Stirling Cup returns with 1998 women’s Olympic hockey team | AspenTimes.com

Stirling Cup returns with 1998 women’s Olympic hockey team

The 1998 U.S. women's hockey team broke new ground when it won Olympic gold at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. That was the first time women's ice hockey had been an Olympic sport, and that team inspired a whole generation of girls.

Now, 20 years later, the majority of that same team will be in Aspen Saturday night for the 18th annual Stirling Cup, a fundraiser for Aspen Junior Hockey.

"It's going to be great," AJH executive director Shaun Hathaway said. "That group of women paved the way for girls hockey and the growth of girls hockey, there is no doubt about it. That gold medal was a game changer. It literally changed the complexion of hockey in the United States for girls."

The '98 team will play the University of Colorado women's hockey team at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 inside Lewis Ice Arena. General admission tickets are $5.

In past years, the annual all-star game as part of the Stirling Cup has featured alumni of various National Hockey League franchises. But, considering the milestone anniversary for the Olympic team and the recent success of girls' hockey here in the valley, Hathaway pitched the idea to USA Hockey about bringing in the women's national team.

The original idea was to have the '98 team play the 2018 Olympic team, which also won gold this past winter, the first since that original team. Alas, a scheduling conflict kept that from happening.

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"There is actually a young lady on the '18 team getting married this weekend, so all the players on the '18 team are going and I didn't have the guts to call her and ask to change her wedding date," Hathaway laughed. "It's time. It's time to really give the girls the credit they deserve, and what better way to do it than through the Stirling Cup."

After the first period of Saturday’s game, AJH will recognize its girls 16U AA team that competed in the national championships in April. After the second period, it will recognize Aspen's longstanding Mother Puckers women's hockey team, part of an exciting night celebrating the success of female hockey players, both in the valley and abroad.

"For what we've accomplished on the girls' side of the game, it's the right time," Hathaway said. "Hopefully we can pack the house here. I think with the CU women's team, it will have an exciting feel to it."

The Stirling Cup weekend, which includes Sunday's golf tournament at Aspen Golf Club, raises money toward AJH's scholarship fund. Hathaway said they hope to give out around $25,000 in scholarships to get local kids on the ice.

The organization's largest fundraiser is its Fall Faceoff, which includes three straight weekends of tournaments. That gets underway Oct. 12.

acolbert@aspentimes.com