When the United States Women's Hockey Team won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, commentators said they would be an inspiration to succeeding generations. That prediction has proven true.
Brothers Mike, Colin and Mark Stuart
, of Rochester, Minn., have all played in the NHL. Mark is a top-four defenseman with the Boston Bruins
. Colin played for the Atlanta Thrashers
and Mike played for the St. Louis Blues
. All three starred for Colorado College.
And, to a man, they will tell you the best hockey player in their family is their baby sister, Cristin, the defenseman who captained Boston College in 2007-08.
Cristin Stuart called the 1998 American gold-medal victory "a life-changing experience."
"It was a huge turning point," she said. "I was in the fifth grade, playing PeeWees with the boys in the Rochester Youth Hockey Association. I hadn't thought about girls' hockey, beyond playing with the boys. When the 1998 team won, it just opened up so much for the younger generation. It showed how far women's hockey had come and where it was going. It was so inspirational.
"About a month after they won, we had a day where we were supposed to come dressed as what we wanted to be when we grew up. I came dressed in a blue USA Hockey jumpsuit that my father had worn when he was the Team USA doctor in Nagano. I had a USA Hockey sweatshirt with the 'old-school' logo. That's a testament to how much I was inspired."
Stuart said one of her heroes on the 1998 team, Jenny Potter, had attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth and was well known in the state as one of the best women's hockey players.
"Jenny was really inspirational for a lot of Minnesota girls, an amazing hockey player," Stuart said. "She redefined hockey in a lot of ways for us."
Stuart's father, Dr. Michael Stuart, is professor of orthopedics and co-director of sports medicine at The Mayo Clinic and the chief medical officer of USA Hockey. He will be the doctor for the men's team in Vancouver.
Although Cristin attended parochial school, Lourdes, in Rochester, she was allowed to play for Rochester's John Marshall High School team. She played on the girl's team from 7th to 11th grade.
"In my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to play Division I hockey and get a scholarship, just like my brothers," she said. "So, my senior year, I played for the Minnesota Thoroughbreds. I commuted 90 minutes to St. Paul four or five times a week for practices and on weekends, we played all over the country. It was a wonderful experience for me and I got a lot of exposure. A couple of my teammates, Erin Blood and Rachel Wedig, went with me to Boston College."
Stuart played for coach Tom Mutch, whose assistant, Katie King, succeeded him as Eagles' head coach in 2007-08 and was one of the stars of the gold-medal team.
"Before I knew Katie King, I had seen her picture on the Wheaties box," Stuart said. "She was such a great coach. It was so cool to be able to connect with her on a coach-player level. She did exactly what we did and worked as hard as we did. She is a huge part of American women's hockey. It was a blessing to have her as part of women's hockey and as my coach."
Stuart said Boston College's women's program wasn't strong when she got there but by her senior year, it was a program capable of producing 2010 Olympic team members Molly Schaus and Kelli Stack.
"It was a fast progression and amazing to be part of it," Stuart said. "We won the Beanpot my sophomore and junior years and wound up in the 2007 Frozen Four in Lake Placid. Our dream had come true."