It's shocking to consider the possibility that the United States could be relegated at this year's IIHF World Championship, especially after winning Olympic silver in February. However, it wasn't all that long ago that the Americans last suffered that indignity.
It was the year of Wayne Gretzky's NHL-record 92 goals, the release of the Commodore 64 home computer, and Michael Jackson's Thriller: 1982.
At the 1982 World Championship in Finland, the Americans finished eighth and last in the round-robin tournament. They lost six straight games and only managed to tie West Germany 5-5 in their last outing.
That roster wasn't devoid of name value. On defence, for instance, the U.S. iced an 18-year-old Phil Housley, soon-to-be two-time Norris Trophy winner Rod Langway, and “Miracle on Ice” participant Mike Ramsey. Other returnees from the incredible 1980 Olympic victory over the Soviet Union included Mark Johnson, Buzz Schneider, and John Harrington.
Nonetheless, it wasn't good enough.
Only by slaughtering the likes of Yugoslavia (13-2), Norway (8-2), and Japan (12-1) in the 1983 B Pool in Tokyo did the Americans regain their key to international hockey's elite division.
Of course, if exposed to all this history, members of this year's American team might well respond: “That was before my time.” And they'd be right.
On the current roster, only goalie Scott Clemmensen (born 1977) and forward David Moss (born 1981) were even alive when the '82 squad went down in flames.
Still, the harsh reality of here and now should be enough to motivate the Americans to make sure they don't take the dark stairway down to Division I.
The last time the U.S. played in the Relegation Round was in 2003, also in Finland, but they staved off Belarus, Slovenia, and Japan in order to stay up. Coincidentally, Phil Housley was also on that team.