As much of an inspiration as the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's gold medal win in Lake Placid was to an older generation of American-born skaters, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship delivered by the United States was arguably just as impactful.
Bill Guerin and Doug Weight, who on Thursday were inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2013, would know since they cheered for their country in 1980 and were on the ice to experience the thrill of that 1996 World Cup.
Both retired NHL stars will join Cindy Curley, Peter Karmanos Jr. and Ron Mason at this year's induction ceremony at a location and date to be determined.
Guerin and Weight discussed that 1996 World Cup of Hockey win during a teleconference call with the media.
"For the first nine years of my life it was Stanley Cup only, and then after seeing the 1980 Olympics, it changed," Weight said. "Winning that tournament in 1996 and being able to defeat an all-star team of Canadians and then being able to shake the hand of every great Canadian I grew up watching, was incredible."
After a 4-3 overtime loss to Canada in Game 1 of the best-of-3 final in Philadelphia, the United States recorded a pair of memorable 5-2 victories in Montreal to win the series. Weight finished the tournament tied for third in scoring with three goals and seven points.
"During that tournament, I roomed with a quiet guy named Brett Hull," Weight said, tongue in cheek. "All he kept saying was that we were going to win, and he said it over and over. We truly expected to win that tournament; we didn't hope to compete with Canada, we saw ourselves a favorite within our room. Hull said it so many times that we believed we could win."
Guerin said the United States had a completely different attitude entering the 1996 World Cup.
"Canada set the bar, and we had been beaten by them a number of times and were pushed around by them," Guerin said. "I just felt the attitude change. Not that we were better, but that we could win and we had an answer for them this time. In 1996, it was just a completely different attitude to where we didn't care who we were going up against. We felt we were the best. The Canadians had big guys, but we had big guys. They had skill, but so did we."
Guerin and Weight will be the 14th and 15th members of that 1996 World Cup team enshrined at U.S. Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth, Minn.
"I was just talking to [1980 U.S. Olympic captain] Mike Eruzione and he told me that our [team] had just as much importance as their team," Weight said. "For him to say that kind of opened my eyes to the fact maybe we do have something to do with these guys coming up."
There have been 13 members of the 1996 World Cup team who have entered the U.S. Hall of Fame in the past six years, including Guerin, Weight, Mike Modano in 2012; Gary Suter, Chris Chelios and Keith Tkachuk in 2011; Derian Hatcher and Kevin Hatcher in 2010; Tony Amonte and John LeClair in 2009; and Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter in 2008.
"We pushed our egos aside and the veterans let us young players come in and we formed a complete team," Weight said. "Pat LaFontaine was on our fourth line, and with a player of his talent, he never batted an eye. You see so many great teams put together but never perform up to standards. That team put the USA jersey on first, and that was a proud thing. It was great to beat [the Canadians] in Montreal."
All the members of the 1996 U.S. World Cup of Hockey team are retired. Brian Rolston was the last active NHL member before announcing his retirement on April 30.
There's no doubt the victory in Montreal by the United States at the 1996 World Cup inspired the new generation of American hockey players, including Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan Miller, Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Suter.
"I'm proud the World Cup win has substantial meaning to these kids that grow up in the U.S. and makes them proud to aspire and wear that jersey," Weight said. "You don't know what you're achieving while achieving it, but looking back and hearing what Mike [Eruzione] felt about us was amazing to me.
"To say I'm proud of that moment would be an understatement."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL
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