PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA
The final score didn't matter. Win or lose, the fans didn't seem to care. Or even notice.
Not on a remarkable night when an Olympic women's hockey game was played under extraordinary circumstances.
A unified Korean hockey team made its Olympic debut as the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched from the stands alongside the president of South Korea and the president of the International Olympic Committee following a historic diplomatic meeting Saturday afternoon.
For the record, Korea lost to Switzerland 8-0, but the symbol of unity displayed on the ice and in the crowd rendered the score insignificant.
"Being unified through sport, hopefully this can be a small step to something bigger," said Minnesotan Marissa Brandt, who plays for her native Korea under her birth name Yoon Jung Park. "Very special to be a part of it."
Leaders of the two countries met hours before the game with Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, reportedly extending an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit North Korea for further talks.
The two sides reached a rapprochement agreement shortly before the Olympics that allowed a delegation of North Korean athletes to compete, including 12 women's hockey players.
The détente has swept emotion over these Games, starting with Korean athletes marching together at the Opening Ceremony and continuing with Saturday's hockey game.
Buses clogged streets surrounding Kwandong Hockey Centre two hours before opening faceoff. The atmosphere was electric, almost chaotic, as fans filtered into the intimate 6,000-seat arena.
Fans waved the unified flag that features the Korean peninsula in blue set against a white background. Two Korean women, standing just inside the front entrance to the arena, held signs that read "Peace Olympics."
The mood felt almost surreal when a delegation of more than 100 North Korean cheerleaders filed into the arena. Media members and fans swarmed them as they climbed a staircase to their seats at one end of the rink. As the cheerleaders settled in, a mob of spectators took photos and videos a few feet away, creating a traffic jam in the aisles.
Korean coach Sarah Murray, who played college hockey at Minnesota Duluth, took over the women's program four years ago and steadily improved the talent with the hope of making a respectable showing as the host country.
She was thrown a curveball at the last minute with the arrival of the North Koreans. The agreement requires Murray to play three North Koreans every game. The official roster distributed to the media did not identify which players were from North Korea, but Murray said she played three.
Murray blamed the outcome on nerves, not any chemistry issues with a team being disrupted by 12 new players. She said players have gotten along better than she could have imagined.
"I'll walk into the locker room and they're all laughing together," she said. "You can't tell who is from the North and who is from the South. They're just girls playing hockey."
Their first game together featured a loud, festive atmosphere. Fans cheered any positive play. They roared when the Koreans crossed center ice, or even connected on routine passes. The score did nothing to dampen their spirits.
"Unlike any crowd I've ever played in front of before," Brandt said.
Especially the North Korean cheerleaders. Dressed in all red and seated in different sections of the arena, the cheer squad performed songs and dances with perfect precision.
"They're very in unison, aren't they?" Brandt said, laughing. "You could just feel the support."
The game was predictably lopsided. Switzerland led 3-0 after one period, 6-0 after two periods and had a relatively easy time. They outshot the Koreans 52-8.
The crowd didn't seem to care. In the third period, with Switzerland leading 8-0, the organist played "If you're happy and you know it" and the crowd clapped along.
A unique moment took place after the game. Thomas Bach, the IOC president, and Moon stood on the Korean bench and delivered a pep talk as the players gathered on the ice.
Asked about their specific message, Murray said she couldn't hear them.
"I was pushed back by cameras," she said.