On February 21st the United States men's Olympic hockey team lost to the Czech Republic in a shootout eliminating the US from the Winter Games and any chance at a medal. The failure to win a medal has lots of folks disappointed, frustrated and angry. Many are labeling the US effort as unacceptable. As ESPN's "Game Day's" Lee Corso would say "not so fast"
You don't necessarily have to have a gold, silver or bronze disc hanging from your neck to be a winner. It’s not an easy accomplishment. Just ask any female or male athlete that has ever competed in The Games. This year NHL players did not participate - but the inclusion of the best Americans from the NHL has never won the US Hockey Team a gold medal.
Men's Olympic Hockey began with the 1920 Games in Antwerp and in the ensuing 98 years the US Men's team has won the Gold only twice - once in Squaw Valley in 1960 and "The Miracle On Ice" in Lake Placid in 1980. Both of those teams were comprised of amateurs and those who had or were still playing college hockey.
This year's US team only had four collegians, four others came from the AHL, the remaining 17 players on the US squad were from the European Pro Leagues. Winning is nice but it is not everything about the Olympic experience. Being selected for the team matters.
Representing your country matters. Marching in the opening ceremonies matters. Living in the Olympic village with athletes from countries you only saw in a coloring book or geography class as a kid matters. Discovering that you have a lot more in common with someone who speaks a different language and lives in a country half a world away matters. Competing and bringing out the best in yourself AND your opponent matters. Making a lifelong friend with that opponent matters.
Yes, you train and play to win, but sometimes giving your best at that moment of truth is satisfaction enough. I'm told that winning a medal is an incomparable feeling. But so is the moniker - I WAS A MEMBER OF THE UNTIED STATES OLYMPIC TEAM. Going for The Gold doesn't mean you are a failure if you don't bring home The Gold.