Like pretty much any hockey player in Minnesota, Brock Faber is quite familiar with "Miracle,'' the 2004 movie about the 1980 gold medal winning U.S. Olympic hockey team. The Gophers sophomore defenseman estimates he watches the film, "about 50 times a year.''
On Feb. 4, the U.S. men's Olympic hockey team is scheduled to arrive in Beijing for the Winter Games. They'll begin play on Feb. 10 against host China, and Faber will be there, chasing his gold medal dreams, along with Gophers teammates Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies.
"It's hard to put into words how excited I am,'' said Faber, of Maple Grove. "It's a dream come true. … You don't really understand how special it is until you get asked to go. The emotions kind of rush in.''
On Monday, Faber, Meyers and Knies were part of a video news conference previewing the Winter Olympics. All three, of course, are thrilled to be part of Team USA, which will field a squad of 15 collegiate players, eight pros playing in Europe and two AHL pros. They received the official nod from USA Hockey last week, getting a chance to represent their country after the NHL opted out of the Games because of increasing COVID-19 numbers and postponed games.
"I'm really excited, especially going with Benny and Faber,'' said Knies, a freshman forward. "It's going to be a wonderful time and a really good experience.''
Faber, Meyers and Knies will play in two more series with the Gophers — this weekend's showdown against Big Ten leader Michigan at 3M Arena at Mariucci and the Jan. 28-29 set at Notre Dame — before their Olympic duties call. They'll miss three series: Feb. 4-5 vs. Michigan State, Feb. 11-12 at Ohio State and Feb. 18-19 at Penn State. The Olympic hockey tournament runs through Feb. 20.
"Especially with our season going on, it's just kind of flying by,'' said Meyers, a junior forward from Delano and the Gophers' leading scorer with 24 points on nine goals and 15 assists. "… We're already two weeks out, and I'm just really looking forward to getting with the team, finishing up our last two weekends with the Gophers and hopefully winning a medal with Team USA.''
In China, there will be plenty of uncertainties because of the coronavirus pandemic, and positive tests could require quarantine lengths of 21 days. The chance to play for Team USA was too good to pass up for players, including the current Gophers trio. Faber is putting his trust in U.S. Olympic officials.
"We're focused on the hockey side of it,'' he said. "The Olympic Committee, they've got it all figured out. It's gonna be safe over there.''
For Knies, the opportunity was too big to pass up.
"This is once in a lifetime,'' he said. "Not many kids get this chance to be on an Olympic team and represent USA Hockey. When I get that chance, I'm going to take it no matter what the consequences are. I had to jump on this.''
For Faber and Knies, the chance to play for the United States in the Olympics quickly soothed the disappointment of their short time in the World Junior Championship, a tournament that was canceled in late December after it had barely started.
"Honestly, in the back of my head I thought I was in contention to make the team,'' said Knies, a Scottsdale, Ariz., native. "… Once I got the call, it really didn't sink in for a while.''
Meyers will be playing his first international tournament for USA Hockey. He's looking forward to putting on the Team USA sweater.
"Growing up in the states, it's just iconic to see the red, white and blue,'' Meyers said. "… It's something I won't be able to put into words until I try it for the first time.''