SOCHI, Russia - Everything off the ice, from time zone to jersey crest, has changed for the 2014 U.S. Women's Olympic Team, but head coach Katey Stone has delivered a message to her team in practice this week: Nothing has changed on the ice.
Looking to ride a wave of pre-Olympic exhibition game victories, Team USA's head coach kept her team's collective foot on the gas pedal in the second to last team practice before Saturday's opening game against Finland.
"The last three sessions have been really good," Stone said. "The kids are getting plenty of rest and are excited. They're ready to get this thing going."
The high-tempo practice has become the norm for the U.S. players and Lyndsey Fry said the team doesn't see any reason to change the plan now that they are in Sochi.
"It's what we've been doing for the last couple months," she said. "We're going to stay consistent with how we've been practicing. (Small area games) are great and it's what we're going to keep doing."
Stone utilized two cross-ice games in Thursday's practice, continuing a trend that she says she started in the fall as a way to spark her team.
"We went to condensing what we were doing," she said. "It's made a huge difference in our communication. You have to talk, you just have to. It's allowed our kids to use each other and rely on each other."
Russia President Vladimir Putin toured the Olympic facilities here this week and twice encountered U.S. women's players and staff.
Captain Meghan Duggan met Putin in the athlete village recreation center and said the quick meet and greet was memorable.
"He shook our hands and said ‘Nice to meet you,'" she said. "It kind of caught us off guard. It was one of those right place, right time kind of things."
Duggan said Putin asked athletes in the area in what sport they were competing and from what country the came.
"He walked in with his entourage and a bunch of media people. We got to shake his hand. It’s not every day that you get to meet the president of any country, so we were lucky to be there," she said.
USAHockey.com will produce a series of webisodes during the Olympics that will feature post-game analysis, Q&As and other video features from around Sochi.
The first episode is live and embedded below. Check back often for new episodes and tweet to the show with your feedback and questions using #USAHPostgame.
Harry Thompson is running a blog from Sochi and he kicked things off with an update on the travels from Colorado to Russia. Check back often for exclusive updates and coverage
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.