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Favorite USA Hockey Stories From 2020

By USA Hockey, 12/23/20, 7:45AM MST


Passion, unity and leadership highlight a year filled with the unexpected

While 2020 has been filled with unique and unanticipated challenges, our sport has continued to put smiles on the faces in our community. Below is a list of some of our favorite storylines and highlights from the past year as we close the book on 2020. 

We hope you all have a holiday season filled with joy. Here's to good health, hockey and more smiles in 2021. 

USA Hockey Family Leads During Pandemic

In a year filled with unforeseen obstacles and challenges, the one thing that remained constant was the USA Hockey family to sticking together and supporting one another. 

In an effort to showcase the wonderful community we share, USA Hockey strung together videos submitted by members of the hockey family from all over the country, including players, parents, coaches and even U.S. national team stars, to show that our connection through hockey really does travel from coast to coast. 

USA Hockey and USA Hockey Magazine also highlighted stories about those in hockey impacting their communities during the pandemic. These features included: 

From the outset of the pandemic, USA Hockey has led efforts to provide risk mitigation guidelines and strategies to the hockey community. It is critically important that we remain united and committed in our efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re always about safety first,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Mike Stuart (chief medical and safety officer), Kevin Margarucci (manager of player safety), and many others, we’ve done our very best to establish appropriate recommendations to guide our hockey family and provide updated information as conditions change or new information becomes available.”

COVID-19 Resources & Information

Making Hockey More Welcoming To All

This year included continued work to be more intentional with efforts related to the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. One of the initiatives launched — and that will be on-going — was cultural competency training and education for USA Hockey staff and volunteer leaders to further efforts around creating a more welcoming environment throughout the sport. 

During the USA Hockey Annual Congress in June, RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) conducted an interactive workshop for volunteers from across the country. In addition, a special conversation for attendees around Race & Equity and the Way Forward took place and featured USA Hockey Executive Director, Pat Kelleher; players J.T. Brown (Iowa Wild), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets) and Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes); Anson Carter, former NHL player and current NBC Sports analyst; Kim Davis, executive vice president of the NHL; Stephanie Jackson, director of diversity and inclusion for USA Hockey; and Bill Proudman, CEO of White Men as Full Diversity Partners.

Storytelling continues to be a priority to showcase efforts happening in and around diversity, equity and inclusion and one of our favorites this year was USA Hockey Magazine's cover story featuring Blake Bolden. The story, titled "Emboldened", highlights how Bolden is helping create a new blueprint for women and diversity in hockey. 

Under-18 Women GOLDEN in Bratislava 

The 2020 U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team went 3-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) to claim gold in IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship. It marked the fifth gold medal in the last six years for the U.S. in the event and extended Team USA's unprecedented medal streak to 13 straight championships. Skylar Vetter (Lakeville, Minn.) made 31 saves and Kiara Zanon (Fairport, N.Y.) scored with 3:08 left to play in overtime to lift the U.S. to a thrilling victory in the gold medal game

Lacey Eden (Annapolis, Md.) led the team with five points (2G-3A) and goaltenders Amanda Thiele (Milford, Mich.) and Vetter combined for a tournament-best .965 save percentage and 0.76 goals against average. 

Silver-Medal Run At Youth Olympic Games

The U.S. Youth Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team went 3-0-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L), including wins over Finland, Switzerland and Canada, on the way to earning a silver medal at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic GamesIsaac Howard (Hudson, Wis.) led the U.S. in points (7) and goals (7) and 14 U.S. skaters recorded points in the tournament. Team USA has medaled in back-to-back Youth Olympic Games, including a gold medal at the 2016 tournament.

A Shift To Virtual

The education and training provided by USA Hockey took a virtual shift in March, including for coaches, officials and even players. This shift helped reunite the hockey community online. 

USA Hockey offered a YouTube webinar series for coaches to further their learning despite being confined to their homes. Guest presenters included Martin St. Louis, Jeff Blashill, Bill Beaney and many more guests who engaged with the audience on various topics.

In addition to the webinar series, USA Hockey shifted coaching clinics to a new virtual format, which brought together coaches from coast-to-coast. Learn more here.

USA Hockey also launched a weekly hour-long Officiating ZoomCast video series dedicated to continuing the education of officials, coaches, players and parents. Each ZoomCast featured different panelists to discuss a range of topics, including communication with teams, mentorship programs, positioning, and many more. 

In addition, USA Hockey hosted several workshop webinars for local youth association leaders. Topics ranged from communicating with membership, to marketing for growth and the resources that can help. 

In an effort to support adult hockey leagues across the country, USA Hockey launched the Adult League Director Virtual Town Hall Series. The town halls are designed to share experiences and solicit feedback on relevant topics that each association is experiencing in different parts of the country. Panelists range from single-sheet to multi-sheet facilities, from league directors to owners and from public to private rinks.  

Additionally, USA Hockey Virtual Happy Hours, powered by Labatt Blue, provided members a new and fun way to interact with USA Hockey legends and other adult league players from across the country. Guests included Keith Tkachuk, AJ Mlezko, Chris Chelios and Mike Richter. 

Rivalry Series Domination

The U.S. Women's National Team claimed the 2019-20 Rivalry Series trophy over Canada by winning four of the five games in the Series, including a 4-3 overtime victory in front of a record-breaking crowd in Anaheim Calif. on Feb. 8. Megan Bozek (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) scored the overtime winner in front of 13,320 fans, which set a record for the most-attended women's national hockey team game every played on U.S. soil. 

After winning the first two games of the series in December 2019, the U.S. dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Canada (Feb. 3) , but responded with a 3-1 win two nights later (Feb. 5) in Vancouver, British Columbia, before capping the series with their thrilling overtime win in Anaheim (Feb. 8).

USA Hockey's Annual Award Winners

During each USA Hockey Annual Congress a number of awards are bestowed upon deserving individuals who have positively impacted the organization and sport overall. 

The awards were highlighted by Hank Manz (Lexington, Mass.), who was presented with the Wm. Thayer Tutt Award as a volunteer who, during three decades of service, has displayed a selfless dedication to the enhancement of ice hockey at the grass roots level in America. 

Various other awards including international competition, disabled hockey, adult hockey, safety and more were also awarded in the celebration of the 2019-20 season. 

40th Anniversary of the Miracle On Ice

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Men's Hockey Team's miraculous run to the second hockey gold medal in the country's history, including the iconic win over the Soviet Union, we relived every game on the road to gold.

The game-by-game breakdown includes written recaps, quotes from coaches and players, historical box scores, images from each game and much more. 

American Prospects Shine Bright

The 2020 BioSteel All-American Game, which featured top American-born prospects eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft, was held Jan. 20 at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich. with retired NHL stars Mike Knuble and Scott Gomez serving as honorary coaches. Team Knuble topped Team Gomez, 6-1, and Player of the Game honors were awarded to Jake Sanderson (Whitefish, Mont.), who tallied two assists in the game. 

When the 2020 NHL Draft took place virtually in October, Sanderson was selected by the Ottawa Senators with the fifth overall pick, marking the third straight year an American had been taken in the first five picks of the draft. Brendan Brisson (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) also heard his name called in the first round when he was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights with the 29th overall pick. 

In the end, 52 Americans were selected and a record 21 different states were represented. A total of 27 players who skated in the BioSteel All-American Game were selected by NHL clubs.

Hockey Week Across America Celebration

The 13th annual Hockey Week Across America celebration, which took place Feb. 16-23, 2020,  proved to be a success on every level, highlighted by 10,450 children experiencing Try Hockey For Free Day at 328 rinks nationwide. 

NBC Sports began the week with its Hockey Day in America coverage that included nine-plus hours over hockey coverage. The following days included Salute To Players, Salute to Coaches, Salute to Officials and Salute to Local Rinks

The week wrapped up with Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey Day on Friday, Try Hockey events on Saturday and a celebration of local hockey heroes on Sunday. 

Celebrating Meghan Duggan's Career

Meghan Duggan (Danvers, Mass.), who was a mainstay of the U.S. Women’s National Team program for more than a decade and led the U.S. to unparalleled success on the international stage during a decorated career, announced her retirement on October 13, 2020. The three-time Olympian not only captained Team USA to gold at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, but her seven gold medals in world championship play represent the second most of any player in U.S. Women’s National Team history. She is among just 12 players to have been named to three or more U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Teams.

15th Annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships

No pond, no problem. For the second time in the 15-year history of the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships, Mother Nature threw organizers a curve with the temperatures forcing the event to relocate away from its typical picturesque setting on the shores of Dollar Lake to a more practical location across town - the famous World Championship Derby track. 

The change could not damper the enthusiasm of the players who came early, stayed late and had a great time playing Cornhole games, listening to a live band, swapping old pond hockey stories and making new ones as they enjoyed beverages provided by the tournament sponsor.

In total, 19 teams skated away with championship trophies. 

USA Hockey Magazine's Top-10 Stories of 2020

50 Things To Do In Hockey Before You Die
USA Hockey Magazine Offers The Ultimate Hockey Experience Checklist
January 2020

Weekend With Willie
As Hockey's Ultimate Ambassador Prepares To Move On, A New Generation Is Ready To Carry The Puck Forward
February 2020

The Greatest There Ever Was
Bill Cleary Holds Close To The Time Tested Beliefs That Carried Him To The Top Of The Game
March 2020

In Good Hands
U.S. Sled Team Doctor Tends To More Than Just Bumps And Bruises
March 2020

No Pond, No Problem
Derby Track Proves A Fitting Host For 15th Annual Pond Tournament
April/May 2020

Thanks To 'The Hank'
One Man's Revolutionary Efforts Help House Program Thrive In Historic Massachusetts Town
June/July 2020

Team Effort
Hockey Companies Switch Gears To Help Support Frontline Workers During Pandemic
August 2020

On Top Of Her Game
When It Comes To Promoting Junior Hockey In Maryland, There's No Hibernating For Black Bears President
September 2020

Dream On
'If You Can See It You Can Be It' Helps Fuel Growth Of The Game
October 2020

Blake Bolden Is Helping To Create A New Blueprint For Women And Diversity In Hockey
November/December 2020