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Rivalry Renewed

One of the most intense rivalries in sports will renew this week as Team USA battles Team Canada in a three-game women's hockey Rivalry Series

by Josh Berenter @JBerenter /

DETROIT -- When you think of the best all-time rivalries in sports, you're quickly reminded of North Carolina/Duke on the hardwood, Red Sox/Yankees on the diamond, Michigan/Ohio State on the gridiron and Red Wings/Avalanche on the ice.

But perhaps the most underrated and intense rivalry in all of sports will be on display this Sunday at Little Caesars Arena as the USA Women's Hockey Team battles Team Canada in the final game of Hockey Week Across America's Rivalry Series.

The U.S. and Canada have dominated international women's hockey lately, meeting in the championship game of every major tournament since 2014, including the Olympics, IIHF Women's World Championship and Four Nations Cup. The Americans won eight of 10 of those meetings, falling in overtime in the only two losses.

And now, the storied rivalry is set to add a new chapter to its history books with three games in a six-day span, with matchups Tuesday in London, Ontario, Thursday in Toronto and Sunday in Detroit, presented by TCF Bank.

"Anytime you get Canada and the USA together, it's exciting," said new Team USA head coach Bob Corkum, who took over in October. "It's going to be a competitive series and we know that. I think there are great venues, with London and Toronto and obviously with Little Caesars Arena. We're really, really looking forward to that. We're expecting a lot of good competition, hard work and having some fun."

The Rivalry Series exhibition comes on the heels of the captivating 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea where Team USA ended a 20-year Olympic gold-medal drought and finally defeated the Canadians in the championship game, earning gold in a 3-2 shootout victory.

"It was an unbelievable moment, unbelievable game," said USA forward Kendall Coyne Schofield. "To walk away as Olympic champions is something that no one can ever take away from us.

"The group we did it with is the reason we won. Everyone played a role, no matter what it was, whether it was Jocelyne (Lamoureux) scoring the most epic goal probably in Olympic history, to something small happening in practice."

Fellow USA forward Hilary Knight echoed her teammate's sentiments about the historic victory.

"To finally have a gold medal and break that 20-year drought and have that tangible success that we can share with all the people who've helped us along this process, to be able to bring that success back to them is an incredible accomplishment," said the 29-year-old Knight, who scored the first goal for Team USA in the gold-medal game last February. "It was a dream come true."

After the Olympic triumph, Team USA embarked on a cross-country victory tour which saw the gold medalists appear as guests on the Ellen Show and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as well as guest appearances at the New York Stock Exchange, NHL and NBA games and a USA women's soccer match.

Coyne Schofield, who played collegiately at Northeastern and won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best female college hockey player in the country her senior year, said Team USA was overwhelmed by the support from fans all over the country when they returned from South Korea.

"We were exposed to so many fans we didn't know about," said the 26-year-old native of Palos Heights, Ill. "When we got off the bus in New York, people were there wanting our autographs, wanting pictures with us. Just to realize the whole other side of the world was watching us, that was pretty cool."

Last month, Coyne Schofield became the first woman ever to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition when she took part in the Fastest Skater Challenge in San Jose. And in 2014, Knight made history as the first female skater to practice with an NHL team when she suited up with the Anaheim Ducks as part of World Girls' Ice Hockey Week.

The increased inclusion for women in hockey has been a grueling, labor-intensive process for members of Team USA who've been fighting for gender equality on and off the ice for as long as they can remember.

The fight came to a head in March 2017 when Team USA threatened to boycott the Women's World Championship, which was on home ice in Plymouth, Mich. The women didn't ask for equal salaries as the men's team, but they wanted the same investments from USA Hockey as their male counterparts, including resources for marketing and development programs for young girls.

After more than a year of negotiations, the women won their battle just before the World Championship began when USA Hockey agreed to a four-year contract, granting many of the team's demands. Team USA rewarded that decision by winning the 2017 World Championship.

"What we've gone through off the ice has not only made our team stronger on the ice, but also sparked empowerment in other industries as well," Knight said with a smile. "Granted, we have done remarkable things in our sport, and it's only the beginning. It's just another stepping stone in growing the game. It's really helped enable other people to feel empowered, to stand up for something they truly believe in and fight for equality."

Knight, who grew up in Forest Hills, Ill., and played collegiately at Wisconsin, has represented the U.S. in three Olympics and a team-high nine World Championships. She said she's proud of the immense progress that women's hockey has made since she joined the team more than a decade ago.

According to, the total number of female hockey players (ages 18 and younger) in America has increased 37 percent in the last 10 years.

"Women's hockey has grown, girls hockey has grown," Knight said. "Obviously, the registration numbers are up. We tend to see more smiling faces in pony tails. It's now our job to make sure we increase the visibility of the sport, so anyone watching or in earshot of us knows that they can play women's ice hockey too."

Coyne Schofield said The Rivalry Series with Canada, in itself, is a victory for women's hockey, earning another opportunity to showcase her team's talent on an international stage.

"A lot of people remember our boycott with USA Hockey. One of the pieces we asked for was more programming," Coyne Schofield said. "To finally see that come through, that's a big part of what we asked for. To finally have this three-game series is tremendous. It's going to be a tremendous week."

This week's Rivalry Series is meant to celebrate the unprecedented dominance of Team USA and Team Canada in international women's ice hockey. No other country has won Olympic gold since women's hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998, and the rivalry grows stronger with every matchup.

"It's really intense. It's electrifying and energetic," Knight said. "It's an extremely passion-filled game. You're seeing the best players in the world go into competition and you're going to get everything out of both sides. I think that's what's special and unique for our fans.

"There's that camaraderie and the country aspect, and it's a huge border battle for us, but also, it's an electrifying, magical hockey game every time both our nations step on the ice."

Knight said fans at Little Caesars Arena this Sunday are in for a treat as they'll get to see the two best teams in the world battle for women's hockey supremacy.

"A fantastic level of skill," Knight said about what fans can expect from Sunday's matchup against Canada. "You're going to see two amazing teams in an epic series. For us, it's extremely fun to play in. Whenever you can wear the USA jersey and represent your country and do it on the world stage, it's a dream come true.

"I hope it's a fantastic event for the fans. We're here at home playing one of the best teams in the world, and we're going to duke it out to see who's best."

Coyne Schofield said representing her country on an international stage is a privilege she doesn't take for granted.

"It's definitely the greatest honor of our life," Coyne Schofield said. "Just to be able to wear these colors, represent your country, specifically for us, to go to the Olympic Games, it's been a dream of ours since we were little girls. I think the coolest part is, now, having a platform to empower young girls to follow their dreams."

After defeating Team Canada in the championship game of the 2018 Four Nations Cup in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this past November, Team USA held training camp in December to prepare for The Rivalry Series and the 2019 World Championship next month in Finland. Training camp took place at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth where Team USA captured its last World Championship gold medal in 2017.

"To be back in Plymouth at the rink that we won it in 2017 was really cool, just walking the halls, because you get those emotions and memories back again," Knight said. "The NTDP staff has been phenomenal and has done a great job of taking care of us. It was a successful week of training camp and we're looking to use that energy and take it into this series."

While the first two games of this week's Rivalry Series are in enemy territory in Canada, Knight said she's excited to play the series finale on home soil in front of USA fans.

"One of the best parts of playing at home is when we're skating out for puck drop and seeing all the faces and having so many people in the seats with an electrifying atmosphere," Knight said. "When we go to Canada, those arenas are filled and we're usually getting booed, so to have the home crowd advantage is something special and I hope we can see that here in Detroit."

Sunday's matchup will take place nearly one year to the day that Team USA captured Olympic gold in South Korea, and although they've enjoyed the victor's spoils over the last year, Coyne Schofield said her squad needs to be prepared for an angry Canadian team which is out for revenge.

"The last year has been a lot of fun, but we've got to get back to work," Coyne Schofield said. "We know that we're being chased, and we know there's a few people not very happy. I think that's what's so awesome about these three games is the rivalry just heats up. We've been on that side of losing a gold medal and we know what that feels like, so we know what they're feeling.

"They're going to come out hard. We beat them pretty good at Four Nations on their home ice, so they're going to want to repay the favor. We know they're coming and they're coming hard. And that's what's really exciting."

Limited tickets are available for Sunday's matchup at Little Caesars Arena for as low as $15. Tickets are available for purchase online at and, in person at the Little Caesars Arena XFINITY Box Office or by calling 313-471-7575.

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