February 8, 1998: The first women’s ice hockey game in Olympics history is played in Nagano, Japan, as Finland beats Sweden 6-0. The United States would win the first gold medal in the sport the following week, defeating rival Canada 7-4. The Canadians have won four gold medals since, but the Americans are the defending champions. Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight was a member of the last three USA teams—the silver medalists in Vancouver and Sochi and the gold medal squad in Pyeongchang. Knight is now participating in her fourth Olympics in Beijing.
The captain of the U.S. team in Nagano was women’s hockey pioneer Cammi Granato. It was the previous year that Granato had been hosting one of her first hockey camps in Chicago, and an eager eight-year-old broke her stick during drills. Granato loaned her sticks and gloves to the youngster, finding out years later it was Knight.
Now, after a hot start at the Beijing games, the 32-year-old Knight has passed Granato into fourth place in U.S. women’s Olympics hockey career scoring with 22 points. The 5-11 forward opened with an assist in a 5-2 victory over Finland. Knight scored a goal with an assist in a 5-0 blanking of the Russian Olympic Committee team—then she tallied twice in an 8-0 U.S rout of Switzerland Sunday. Last night (today China time), in a tone-setting game for the tournament, rival Canada beat the Americans 4-2 (Knight did not score). But it was still the preliminary rounds.
Knight’s enduring contribution to the sport is her leadership in the push for equitable pay and treatment. She was the centerpiece of the U.S. women’s players’ threat to boycott the 2017 World Championships, and USA Hockey made major concessions. In 2019, Knight was a catalyst in the formation of Professional Women’s Player’s Hockey Association, and she’s still pushing for a North American women’s pro league.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)