ST. PAUL, Minn. (WEAU) -- It's been nearly four decades since the United States Men's Hockey team captured gold at the Olympic Games.
The 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ team, that shocked the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, featured legendary coach Herb Brooks and a group of college hockey unknowns including Badgers' Mark Johnson and Bob Suter.
For the past six Winter Olympics, National Hockey League players made up Olympic rosters, but that's not the case in 2018 as NHL owners chose to keep their star players at home.
The United States Men's Hockey Team will be one of 12 teams battling for gold in PyeongChang starting next week: a roster that includes 15 players that play professionally in Europe, three in the American Hockey League and four that play collegiately. Absent from this list are any current NHL players, including, Minnesota Wild Defenseman Ryan Suter.
Ryan played on the past two United States Olympic Men's Hockey teams, winning silver in Vancouver, and while he understands that the NHL is a business, he admits he's bummed out that he won't be able to play for the gold in PyeongChang.
"I'm disappointed. You want to represent your country, and you're not able to obviously and that sucks, sucks for the players, sucks for the fans, you work hard to play in those Stanley Cup Finals, the Olympic games, to represent your country and it's very disappointing that we are not able to. I get it from the owner's perspective and I understand it's a business but it's too bad that we weren't able to make it work,” said Suter.
Wisconsin Men's Hockey Coach Tony Granato will be behind the bench when the United States takes on Slovenia on February 14 in their first preliminary round game. Granato understands that fans want to see the best players in the world on the Olympic stage, but he harkens back to 1980 when a bunch of unknown college kids shocked the Soviet Union and went on to win gold.
"I loved watching the NHL players play in the Olympics but I also enjoyed watching Mark Johnson and Bobby Suter, Mike Eruzione, and Jim Craig win the gold medal in 1980, but people had never heard of those guys until February 14th in the Olympics and all of a sudden, they are my heroes. So we have an opportunity as a squad this year with the guys that are under the radar as far as international stars but I think they have a great opportunity to step forward,” said Granato.
Miracle on Ice hero Mark Johnson agrees with Granato that these Olympics in South Korea will be wide open, and fans should embrace the thrill of the unknown.
"There's going to be some great stories in these Olympics. Who's going to win the gold medal, I don't know so I think it creates a little bit of excitement, but it's certainly going to be an exciting Olympics because there are so many unknowns,” said Johnson.