WESLEY CHAPEL — Hilary Knight, the best player on the U.S. women's hockey team, has a resume that includes three All-America seasons at Wisconsin — where she won two national titles and is the all-time leading goal scorer — and being the first American MVP in the Canadian Women's Hockey League.
Yet she found herself having trouble keeping up with practice last fall. The drills were unfamiliar. The pace was a little faster.
"I was a little nervous," she said. "I was just trying to fit in."
And she did, said Rickard Rakell, the Anaheim Ducks' All-Star center.
"She's very competitive and doesn't turn her back on anybody," Rakell said. "She went hard. It was pretty fun to watch."
Knight practiced with the Ducks in the preseason. There was talk of her playing in a preseason game, but it never happened. After the United States' heartbreaking overtime loss to Canada in the gold-medal game at the last Olympics, Knight, 28, planned on playing in a men's pro league in Sweden.
She changed her mind two years ago after coaching young female players in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"There's so many things I want to do here in the States with hockey, from the grass roots level up to the professional level," Knight said, "so I think I should state-side."
MEGHAN DUGGAN, HOCKEY AMBASSADOR
You've seen her skate in Dunkin' Donuts commercials. Maybe you saw her picture on boxes of Special K and Kellogg's Corn Flakes.
Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. women's team, is uncomfortable calling herself the face of women's hockey in America, though she is. She sees herself more as an ambassador.
"We all do," she said. "Every single one of us wants to grow the game. We want to be role models to young girls who want to join the sport. That's something that's important to us."
Duggan, 30, joined the sport when she was 3, a rink rat who followed her brothers, then blazed her own path that takes her to her third Olympics. She is the leader of the team, intent on finally returning with a gold medal.
Her picture on the cereal boxes? That was a goal for a long time, since she saw the 1998 Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. women's team on a box of Wheaties. Having done one solo, Duggan would like to join her teammates on another box.
"That would be the coolest thing ever," she said.
GIGI MARTIN'S ROAD FROM WARRROAD TO PYEONGCHANG
They turned out the lights at the local hockey rink so everyone could head outside and greet the boys team that had just won the Minnesota state high school hockey title. Gigi Marvin and her friends remained inside, hiding in the locker room, then skating in the dark and playing with light-up pucks.
"We respected that they won, but we wanted to be them in 10 years, so we kept skating," Marvin said.
It's what you do if you're from Warroad, Minn., population 1,700. The town just six miles from Canada churns out top-shelf hockey players, including eight who have competed in the Olympics. That group includes the famed Christian brothers and the Capitals' T.J. Oshie, who was named king of the Frosty Festival to Marvin's queen when they were high school seniors.
Marvin, 30, is back for her third Olympics, keeping the Warroad tradition alive.
"It's amazing," she said. "We have an amazing tradition of people skating all day, every day in the winter. The success is unparalleled. From a town of 1,700, to kick out so many NHLers, so many (college Division I) players, state championships, gold medals, Olympic gold medals."
U.S. Olympic team by the numbers
Athletes on the team, the largest delegation for any nation in the history of the Winter Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee says.
Age of the oldest team member, men's hockey player Brian Gionta; he is the only team member born in the 1970s.
States represented; Colorado has the most athletes claiming a hometown in the state, 31.
Age of the youngest team members; six 17-year-olds are on the team.
Returning champions from all previous Olympics
Members serving in the Army's World Class Athlete Program: men's bobsleders Nick Cunningham, Chris Fogt, Justin Olsen and Nathan Weber; and lugers Taylor Morris, Matt Mortensen and Emily Sweeney
Returning 2014 champions: Jamie Anderson (snowboarding slopestyle), Maddie Bowman (freestyle skiing halfpipe), Ted Ligety (Alpine skiing giant slalom), Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine skiing slalom) and David Wise (freestyle skiing halfpipe).
Athletes with Florida hometowns: long-track speed skaters Brittany Bowe, Erin Jackson and Joey Mantia from Ocala, and Mia Manganello from Crestview; men's hockey team goalie Brandon Maxwell from Winter Park
Medals won by the most decorated returning Olympian: long-track speed skater Shani Davis (two-time champion in the 1,000 meters, two-time silver medalist in the 1,500)
Married couple: Pairs figure skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim
Source: U.S. Olympic Committee