Berglund, who with Peterson put the Olympic contingent together, is an irrepressible, excitable man. Upon the team's arrival in a city, any city, Berglund is wont to proclaim: "Today, this is Hockeytown, USA!" He proudly points out that for the first time most of the players on the roster have been groomed for an Olympics. The team is young but more experienced in international play than the '84 squad. "Dave has coached a vast majority of these guys on national or national junior teams," he says. "They've worn the [USA] jersey, they've played on the international-sized rinks, they've won a [junior world championship] medal. Besides, the Olympics are for youth. Let's bring on the new!"
Although Team USA has outscored the 15 college teams by a combined 141-35, those numbers are deceptive. Most of the collegians had just started practicing when they played the Olympians. And with Boston College, Minnesota and BU, each of which gave up at least two players to Team USA, the games were akin to a man's clubbing himself over the head with his own arm.
Peterson was surprised by the toughness his charges showed in nine NHL exhibitions early this fall. Team USA defeated St. Louis and Detroit and suffered one-goal defeats to five other teams. The Americans have also split their games with Canada, 2-2-1.
Without sacrificing speed, the team is more muscular than its '84 predecessor, featuring bruisers like Stevens (6'3", 215 pounds) and Snuggerud (6'2", 190) and a couple of defensemen, Guy Gosselin and Peter Laviolette, who win most collisions. Says Granato, "We'll play you nifty or play you tough along the rail."
The team has become close. While in East Lansing to play Michigan State, Miller had his teammates over to his home for lasagna. At Thanksgiving the squad played the Canadian Olympians in Los Angeles, and John Blue's family in Garden Grove invited the Americans for dinner. The hungry boys devoured three turkeys and two hams.
"We're a loose team but not loose in a frivolous way," says Leetch. "We know when to get serious." Before Saturday night's defeat, the sound of Perry Como Christmas songs filled the locker room. During the "Seven swans a-swimming" verse of The Twelve Days of Christmas, several Olympians glided swanlike across the room, flapping their arms.
That night's loss to the Soviets did not deflate the team or its boosters. "They can skate with anybody," said Mike Eruzione, who scored the winning goal against the Soviets in 1980 and now does TV commentary. "When you can skate with a team, the game comes down to other aspects—who has the hot goal-tender, who gets the right bounces. Tonight the Russians got the bounces. That doesn't mean they'll get 'em in Calgary." At least by then, Team USA will be finished with obligatory luncheons.