As one of the veteran leaders on U.S. Olympic Women’s Team, Gigi Marvin knows how important it was for Team USA to finally get two wins against rival Canada going into the Christmas break.
After losing to Canada three straight times at the start of its Bring on the World Tour ahead of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, this February, Team USA finally defeated Canada in consecutive games. After losing by a total goal count of 13-7 in the first three games, Team USA beat Canada 5-1 on Dec. 12 in Calgary and 4-1 on Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D.
“Our team has done a great job implementing the different systems and kind of goals our coaching staff provided,” said Marvin, a 26-year-old defenseman who won silver at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. “So it was great to put everything to work. Everything we’ve done in practice the last couple weeks that we’ve built up was put on display and we had a great team effort.”
One issue Team USA has had against Canada this year has been putting together 60 minutes of good play. Marvin said the U.S. players are getting closer to their goal of playing a complete game.
“We put together a solid 60, but the first period was not our best, that’s for sure,” she said of the game in Calgary. “The final 40 minutes we definitely stepped it up a bit more. We still have the opportunity to put a full 60 minutes together against them.”
Marvin has scored seven points in seven games in the Bring on the World Tour, including assists in the last two wins against Canada. She got things going in Calgary by skating out from behind the net and passing the puck to Alex Carpenter for a goal at the 11:59 mark of the opening period that put Team USA up 1-0.
“We were on a five on three and the players did a great job moving the puck around,” Marvin said of the assist. “Carp snuck in back door on the high slot. It’s easy to put it on her stick. That girl is a sniper. She can get it from anywhere. It was a nice tick-tack-toe play. Carp is a sniper. Carp has a nice shot and she roofed it.”
Then, at the 8:37 mark in the second period in Grand Forks, Marvin fed a cross-ice pass to Brianna Decker for a goal that put Team USA up 2-1.
Coming up big in the last two games against Canada is indicative of Marvin’s leadership style. Even though she has played in six International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships and seven Four Nations Cups, Marvin noted that around half of the 23 women competing for the 21 spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic squad have previous Olympic experience. With that experience, she said she can lead simply by focusing doing her job.
“For me personally it’s simply you do it, and I think it’s simple as everyone always says, ‘You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?’” she said. “A lot of people speak, but what speaks volumes is actions. Simply going out and doing what’s called on you to do.
“I don’t think it’s more on my shoulders than anyone else’s shoulders.”
Marvin said the entire team knows how to talk the talk as well.
“It’s something we enjoy doing,” she said. “We love to share what experiences we’ve learned and how we manage different things, manage certain situations and what to expect. You don’t even think about it truly because it’s some within you and it just happens.”
Marvin said it was also a shot in the arm for the team to get good results in the past two games against Canada.
The games in Calgary and Grand Forks were not only Team USA’s first wins against Canada in its pre-Olympic tour, they were also the first games in the tour that were broadcast by the NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports Network. The final two games of the tour against Canada on Dec. 28 in St. Paul and Dec. 30 in Toronto will also be broadcast by NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports.
“It’s awesome that NBC is broadcasting it; we couldn’t be more happy,” Marvin said. “I remember in 1998, the first time women’s hockey was in the Olympics and they were on TV winning the gold in Nagano. That was huge, and the fact that it was televised brought so much attention.
“It’s the entire country supporting us and encouraging us. I love the fact that NBC is broadcasting it. We love the support and encouragement. We love all the prayers people are sending our way.”
The St. Paul game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Marvin, who hails from Warroad, Minn. and played for the University of Minnesota, where she was twice a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2008 and 2009.
The game is also Team USA’s first game coming out of the Christmas holiday, so Marvin won’t have much traveling to do. And even though Team USA is preparing to play Canada for the seventh and eighth time in just a three-month span, Marvin said it doesn’t take much to get motivated to play the northern rivals.
“I was just talking to one of my friends who said, ‘Wow it has to be difficult to get up for them to play them so often,’” Marvin said. “I said, ‘No it’s exactly like college when we played Wisconsin and North Dakota four times.’ We see the same teams over and over, but it’s not a burden. It’s awesome because it’s great competition. It’s enjoyable; we love to compete against them, and it’s definitely something none of us take lightly. We embrace every opportunity.”
Marvin also said having to get up to play Canada so many times makes it easier to not get ahead of herself by looking ahead to the Olympics.
“You focus on the day, focus on task at hand,” she said. “Many times you get in situations where you focus on the Olympics, yeah that’s great, but that’s not today. It’s not Feb. 7 or 20, it’s Dec. 16 today and you focus on doing the job today. You can’t worry about tomorrow.
“Do the job today and embrace it and find joy in that. … You put work in now and act as if this is the gold-medal game every day and live it.”
If you’ve ever called USA Hockey with officiating registration questions, you’ve likely heard the voice of Helen Fenlon. As the manager of officiating administration, Fenlon is the brains behind registration operations. She started working with USA Hockey in 1991 and joined the officiating department in 1993.
Fenlon took a break from readying eager officials for the upcoming season to tell us more about herself and the registration process.
USA Hockey: How did you first get involved with USA Hockey? Did you lace up the skates or make the call on the ice a time or two?
Helen Fenlon: (Laughs) No, I wasn’t a ref or player. I was a mom and I had a child that played. I volunteered at the local association for a number of years and volunteered at USA Hockey. Before I knew it I was employed by them and have been doing this job ever since. It’s nice because I’ve seen the volunteer side and know how the local and state boards work because I did all of that when my kids were growing up.
USA Hockey: What’s a typical day like for you?
Helen Fenlon: I work on the officiating registration. When everyone registers (to be an official) they are mailed out books to do the test and emailed information about doing the test online and ways to sign up for seminars online as well. Then I score the test when they come in for the closed-book test and basically answer all the questions that pertain to the ice hockey refs. I manage approximately 24,000 registrations when from August 1 through March. Once the registration period is over, we start getting ready for next year.
USA Hockey: How has the registration process changed in your 21-year tenure?
Helen Fenlon: When we first started, we used to mail them out the application, have them mail it back with a check and then we would process it. Once that was done, we would mail them a test and they would mail us back their answer sheet when they were done. It was all done by hand back then. Now, for registration, they just go online and pay with a credit card and the test is also done online. It’s much easier for everyone involved.
In the past, we also would just do an open-book test, but it’s evolved into different levels of doing an open-book and closed-book test, and some do a skating exam, too. Also going into place this year, everyone will do an online seminar.
USA Hockey: Officials must be happy to have the process accelerated thanks to online capabilities.
Helen Fenlon: It’s great for people to access the test faster and be able to turn materials around faster so they can start working. To some of these people, it’s a job. Others do it because they want to help kids. People do it for all kinds of different reasons. For me, it’s impressive to see people who stick with (officiating) for so long.
USA Hockey: How have the resources available to officials changed through the years?
Helen Fenlon: Right now, with the new rules and programs in place, the amount of resources available for officials education is improving, but we’re always looking for more ways to help our officials be successful.
USA Hockey: What’s one thing you want to remind everyone about?
Helen Fenlon: It’s always been my goal for everybody across the country, whether you’re in Colorado Springs, New York, California or anywhere in between, to follow the same rules as far as being able to become an official and complete the registration. That’s the fair way, and it’s the best way to ensure the best quality of officiating throughout the country.