If age is but a state of mind, Troy Terry and Brian Gionta have the right mindset to be members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team.
The difference in age between the youngest and oldest members on the roster is 18 years, 7 months and 23 days. But who’s counting when Olympic gold is on the line? Both players will be counted on to play big minutes and make valuable contributions.
More than that, Gionta’s value for this team will be just as important off the ice, where he will serve as the captain for this collection of players of various ages, experience and backgrounds. It’s a role that is right in the Rochester, N.Y., native’s wheelhouse. During the course of his 15-year NHL career, Gionta has worn the “C” for the Montreal Canadiens (one of only three Americans to hold that honor) and Buffalo Sabres.
Terry is one of four collegiate players on the team, joining Jordan Greenway (Boston University), Will Borgen (St. Cloud State University) and Ryan Donato (Harvard University).
Terry, one of the leading scorers with the defending NCAA champion University of Denver Pioneers, is a 20-year-old from Highland Ranch, Colo., who has a wealth of international experience, including the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship where he silenced a nation with his shootout heroics against Canada in the gold-medal game.
Since being named to the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team at the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, Terry has been inundated with tweets asking him if he’ll assume the role of shootout specialist, ala T.J. Oshie, who earned worldwide recognition for his efforts four years ago at the Sochi Olympics.
“I’ve been getting tweets about it for months now so I figured I’d start practicing,” said Terry, who potted three shootout goals against Russia in the semifinals and another against Canada.
“I’m ready if it comes, but I really hope that it doesn’t come to that and that we can stay away from overtimes or shootouts or anything. If it comes to it I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle that pressure, but I’ll do my best.”
But Terry’s role will be more than just shootouts. Head coach Tony Granato has confidence in his young forward, pairing him on a line with speedsters Mark Arcobello and Ryan Donato. Terry will also see time on the power play.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to disclose what my role will be on the team, but I think I’m going to have a good role here, and I’m excited for it,” he said after the team’s second practice.
“Even just being here is awesome so to have a big role is really special to me and something I’m excited for and I’m going to take a lot of pride in. I’ll do anything I can to help this team win.”
So far, all four of the collegiate players have fit in with their older teammates. Terry has taken some teasing because of his age.
“I was shocked at how nice everyone was and welcoming,” Terry said. “Everyone kind of razzes me for being the young guy but I think we’re coming together really quick off the ice.”
Of course Gionta has endured his share of friendly ribbing about his age as well. After playing in his 1,000th NHL game last season with the Sabres, the idea of returning to Olympic ice was the all the incentive he needed to delay his retirement. He spent several weeks training with his hometown AHL team to get ready for the Games, and hasn’t ruled out a return to the NHL if things go well here.
After travel issues delayed his arrival, he was eager to hit the ice with his new teammates. Afterward there was no shortage of media requests for the most recognizable player on the team.
From the moment he hit the ice, Gionta has shown that Father Time hasn’t robbed him of his speed, which should be an asset on the bigger Olympic surface. But it’s the intangibles he brings to the locker room and away from the rink that may be his biggest asset. And while he may be close to twice the age of some of his teammates, it’s that balance of youth and experience that will work well in the tournament.
“It definitely keeps you young,” Gionta said. “Being around guys like that with their energy and their excitement about things brings the whole team up and that’s why it’s great to have guys like that around.
“You have to let them run free and have fun with it.”