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pyeongchang 2018

Head coach Laura Schuler of Canada during the Women's Gold Medal Game of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.Harry How

When the game was lost, Canadian head coach Laura Schuler stood on the Canadian bench and didn't say a word. As her players buried their heads, cried, or slung their arms around each other, Schuler just crossed her arms and stared – sometimes at the floor, sometimes off into the distance – trying to process what had just happened.

She stood like this for more than 20 minutes, as the United States women's hockey team celebrated their gold-medal shootout victory in front of her, and as the Finnish team was called onto the ice to accept their bronze medals.

For what seemed like an eternity, the Canadian coach barely moved. At one point, she patted a few of her players on the back, then she took off her dark-rimmed glasses, crossed her arms and stared at the floor once more, stewing.

In a Canadian women's hockey program that never seems to lose the big games, this was the second time Schuler had experienced this exact moment. She was a player on the Canadian team that lost to the Americans in 1998, the first year women's hockey was played at the Olympics, and the only other time Canada hasn't won.

It hurt then – and it hurt just as bad now.

Asked later if she'd ever seen such anguish after a hockey game, her answer was short and to the point.


There are few rivalries in hockey – all of hockey – as bitter and as intense as the one between Canada and the United States in the women's game. The sport is basically a two-team arms race, with some additional countries thrown in to give the Olympics the guise of being a tournament. After Thursday's loss, Canada has now won four of the six Olympic medals presented – though its run of four straight has been snapped.

"It's incredibly difficult, especially when you spend a lifetime, really, preparing for this moment," Schuler said. "The game was such a hard-fought game, and you never want to see it go to a shootout and be determined that way, but it did."

When the Canadians lost in 1998, the score was 3-1, with the Americans potting an empty-net goal late in the game. That seemed to set the tone for all future Olympic finals between the two countries, with each one being a close, gut-wrenching affair. Canada's victory in 2002 in Salt Lake was by a single goal, as was the win four years ago in Sochi. The spread when Canada beat the Americans for gold in 2010 in Vancouver was just two goals.

Including Thursday's game, the combined goals scored over the six gold-medal finals Canada and the United States have played is 11 for Canada, 10 for the Americans. It's that close.

Schuler said she would have preferred to avoid a shootout-ending in Pyeongchang, but that's how the game works. Deadlocked at two goals apiece after three periods, Canada and the United States traded several scoring chances during four-on-four overtime, but neither could put the game away. Not even when Canada was gifted a power play in the last two minutes of the extra frame, could they break the deadlock.

"It comes down to a bounce," U.S. coach Robb Stauber said, describing how the game – and pretty much the entire rivalry over the past 20 years – played out. "And that's why you have a lot of respect for your opponents."

Two decades ago, Schuler suffered the sting of losing as a player. Now that she's behind the bench, time hasn't necessarily healed that wound.

"I don't think it ever goes away," Schuler said.

"When you put your heart and soul on the line for something and you fall short, you try to learn from those experiences and grow from it to be better prepared as you move forward. Big picture, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's hard inside."

The U.S. women's hockey team crushed Canada at the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1998.