1996 World Cup champs believed they could be great

Brian Leetch knew the names on the United States roster, and that those players could do something special at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Still, Leetch needed to be told, needed to have the message hammered into him every single day, that the United States could win the tournament and that it was OK to have high expectations and not just hope.

A dozen years of representing the United States at international tournaments, including multiple IIHF World Junior Championships, the Olympics and the Canada Cup, had clouded Leetch's judgment on just what was to be expected from an American team.

"I had been playing for U.S. teams since I was 16 years old, and that's how we went into the tournaments: We wanted to play our best, execute and do well, but we knew we weren't as good as the teams we were playing," Leetch said. "There was confidence, but there was also hope that you could keep it close, be in the game, so you could do something special to win those games. That had been repeated for me in most of the tournaments I was in."

Not in this one. Not this time.

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