A tour of USA Hockey headquarters in Colorado Springs takes hockey enthusiasts through a history of the American involvement in the sport.
Adorned on the walls are posters, artifacts, photos and other memorabilia to keep the legacy of American hockey at eye level with the future.
The men and women who constitute the institution of USA Hockey are immortalized on the walls and in the minds of everyone who walks past.
Among the most prominent photos is a poster-sized shot of Karyn Bye-Dietz, a pioneer of women’s hockey who led her team USA comrades to the first-ever Olympic gold medal for women’s ice hockey as assistant captain of the 1998 squad.
During her team’s rise to the top in Nagano, Bye-Dietz led the team with five goals and tied for third overall scorer at the games.
Four years later, she again took her team to the medal podium, earning silver.
Her Olympic accolades are a far cry from her hockey roots. Growing up in River Falls, Wis., she listed her name as K.L. Bye when registering for hockey teams, “so people wouldn’t know there was a girl on the team.”
Playing on boys’ teams until the age of 18, Bye-Dietz always had to prove that she belonged on the ice. She accomplished this by playing harder and putting the puck in the net more often than her male counterparts.
Her perseverance paid off when she finally had the opportunity to play women’s hockey at the University of New Hampshire while earning her degree in physical education. As she worked on her game and education, USA Hockey took notice of the talented forward and she was offered her first slot on Team USA at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 1992. It would be the first of many appearances she would make in a Team USA uniform.
After the 2002 Olympics, Bye-Dietz hung up her competitive skates and tuned her focus to full-time hockey mom status.
Her children may be too young to wonder why mom’s picture seems to be everywhere that hockey is played, but someday they will.
Someday they will look at her and see not just Mom, but a trailblazer who transcended gender and helped pioneer women’s hockey. Just like everyone who walks the halls at USA Hockey sees images of her as they pass by.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Mellor’s Mind Never Far From Olympic Memories
Not a day goes by that Tom Mellor doesn’t think about the friends he made, the people he met and the places he’s been because of hockey.
Even 30 years after hanging up his competitive skates, the Cranston, R.I., native will find himself in a business conversation that somehow turns to hockey.
“Just yesterday I was talking with a group from Stockholm and at the end of the call I told someone that I have fond memories of my time playing hockey in Sweden,” says Mellor, who is a broker with the Windham Capital Group in Boston.
“When you’re talking hockey to business people, they light up. So many people just love hockey.”
And when people find out they’re talking to a member of the silver-medal winning 1972 U.S. Olympic Team, they really light up. It has the same affect on Mellor, who set the all-time scoring mark for a defenseman during his time at Boston College, which was sandwiched around his stint with the U.S. squad in Sapporo, Japan.
“The Olympics is something that is with you the rest of your life,” says Mellor, a member of the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame. “Especially every four years it brings back so many wonderful memories. Putting that red, white and blue jersey on is the greatest privilege an American athlete can receive.”
After finishing up at BC, Mellor played 25 games with the Detroit Red Wings in 1973. He also spent a year in Sweden before ending his career with the Toledo Gold Diggers in the International Hockey League.
These days Mellor and his 1972 U.S. teammates maintain strong bonds, frequently getting together for reunions around the country, especially when the Olympic flame burns bright.
“We turn it into an annual thing to watch the Olympics together,” Mellor says. “We love being together. The stories keep getting bigger. To listen to us now, we had 10 guys who each scored 30 goals.”