WARROAD, Minn. — As T.J. Oshie led the U.S. men’s Olympic team to a dramatic 3-2 shootout win over Russia on Saturday, people in his tiny northern Minnesota hometown were screaming in joy at their televisions, daring to hope that the 27-year-old would be the latest from Warroad to bring home Olympic gold.
Warroad, a town of fewer than 2,000 people that’s six miles south of the Canadian border, has the Midas touch — no U.S. men’s team has ever won a gold medal without having a Warroad player on its roster.
“I think it’s pretty amazing that we’re such a small town and we get such big opportunities,” said Sarah Casperson, 16, a sophomore at Warroad High School. “People here are so talented.”
Oshie, a forward with the St. Louis Blues, is one of two residents playing hockey in the Sochi Olympics. The other is Gigi Marvin, his former high school classmate and homecoming queen when he was king in 2005, the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat reported.
Casperson joked that kids in town — which bills itself as “Hockeytown USA” — learn to skate before they can walk, but there’s truth to it.
“From the time kids are tiny their parents have them in skates,” said Marnie Swedberg, who owns a retail store in town. “From the time they’re 2 or 3, they’ve got them in the rink.”
There’s a long history of hockey greatness in this rural outpost, where the cold winters make for perfect ice-skating conditions.
All six hockey Olympians, including Marvin, have medaled in past games, according to USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body.
Warroad native Dave Christian was part of the Miracle on Ice team that topped Russia in 1980 for the gold medal, and is one of five from Warroad in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
His father, Bill Christian, and uncle, Roger Christian, won medals in 1960 and 1964 and are Hall of Famers. Another uncle, Gord Christian, took silver in 1956.
Henry Boucha, an Ojibwa Indian, won silver with the U.S. men’s team in 1972 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
Marvin, the granddaughter of Hall of Famer and former Olympic coach Cal Marvin, won a silver medal with the U.S. women’s team in 2010.
The tiny town is filled with tributes to Oshie and Martin. Store windows are plastered with posters wishing the Olympians good luck, and huge U.S. flags hang everywhere.
Whether Oshie can duplicate the success of his predecessors remains to be seen, though his four shootout goals during Saturday’s preliminary round game have put him in the spotlight.
Oshie, who played college hockey at the University of North Dakota, is 7 for 10 in NHL shootouts this year and has said he tries to be unpredictable with his shot selections in high-pressure situations.