Q: "Where do your parents live, Ray?"
A: "They live in Rindge, New Hampshire."
O: "Where is that, Ray?"
A: "It's in New Hampshire."
"I don't think that he enjoys all of this attention," says Sweeney. "To tell you the truth, I think he just likes to play the game." Yet last Friday, Peterson let slip that he was thinking of depriving LeBlanc of that pleasure and might rest him for the next day's game against winless Poland.
That would have been a bad idea. The Poles, many of them playing with sticks wrapped in some kind of green gaffing tape, came out pumped. So did the U.S. crowd, if not its hockey team. By Saturday, the 6,100-seat Patinoire Olympique had become a flag-waving Pat Buchanan rally for U.S. games, the American fans shouting down the few Polish spectators and singing "Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye"—a trifle unnecessary, don't you think?—when America's Team had finally and sloppily prevailed 3-0.
Luckily, LeBlanc had been in goal. "We've got a goalkeeeper on a roll," said Peterson afterward. "Basically that's why we went with him."
Twenty-four hours later the Unified Team beat Canada 5-4. When members of the U.S. team awoke on Monday morning to heavy snows that left the trees in the athletes' village looking as if they had been dipped in white chocolate, the Americans had the best record in the tournament. Later in the day, LeBlanc's wife, Julie, arrived from Indianapolis with their three-year-old son, Raymond Jr. Their daughter, Mary Hope, 1, remained in the States. Subsidized by a U.S. Postal Service program, Julie could afford to attend the Olympics for one week only, and long ago chose the second half of the fortnight. "If they go all the way," she said, "I would have felt guilty if I had to come home early."
Going all the way. It at last appeared eminently possible after LeBlanc's performance for the first 46 minutes of Monday's game. As the U.S. built a 3-0 lead, LeBlanc was a ninja in red, white and blue, alternately kicking, punching and snatching pucks out of the air with all available appendages. He stopped 45 shots altogether, many of them in ridiculous fashion. "He is a very small goalie," Lundmark would say afterward, "but very, very big."
And though the inexorable Swedes scored thrice in the final 13:39, the tying goal coming with their goalie pulled and 21 seconds left in the game, the American team clearly emerged as the winner. The U.S. had won its pool, won over Stateside fans and even outshone the abominable behavior of Peterson, who refused to shake hands with Sweden's coaches and withheld his players from the press after the game: These Olympics, after all, were for those players.