Hall of Famer Mike Modano was a member of three U.S. Olympic men's hockey teams. They were filled with NHL stars, but they managed to take home just one medal, a silver in 2002.
If the NHL sends its players to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy, the Americans will have another team filled with familiar names: Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, the Hughes and Tkachuk brothers, and the deepest goaltending pool in the nation's history.
When Modano looks at those players, he sees Olympic gold.
"God, that roster's pretty solid. They'll all be in their prime. They'll all be very hungry," Modano told ESPN. "I would say since the 1990s, that's probably the best one we could have."
The 2026 Olympics offer the moment USA Hockey has been waiting for since the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980, the last time the men's national team won gold at the Winter Olympics.
It's the moment when young players who first picked up a stick to be like Mike Modano or Patrick Kane have become established stars. When teams are drafting from regions seeded with talent from 30 years of NHL expansion. When the best-of-the-best American players are comparable to those on Canada, a country that has been the best-of-the-best for over 20 years in international competition.
"I think it's probably the deepest player pool for Team USA. There are so many high-end superstars now that are American," said Boston Bruins winger James van Riemsdyk, who represented the U.S. in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The Sochi Games marked the last appearance for NHL players in the Olympics. The last "best-on-best" tournament for the U.S. was the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. An entire generation of American players have entered the NHL since then, ascending quickly to elite status.
They've never had the chance to represent their country on the Olympic stage. But they know the potential for this 2026 team. The potential for greatness.
The potential for gold.