THE RUSSIANS ARE LEAVING!! Upsets, and Assessments of Olympic Hockey.
My goodness, Canada obliterated Russia. Canada lives to fight another day, and Sid wins the latest chapter of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin showdown (actually, they both had zero points in the game, but Sid wins by default with the team win; also Ovechkin was invisible throughout the whole game). I hate to say it’s typical of Russia, but since the loss, the Russians have been skewering Canada in the media (no offence to any of the nice Russian people I know). All the people who thought that the loss to the US might have been the “inspiration” Canada needed to get things back on track may just have been onto something.
My most common thought through that game was MAN I FREAKING LOVE TEAM CANADA. I had a long term relationship with the LA Kings during the Gretzky era, had cups of coffee with the Blues, Rangers, and most recently, I’d been warming up to the Coyotes and Leafs. But all in all, Team Canada is my favourite hockey team of all time. I absolutely love it when they win, and I nearly lose my mind when they lose. All the whining about how American NHL teams are all comprised of Canadians, and when those teams win Cups, it’s really Canada winning, sort of; well this is actually all those Canadian players all together on one team, and all NHL season gripes, grudges, and affiliations are off. I’ve even come to realize that I really like the new sport neutral Team Canada logo designed for the Olympics.
I really have come to think that the Olympic tournament is the premier
international hockey competition as well. As opposed to the World Championships, you have EVERY country’s best players representing their flag; not the small percentage of NHL players who aren’t in the Stanley Cup playoffs that year. Also, the players are in peak mid-season conditioning; whereas WC players may be “mailing in” their efforts after knowing they’re not going to win the Stanley Cup. The World Cup/Canada Cup is cool too, but it has no frequency to it; only being contested every 7-8 years. It would be better if the Olympics didn’t have single elimination games, and best-of series’ instead. I wish there was a way to have every country play every country at least once, instead of the pool play, but I guess there really isn’t that kind of time. Maybe next NHL lockout, there could be a Global Hockey League, where we see countries compete in an NHL season format. How awesome would that be?
Now we face Slovakia, after what must be considered an upset after defeating defending gold medal champs, Sweden. So Sweden, you’re telling me a squad comprised of Zetterberg, Franzen, Alfredsson, both Sedin’s, Forsberg, Lidstrom, and others were not good enough to beat… wait, who does Slovakia have? Zdeno Chara? (ok they have the Hossa’s and Gaborik too, but come on, not nearly as deep as Sweden) This was the first legit upset of the tournament, in my opinion, but man were there a few close calls. The Swiss were a handful for Canada and the US, Belarus made it tough on Sweden, Latvia took a run at the Czechs, and even Norway almost edged out the Slovaks. Now by the math, Canada should roll over Slovakia, but hey, we said that about the US, didn’t we?
I think it’s great for hockey as a whole, but obviously not great for Canada. We’re no longer afforded the luxury of thinking we’re automatically the best in the world when it comes to international matchups (someone tell all the women’s teams besides Canada and the US to follow suit). We’ve known this since 2006 in Turin really, but people like to pretend as if those Olympics never happened; isn’t it odd that the only Olympics Canadians seem to “remember” in terms of hockey is 2002? Obviously our best showing, but you have to take the bad with the good and make adjustments if you’re going to remain king of the hill. Another thing that escapes Canadian hockey fans memories is that both Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo were our goalies in Turin as well. Luckily, we’ve already bested our placement from that time.
Go Canada GO!