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1980 'Miracle on Ice' team inspired Bye Dietz

by Dan Myers

MINNEAPOLIS -- To Karyn Bye Dietz, the 1980 Lake Placid might as well have happened yesterday.

Bye Dietz is one of many inspired by the "Miracle On Ice" U.S. team that stunned the Soviet Union before winning gold against Finland. Watching those games with her brother and emulating her hero from that team, defenseman Bill Baker, still brings a smile to her face.

Bye Dietz joined Cindy Curley and Olympic teammate Cammi Granato as the third female member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame when she was inducted Thursday.

"It was the start of my dreams," Bye Dietz said. "I remember seeing us win that gold metal against the Finns. I remember at that time, I said 'Man, I want to be in the Olympics."

The problem for Bye Dietz, and for the countless other girls her age who felt the same way, was that women's hockey wasn't a sport at the Olympics. Few girls played organized hockey at all.

But as she grew older, the push for women's hockey to be added as an Olympic sport came. Bye Dietz was convinced an effort by USA Hockey to get women's hockey added in time for the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics would pay off. For Bye Dietz, a 1993 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, entry into the 1994 Games would have coincided perfectly with her collegiate playing career.

When it didn't, she said she had a strong feeling she would get the chance to achieve her dream in 1998. After finishing graduate school in 1995, Bye Dietz had to stay in pristine shape for three more years. But finally, her time came.

"I had to keep my eye on the gold, so to say," Bye Dietz said. "Once it came true that there was going to be women's ice hockey in the Olympics, that was my green light to start training and say 'Let's go, let's see if I can make this team.' "

Since that first team won gold in at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the popularity and prevalence of the women's game has grown exponentially. College teams all over the country play now and there are professional teams in the U.S. and Canada. Women's hockey has also become one of the most popular sports at the Winter Games every four years.

Like the 1980 team fueled the dreams of hockey playing boys all over the U.S., the 1998 women's team has done the same for countless girls.

"A lot of people saw us on TV and said, 'Yeah, women really can play hockey, and they can play at a high level.' That gave a lot of girls an opportunity," Bye Dietz said. "A lot of girls teams started up and they didn't have to always play with the boys. It was a huge springboard for girls and women's ice hockey."

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