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A Great Player Left Behind

Last year, Mia retired. Last week, Cammie Granato was cut.

"Great players are left behind when teams are selected," said women's national ice hockey team coach Ben Smith. "This team is no different than any other team."

In this case, maybe he was just a little wrong. Cammie Granato, 34, has been the spine of the Women's National Team as long as there has been a Women's National Team. She was the captain of both the 1998 aggregation that won the first Olympic gold medal in women's ice hockey, and the 2002 squad that came second to Canada in Salt Lake City. She lasted long enough to play on the team that finally beat Canada for a world championship this year, and she scored forty seven goals in nine world tournament appearances to complement her ten Olympic goals.

Cammi Granato began playing hockey at five, and like all the women who embraced the sport beginning decades ago, she played with and against the boys. She used what might have been regarded as a disadvantage to make herself a stronger player. "If I was average," she has said, "people wouldn't accept me. If I was better, they'd respect me."

Ben Smith, who ran the men's team at Northeastern University before becoming the head coach of the Women's National Team in 1995, has said that when a men's team loses a player, those who remain shrug and assume the team will be better, but when a women's team loses a player, her former teammates mourn the loss of a friend. I asked Ben on Tuesday whether there was mourning among his players now.

"Oh, yes," he said, "and I've had to deal with it myself. I've never coached a player that long. She was on the '95 team when I came into my first camp as a coach. She was one of the players who stood up and said, 'hey, this guy's okay.'"

In sports, everybody who doesn't quit gets cut. Cammie Granato never quit, and when she got cut, she handled the disappointment with the grace those of us who've known her expected. She said she was proud of the women who'd made the team.

Still, as the U.S. team plays in the Four Nations Cup in Finland this week, it's a little hard to know whether to feel sorrier for Cammi, who wanted so badly to make the trip, than I do for Ben, who had to tell her she was staying home.

This program aired on September 1, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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