By Paul D. Bowker | Feb. 20, 2019, 4:59 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. women's hockey team celebrates a victory at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 11, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

The memories of her days in Lake Placid, New York, still hit Katie Million strongly.

Before she became women’s commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, the Hannibal, New York, native worked for the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid, New York. Her office was in the building where the U.S. men pulled off the “Miracle on Ice” at the Olympic Winter Games Lake Placid 1980.

The Herb Brooks Arena is also where the U.S. women’s national team got its start. Lake Placid was home base for the U.S. women and where they trained. 

Million is now returning home as director of women’s national team programs for USA Hockey

“I had the opportunity to watch those pioneers train every day,” Million said on a teleconference Wednesday. “It was incredibly inspiring.”

The landscape has changed so much since then and Million is joining USA Hockey at a time when women’s hockey is virtually exploding in numbers.

“I can’t tell you how incredibly honored and humbled I am,” Million said.

On Saturday, USA Hockey’s annual Try Hockey Day, a part of Hockey Week Across America, is expected to attract 10,000 kids across the nation. Many of them will be young girls. Million said there were 3,500 female hockey players in the United States back in 1988. Now those numbers are pushing 80,000.

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“As we continue to grow the game,” Million said, “those numbers will only keep getting larger and larger.”

Million’s path toward USA Hockey has been built on the Olympic Winter Games. She spent 17 years with the Olympic Regional Development Authority in a number of roles. She was manager of a number of world cup and world championship events in Lake Placid, including ice hockey, figure skating, bobsled and luge. She joined the WCHA in 2016 and was women’s commissioner and vice president.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Katie to our team. She’s a lovely person,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations. “She does an exceptional job as commissioner of the WCHA.”

Million said she wants to keep the U.S. at the top of women’s hockey in the world, and also help the players become leaders off the ice and role models for the girls who are just now becoming interested in playing hockey.

“It’s coming full circle for me to back in that movement,” Million said. “For me, this is truly a dream come true.”

Million was in Detroit this past Sunday, when the U.S. women played Canada in the final game of their Rivalry Series.

“Great crowd, great excitement, great performance not only from our team, but our friends across the line in Canada,” said Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey executive director.

Million, who begins work on May 1 after the completion of the WCHA season, said she looks forward to continuing that growth and excitement within women’s hockey and collaborating with other members of USA Hockey.

“Working together to support each other. … Hearing that message excites me incredibly,” Million said.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.