SOCHI, Russia — Before they take the ice for perhaps the biggest game of their lives, the United States women’s hockey team will look at its motto posted in the dressing room.
We are part of something bigger than ourselves.
We are Team USA.
We are team first.
And then the players will likely utter another mantra: “Do it for Julie.”
Playing in her fourth Winter Games, forward Julie Chu will skate in her third gold-medal game when the U.S. faces Canada on Thursday at Bolshoy Ice Dome. The forward has two silvers and a bronze in her Olympic collection. She is missing the ultimate prize.
“It’s about time, isn’t it?” Coach Katey Stone said. “We talk about it all the time. Julie has been everything to the program. She’s been a youngster. She’s been a mentor. She’s been a captain. She’s been a leader. She’s been a great friend and teammate and mother to the kids we have in our program.
“Kids like her don’t come around every day. She’s a special one. I certainly hope that she gets what she wants here at the end.”
Thursday’s showdown against Canada, which has won three consecutive gold medals, will mark Chu’s 237th game playing for the national program, second-most to Angela Ruggiero’s 257.
Searching for the elusive gold isn’t the only motivation to keep Chu, 31, playing the game with teammates sometimes a decade younger than she is. After the U.S. defeated Sweden, 6-1, in a semifinal game, Chu was beaming.
“My teammates are unbelievable,” Chu said. “The opportunity to pull on a USA hockey jersey and represent our country never gets old. ... What I’ll probably always miss is that feeling of getting a chance to represent our country. I’m loving it.”
Her teammates want to win gold for Chu as much as themselves.
“I would imagine this is her last Olympics [and] I would love nothing more than to send her out with a gold medal,” forward Monique Lamoureux said. “She’s put in so many years of hard work and effort and no one on this team or on this program deserves it more than her. It would be really special.”
Chu is flattered.
“They’re good people,” Chu said, “but we’re going to do it for each other.”
To win this tournament of only two real contenders, the U.S. will have to knock Canada off its Olympic perch. The Canadians have not lost in the Olympics since 1998, a span of 19 games, and beat the U.S., 3-2, in the preliminary round last week.
“They’re a team that brings the best out of us and we bring the best out of them,” Chu said. “It’s going to be a physical, fast game.”
Added Chu: “I love that we got ourselves into position to compete for a gold medal. Now, it’s more. We still have work to do. Nothing has been really earned.”