It was a pleasant but unremarkable summer night. Troy Terry was hanging with some of his college teammates. His phone rang. It was Jim Johannson from USA Hockey, and the night was about to become a bit more remarkable: The 19-year-old NCAA player was told he was under consideration for the 2018 Olympic men's ice hockey team.
"Before that phone call, I didn't even know it was a possibility. It was pretty crazy," Terry, now a burgeoning star with the Anaheim Ducks, told ESPN this week. "It really was one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to do."
The NHL announced in April 2017 that it was opting out of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Not only did the International Olympic Committee not sweeten the pot for the league with concessions on sponsorship and branding, it actually soured that pot by reducing funding for NHL players after the 2014 Sochi Games.
The owners didn't want to go, and the NHLPA wasn't going to allow the NHL to use 2018 Olympic participation as a collective bargaining agreement extension carrot. All of this combined with apathy toward South Korea as a market led to the first men's Olympic ice hockey tournament without NHL players since 1994.
With that, USA Hockey shifted to Plan B and started making calls to NCAA players like Terry, to professionals playing overseas and to veteran NHL free agents like Brian Gionta, whom Johansson -- who died in January 2018, three weeks before the Olympics -- recruited before the 39-year-old signed for his final NHL season.
They started calling coaches, too. Like Tony Granato, head coach at the University of Wisconsin and suddenly a Team USA Olympic coach.
"We were looking for players that were going to be really excited about representing their country. Not as a 'second chance,'" said Granato.
The coaches and players from that 2018 men's Olympic hockey team not only understand what it's like to represent one's county, but they understand what it's like to do so after the NHL bails on a "best on best" tournament. Just like it did for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, indicating that it needs the February Olympic break to reschedule games postponed during the ongoing COVID-19 wave.
What advice to the U.S. Olympians of 2018 have for the Olympians of 2022? I asked Terry, Gionta, Granato and Seattle Kraken forward Ryan Donato about their Olympic journey to Pyeongchang -- which ended with a quarterfinal shootout loss to Czech Republic -- and what needs to happen for the boys in Beijing to medal.