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Hockey dads bear stress of watching US sons

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Ted Donato wasn't worried about family bragging rights.

Watching from the stands while son Ryan played in the Olympic quarterfinals, he couldn't do much but be anxious, anyway.

"Just a nervous dad watching the games," Ted Donato said.

Hockey dads and former athletes Ray Bourque, Ted Donato and Chuck Terry were among the nerve-wracked American fans who watched the U.S. bow out of the Olympics with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Each of their sons — Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato and Troy Terry — took turns in the shootout, and all three came up empty.

Don't expect the dads to be too disappointed. Not after the unexpected experience of seeing their sons compete in Pyeongchang in a year when the NHL skipped the Olympics.

Ted certainly had nothing but pride for Ryan. The Boston Bruins prospect scored his tournament-leading fifth goal in the first period, surpassing his father's total of four in the 1992 games.

"I'd be happy if he doubled it," Ted Donato said.

Ryan Donato won't get the chance, and at least for Ted Donato's blood pressure, that might be OK. Ted played in 796 NHL games and has been the coach at Harvard for 14 seasons. Ryan, 21, is in his third season playing for his dad with the Crimson.

All that hockey experience, and still Ted has never felt hockey anxiety quite like watching his own child, now playing in the AHL for the Hershey Bears, skate on the Olympic stage.

"I get nervous even coaching, but at least you're involved and you got enough on your mind," Ted Donato said. "As a player, you get probably the least amount of nervous just because you're out there and you're just so invested."

The shootout was a strange, sad bit of deja vu for Ray Bourque. The Hall of Famer was among the Canadian shooters turned away by Czech goalie Dominik Hasek during a shootout in the 1998 Olympics, one that left Canada without a medal.

"I was told if I come back with any colored medal, it would be an incredible feeling," Ray Bourque said. "And I just kind of blew that off, saying that, 'It's going to be a gold or a silver.' I came back with nothing, and that was very disappointing."

Chris was 12 at the time and attended those games. He and Ray discussed that letdown ahead of Pyeongchang, and the elder Bourque also recounted for Chris some memories from the Olympic village.

"Being in the Canadian village there where you have your own little place and common area to meet at night was one that I'll never forget," Ray said.

Chuck Terry long thought his son, Troy Terry, would grow to be a football player like his dad. Chuck was a backup quarterback at Arizona State, but Troy got hooked on hockey after seeing his first Colorado Avalanche game at 2 1/2 years old and he now plays for the University of Denver.

The kid seems to have made the right choice.

"It's unreal, because he's actually here at the Olympics playing," Chuck said.

The Terrys figured Troy would have a good shot at the Olympic team when NHL players were held out. He came up through the U.S. national program and was a shootout hero at the world junior championship last year.

"He's always been someone that could raise his game in big games his whole life," Chuck said.

The parents weren't sure what to expect at these Olympics, with rosters filled with journeymen, young talent and veteran players with NHL and other professional experience. Turns out, the Americans won't take home a medal. That won't ruin the experience for at least a few proud fathers.

"You never really believe it until it happens," Chuck Terry said.