Though the U.S. team is comprised entirely of NHL players just like Canada's squad, most observers gave them only an outside chance of making the medal round at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Almost to a man, Team USA is younger and less well-known than its neighbor to the North.
That may be changing after a dramatic 5-3 win made the U.S. the number one seed going into elimination play. Certainly, goalie Ryan Miller will enjoy a much higher profile after making 42 saves, including several of the breathtaking variety, against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash.
Hardcore hockey collectors already know all about Miller, who's been holding it down in net for the Buffalo Sabres since the 2002-03 season. Though he shuttled back and forth between the parent club and its AHL affiliate in Rochester for a few years, Miller has been the team's unquestioned No. 1 netminder for the last three seasons, racking up 110 wins and 10 shutouts.
On pace to have his best campaign ever in 2009-10, Miller got the nod to start for the U.S. Olympic team right away, looking good against Switzerland and Norway despite not being tested too often. He made up for that with a heavy workload against some of the world's best on Sunday, impressing just about everyone in the process.
The good news for anyone thinking about starting a Miller collection is that he's still a bargain - for now, anyway. He has 24 2002-03 rookie cards, none of which are of the ultra limited, high-dollar variety.
On the autograph and memorabilia side, Miller is plenty affordable as well. Steiner Sports offers a variety of his signed items, including photos ($60 to $80), pucks ($60), sticks ($200) and jerseys ($180 to $200). Canadian converts can find similar prices at the Frozen Pond website.
Miller has signed a number of certified autograph cards over the years as well: 187 in all. A trip to eBay or other popular auction sites can turn up a nice variety, with some of the more common ones selling for under $20.
If Team USA is going to make a serious run for the gold over the next week, it's going to need more heroics from Miller. And if he provides them, the demand for his cards and collectibles could heat up very quickly indeed.
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