defensive player for Team USA. "It's like 'yeah the Gophers are together'. But I love everyone on this team"
Though red, white and blue are Team USA's primary colors, maroon and gold might be the second most popular. Five members of team USA played for the University of Minnesota and four of the five won national championship beating many of the same players they now share a locker room with.
"Once you get put on the same team all that goes out the window," says Anne Schleper, a defensive player for Team USA. "Do we joke, and have some fun with it? Yes. But once we are together fighting for the same goal all of that goes out the window."
What comes in is an opportunity to learn from a group that has a history of winning
"You can never get too high and you can never get too low," says Megan Bozek, a defensive player on Team USA. "There is always going to be pressure on you and we feel that a lot."
Mainly because, like the Gophers, the US women's Olympic ice hockey team has enjoyed great success at the Olympic Games. Winning gold in the first year of competition for women's ice hockey in 1998 and racking up two silvers and a bronze since. Although most of the players on this roster have played for championships at some time and at other levels, being a member of Team USA is something all its own.
"I mean you get to represent your country," says Schelper. "I mean I went from playing for my city, to playing for my state to playing for my country? What an awesome opportunity that is"
Awesome. And intense. During their exhibition schedule Team USA twice ended games with Team Canada in bench clearing brawls. Proving that each have a lot vested in the games.
"We're all fighting for the same goal," says Bozek. "There is pressure on them. There is pressure on us. We want to win that gold medal back"
"It's so much fun to play them on the ice," says Stecklein. "It's like a rivalry game in college like North Dakota."
Only now, North Dakota, Wisconsin and other players are on their team. No matter how hard they fight on the ice and despite their different backgrounds, this group will always fight together for the gold.