By Brent Hinckley
Gold fever filled the Salt Lake valley on Feb. 24 when the U.S. men”s hockey team faced Team Canada for the 2002 Olympic gold medal. The game was the most watched Olympic hockey game since the United States upset Russia in the 1980 Olympics.
Provo IceCats junior goalie, Haws Hexburg, hopes the excitement generated by the Olympic hockey contests held throughout the Salt Lake City area, and at the Peaks Ice Arena, will cause more people to become interested in the IceCats.
Junior center Greg Ingram believes the Olympics has raised local interest in hockey and has made people more familiar with the sport.
“It”s not the fighting game people think it is, fighting is not allowed in the Olympics or by the IceCats,” Ingram said.
Faculty advisor and assistant coach Ed Gantt said there are many similarities between Olympic hockey and collegiate hockey.
“Most of the similarities are in the rules and the speed of the game,” Gantt said. “At these levels hockey is a speed game and a skill game.”
Gantt believes the Olympics will bring many benefits to the IceCats. He said several of the players volunteered and were able to work with some of the Olympic hockey teams and that several of the coaches helped to evaluate Team USA.
Gantt said one negative side effect of the Olympics was that the team”s season was cut short. The team usually plays from mid-October until mid-March. This year the season ended in December.
Ingram added that with the Peaks Ice Arena being used in the Olympics the team did not have a place to skate, which hurt the team.
“You really have to skate all the time, you have to keep skating to do good,” he said.
Even though the season is over until next October, the team is getting back on the ice, and getting ready for next season.
Hexburg said, “We had a mediocre season this year, next season we want to win some more games, and we have a lot of room to grow.”
Hexburg added that several good freshman are leaving the team to serve LDS missions and that could be a problem for the team.
However, Gantt said several people have expressed interest in the team and he hopes the interest will help bring more and better players to the IceCats in the future.