Dreams lost, motivation not forgotten

Katey Stone, Meghan Duggan and Amanda Kessel discuss Team USA's loss to Canada in the gold-medal hockey game.

SOCHI, Russia -- When players from the U.S. women's hockey team wake up in the middle of the night, wondering where they are and why they just had the same dream again, the last question before they finally give in to the ensuing insomnia is how.

How, in 3:26, could they let a two-goal lead evaporate in the mist that is now Bolshoy Ice Dome.

And then, regrettably, it starts. Visions will stream through their brains in continuous play mode ... unwilling to stop, quietly taunting them.

And without permission, their minds will wander to that final minute, just before Canada scored the tying goal, reminding them of their collective confidence to hold on. Finish it off. Complete the journey.

And without warning, 55 seconds flashes before them like a blinding light.

And without consent, they will finally surrender to the thought that haunts them the most: Was there something else I could have done?

And just like that, you bolt up, sweating, silently begging for the moment back. Unable to rewind, you march forward, because sleep is no longer an option.

"It is just sports," people will say.

"Life goes on."

"Have perspective."

Yes, yes and yes. But for these women, after that much damn work ... it's a pulsating, throbbing dream being ripped from their hearts.

And for those who wonder why you can't just store that emotion in a box, shove it in a closet and turn the light off (because it us just sports), I'd rather feel the raw emotion of chasing something so hard that it hurts like hell than live in that dark box.

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Yes, you know the quote, we all use the quote ... but can you live the quote? That is what these remarkable U.S. women's hockey players did. They lived it. They left it out there. They felt they could. They believed with every bone in their body that they could. And, in the end, they couldn't.

As so goes my dream: Olympics, Sydney 2000, gold-medal match. In arguably one of the best gold-medal games we ever played and dominated. Norway 3. USA 2. Game-winner scored in sudden-death overtime.

Sometimes I wish we had just lost 4-0 and I could say Norway was better than us on that day, but then I would be choosing that dark box. The U.S. women's hockey team reminded us how gloriously raw it is to live in the arena. And for that, and the pain of Sydney, I am grateful.

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