T.J. Oshie is just one of many Olympic hockey players to come from a small town in Minnesota named Warroad, which has proved a fertile breeding ground for other hockey Olympians. Oshie, 27, captured the heart of Americans on Saturday during the Sochi Olympics when he led the U.S. men’s hockey team to victory over Russia in a preliminary game. The Americans were victorious due to Oshie’s stunning performance in a 3-2 shootout in which he scored four goals in six attempts.
Warroad, Minnesota which declares itself “Hockeytown, USA,” is located just six miles south of the U.S. – Canada border and has a population of 1,770 people. This small town has had a big effect on Olympic men’s hockey, as no U.S. men’s hockey team has ever stood atop the podium without a player from Warroad on its team. Seven Warroad players have played on Olympic hockey teams and all but Oshie boast medals. This is Oshie’s first Olympic appearance.
Oshie attributes his success to unpredictable shot selections during high-pressure shootouts. This season, his seven goals in 10 attempts during shootouts have placed him in first place in the NHL.
The tiny Minnesota town is not only a breeding ground for men’s hockey Olympians. Gigi Marvin, who plays defense on the U.S. women’s hockey team, is also from Warroad and is competing in her third Olympics. In fact, Marvin and Oshie, who plays forward for the St. Louis Blues, were classmates in high school. In 2005, she was named prom queen beside prom king T. J. Oshie. Marvin won a silver medal in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Tributes to Oshie and Marvin are everywhere in Warroad. Posters wishing the pair good luck and U.S. flags have been hung everywhere. Just hours after Oshie’s shootout performance, he had already amassed approximately 130,000 more followers on Twitter. Even Barack Obama tweeted Oshie to congratulate him on the victory.
Marvin’s own grandfather, Cal Marvin, was a coach for the U.S. men’s hockey team during the 60’s. Local legend has it that when Gigi Marvin’s great-grandfather arrived in Warroad in 1907, he walked off the train and was immediately asked if he played hockey.
In 1972, an Ojibwa Native American, Henry Boucha, played on the Olympic hockey team that won a silver medal.
The Miracle on Ice hockey team from 1980 that famously beat the Soviet Union and went on to win a gold medal boasted Warroad native Dave Christian. Christian’s father and uncle also played Olympic hockey, winning gold in 1960 and participating in 1964. Still another Christian uncle won silver in 1956. The Christian family also owns Warroad’s Christian Brothers Hockey Stick company. After the famous Miracle on Ice win, sales of Christian Brothers hockey sticks rose dramatically.
The running joke and prideful boast in Warroad is that their children learn to skate before they walk. One main factor in its success as a breeding ground for hockey Olympians is the frigid winter temperatures which guarantee perfect conditions for ice skating. After his team’s win on Saturday, Oshie acknowledged that he represents a long tradition of ice hockey in the little town of Warroad, Minnesota, and vowed to do his best to uphold it.
By Jennifer Pfalz