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Friday, February 7, 2014
The real Hockeytown USA

By Craig Custance
ESPN The Magazine

T.J. Oshie
Blues forward T.J. Oshie, a Warroad High class of 2005 alum, will lace up in Sochi.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 17 Cuba Issue. Subscribe today!

THE OLYMPIC GOLD medal sat on an end table in the living room, accessible to anyone who walked by. As a kid, Dave Christian would pick it up, examine it. Imagine winning one of his own. "I thought: Why not? It's happened here before," Christian says.

That medal was earned by his father, Bill, as a member of the U.S. hockey team that won gold at the 1960 Games. And "here" is the remote Minnesota town of Warroad, six miles from the Canadian border. Dave eventually won his own gold medal as a defenseman on the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, cementing Warroad's status as the original Hockeytown USA. In fact, no U.S. men's hockey team has won Olympic gold without a player from Warroad on the roster -- which bodes well for Team USA's chances in Sochi.

Two Warroad High class of 2005 alums -- Blues forward T.J. Oshie and Gigi Marvin, a defenseman who helped the U.S. women win silver in 2010 -- will lace up for the U.S. in Sochi and could add to Warroad's already impressive Olympic war chest. From the crossed sticks on the town's water tower to the four-day school week that allows for more playing time, "everyone kind of bleeds hockey there," says Oshie, who moved from Washington state to Warroad when he was 15 and led the Warriors to two state championships.

Marvin, whose grandfather Cal is in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, says the reason Warroad is a hockey hotbed is simple. "Ice time is free," she says. "The greatest babysitter a family can have is the Warroad arena." That arena, the Gardens, seats almost the entire population of the town and serves as its social hub. Parents take turns cooking meals that sit out on tables for anyone to eat. Eight-year-olds skate with the high school team. College kids return home to play in salt-and-pepper games ("The old-men league," Marvin explains). As teens, she and Oshie swiped keys to the arena so they could practice late into the night.

Cheering for Oshie and Marvin while they're in Sochi might be the only thing that empties the Gardens ice. "I imagine a lot of people will be watching their televisions," Oshie says. "It'll be extra special for Warroad."

Then again, the town is no one-timer when it comes to Olympic success. In 1980 Christian brought his medal home to Warroad, and school let out early so everyone could head to the arena for a rally. Darrell Shaugabay, Oshie's cousin and Marvin's former coach, was there and likes his town's chances of staging another one. "As soon as I heard T.J. was on the team," Shaugabay says, "I thought, We have a chance for another gold." Or two.

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