“I remember in 2010, always trying to play catch-up,” Knight said. “In 2014, we were the better team and then we had sort of mental lapses. What’s different now than in years past, this team really looks internally for motivation.”
Since Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin scored the golden goal in Sochi four years ago, fans have eagerly awaited a rematch of a game that drew almost five million viewers on NBC.
In North America, the audience for women’s hockey has grown with the creation of the National Women’s Hockey League in 2015 and the expansion of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Last March, the American players garnered national news media attention when they won a battle for equitable support from USA Hockey, their governing body.
With a greater platform, the American team changed their pre-Olympic plans, focusing only on exhibitions with Canada. In past cycles, the national team also played college squads. But not only does Canada provide the best competition, it is also the top box-office draw.
The game here on Oct. 25 was sold out, with an announced crowd of 6,298 at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. Up to five of the remaining games between the rivals will be played in N.H.L. arenas.
“From a competition standpoint, I’d rather play Canada every single night, maybe Finland,” Knight said. “But when all is said and done and we’re looking from a women’s hockey exposure standpoint, we should be playing other teams. But I think that’s a little bit later down on in the future.”
She added that she would like to see stronger initiatives from the International Ice Hockey Federation to develop women’s hockey in more countries.
For now, even when they aren’t playing Canada, the Americans try to create the best facsimile, scrimmaging against college-age men’s teams in Tampa, where the national team has been based since September. It is a tactic used by the Canadians since 2002; this year,…