PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Randi Griffin still can’t believe that someone picked up her “garbage.”
That’s what she calls the goal she scored for the unified Korean women’s hockey team against Japan at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The shot was a weak wrister that bounced on the ice and managed to dribble five-hole past the Japanese goaltender.
“It was a pretty crappy shot that took a couple of bounces and happened to go into the net,” the forward said after the game. “I got lucky.”
But Griffin quickly learned that one person’s garbage goal is another person’s history. Her goal was the first-ever Korean tally in Winter Olympics history, and someone had the smarts to quickly retrieve the puck from the ice.
It’s now in Toronto getting prepped to be showcased at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I still can’t believe my name will appear in the Hockey Hall of Fame because of a garbage goal, but it’s pretty cool,” she told me. “I also still can’t believe I just played hockey in the Olympics, so I guess it’s the perfect crazy unexpected ending to a crazy unexpected experience.”
Phil Pritchard, the Hall’s curator, and keeper of the Stanley Cup, told me that the puck will be featured in the shrine’s World of Hockey display then take up permanent residence in the Olympic history display.
“Got the puck here…it is taped details of the goal etc. It’s not signed,” Pritchard told me in an email. “Once I get the artifacts back to the Hockey Hall of Fame, we will preserve, conserve and write up the proper paperwork and get captions made up.”
Griffin, a North Carolinian and former Harvard University player, is still pinching herself.
“I was honestly really surprised,” she told me.
The daughter of a South Korean mother and white father, Griffin was initially recruited by the Korea Ice Hockey Association in 2014 via an email asking if she’d be interested in joining its Olympic effort.
Griffin, who hadn’t played serious hockey since her senior season at Harvard in 2009-10, thought the email was a hoax and didn’t respond for months.
Once she determined it was real, she flew to South Korea for a mini-camp then joined the country’s national women’s team that would play at the Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Her crazy journey got even crazier when it was announced that 12 players from North Korea’s women’s hockey team would be added to the South Korean roster, creating a unified team.
It was the first time that players from the North and South Korean athletes played together on a single in the Winter Olympics. Initially, there was concern about how the players would bond given the tense political relationship between the two countries.
But the players apparently managed to form some bonds, despite the North Korean skaters sleeping in separate quarters and riding separate buses from the South Korean teammates.
Griffin, 29, recalled that she spotted some of the North Korean players getting McDonald’s Oreo McFlurries for breakfast in the dining hall at the Olympic Village.
“We all laughed about that and had McFlurries together for breakfast,” Griffin told reporters earlier this week.
The unified team struggled mightily on the ice, getting blown out by Switzerland and Sweden by 8-0 scores. They didn’t win any of its Olympic tournament games and they were outscored by opponents 2 goals to 20.
So when Griffin scored her seeing-eye goal, she knew it was Korea’s first Olympic goal, but she didn’t fully grasp what a big deal it was.
“I knew the goal would mean a lot to Korean supporters who wanted something to cheer for since we were losing games, and it certainly meant a lot to our team, but I didn’t thing anyone outside Korea would care.”
Griffin had designs for the puck – as a keepsake.
“I wanted the puck as a souvenir,” she said. “But obviously now that I know why they took it, I’m happy to let them have it.”
The Korean unified team member expects to have a reunion with the vulcanized rubber biscuit that made Olympic history when she returns to North America.
“I definitely will visit it!” Griffin said.
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