Even those so unfamiliar with hockey they couldn't tell the difference between a power play and a power outage know what Lake Placid, N.Y., means to the game's American fans.
The site of the 1980 Winter Olympic games hosted what many consider the greatest underdog triumph in the history of sport - the U.S. hockey team's magical rally to the gold medal that's been dubbed "The Miracle on Ice." Less than two weeks from now, Missoula Big Sky junior-to-be Allie Beall will take to the ice in Lake Placid hoping to create a little magic of her own.
Beall will be skating at the Olympic Training Center from June 25-July 1 in the girls' U-17 USA Hockey National Player Development Camp. After playing at the Northern Plains District Camp last month in Minot, N.D., Beall was surprised to learn she was the only forward invited to the national camp from the region that includes Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as Montana.
At the national camp, Beall will be coached and evaluated by some of the country's top college and junior hockey league recruiters while competing for a spot on a U.S. select team that will face international competition over the upcoming year. Beall is the first product of the 11-year-old Missoula Area Youth Hockey Association to earn an invite to a national select camp.
"It's a tremendous honor for Allie and then for our youth hockey association for her to advance to nationals," said MAYHA youth hockey director Gary Jahrig. "That's a very select group that she's been picked to be a part of, so she obviously stood out at the district camp to get that kind of attention."
But it wasn't easy for Beall to reach the level of play that's brought her national attention. She's spent the majority of her time playing organized hockey in boys' leagues. While it's been a struggle at times, Beall feels it's made her game stronger.
"That's definitely what's made me better because boys' hockey is a lot faster and more physical," she said. "When you play with girls the way you play with boys, you just seem to be a little bit better."
The Beall family moved to Missoula 11 years ago from the Denver area when the MAYHA was in its infancy. Beall's older brother, Mike, had played the game on ponds in Colorado and soon began playing in MAYHA leagues. He was the one who first convinced his younger sister to take up the sport.
Though apprehensive at first - Beall claims she didn't even like hockey before joining her brother at Glacier Ice Rink at the age of 9 - she quickly became enamored with the sport and soon began playing alongside the guys.
"Sometimes it's really hard and some of the players on the other teams are kind of mean to me," she said. "But I really like to go out there and prove myself. Before a game I can see the other players saying, 'Look she's a girl, she must suck.' But that always motivates me to prove to them that I can play."
Jahrig has watched Beall develop throughout her playing career and has always been impressed with her toughness and knowledge of the game.
"Allie has always played with the boys and she's always held her own with them and fared very well," he said. "She's not very big, but she's fearless. I've seen her go head-to-head with guys that must outweigh her by about 100 pounds and she never backs down. She's a really strong skater and has a very good hockey sense and understanding of the game. "
Beall gives much of the credit for her success on the ice to the help she's received from her brother, who graduated from Big Sky on Saturday. He's generally been the one to receive the headlines as a captain and top goal scorer for the Missoula Bruins high school team. Mike Beall even organized the Missoula High School Hockey Holiday Tournament last December for his senior project.
According to Allie, the many assists she's received from her brother have been instrumental in raising the level of her game.
"He's basically helped me through everything," she said. "He always gives me advice and tells me what I'm doing wrong and how to get better. We have a really good relationship and I never really have a problem taking his criticisms."
When Beall travels to upstate New York with a hockey bag full of equipment and dreams of earning a spot on a national team roster, she'll be out to prove her worth against athletes who grew up playing the game in places far more steeped in hockey tradition. Once there, she hopes to not only make a name for herself, but for Montana hockey as well.
"I want to show the coaches and the other players there that Montana does have good hockey players even though we're not known for it," she said, "I'm just going to go out there and play my hardest and see if I can compete with some of the best players out there. Whatever happens, I'm glad I've gotten the opportunity to go."
Jahrig isn't sure of Beall's chances at a selection to the national squad, but he's well aware what an accomplishment it is just earning an invitation to the camp.
"You know, there's going to be so much talent out there that the competition will most likely be tougher than anything she's seen so far," he said. "But still, she has the chance to have a good camp and catch an eye or two there. It's certainly possible that she'll make the U.S. team."
The week of camp will certainly be yet another challenge Beall will face with her usual fiery gusto. And whether Beall makes Team USA or not, she's already proven herself to be one of the most talented hockey players - male or female - to hail from Missoula.
Reporter Michael Heinbach can be reached at 523-5209 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.