Monday, March 1, 2010

America loses to its hat in hockey gold medal round

You know the scene in Titanic where Rose wears her diamond necklace for Jack, and only that? ... Crosby, meet me in a car on E Deck. Bring the gold medal.

There was no miracle on ice for this year's USA mens' hockey team. Just like the USA womens' hockey team this year, they lost to Canada in the gold medal round. America lost to America's hat.

This was the most watched Olympic gold medal game since 1980 and, showing that fans are loyal to not only their country, but to players from their NHL teams, Buffalo and Pittsburgh had the top number of viewers per city.

The bronze medal was awarded the night before to Finland after they defeated Slovakia. Slovakia went from a 3-1 lead to a 5-3 loss. I cared about this game because Marian Hossa (first of all, that's a girl's name) plays for Slovakia and he is universally despised by Penguins fans for leaving our team to go to rival Detroit Red Wings. Hossa played for the Pens in '08 when we fell to the Wings in the Stanley Cup game, then turned down a contract with the Pens to go to the Wings, who fell to the Pens in the '09 Stanley Cup game. Once again, Hossa walked away without anything to show for his efforts as his team placed fourth. Suck it, Hossa.

Coincidentally, Finland's women also won bronze, resulting in a gold / silver / bronze identical medal podium placement in both mens' and womens' hockey.

The Finland / Slovakia game, where the winning team overcame a two point deficit to win, could have served as inspiration to Team USA which would find itself in a similar predicament in the gold medal match.

Team USA had gone undefeated throughout the tournament to earn its spot in the final game. Team Canada had won all but one game in its journey to the finals. Its previous loss was 4-1 to Team USA.

Canada's goalie, Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, had replaced Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils who was Canada's starting goalie throughout most of the Olympic games. This was a crucial element of Canada's success. Brodeur was good, but not great, and not always reliable. Luongo proved to be a much better choice and was particularly comfortable playing on home ice since the game was held in the Canucks' arena. Personally, I think Marc-Andre Fleury, Canada's third sting goalie and member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, would have been an equally good choice and an asset to Canada on the ice, but he did not get to play.

This game was 2-0 by midpoint as the result of goals by Canada's Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry. This wasn't thanks to any lack of effort on the part of Team USA, who was largely going shot-for-shot with the Canadians. USA had its game face on and its enforcers out in full force, including Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins who was laying hits on the Canadians left and right, including shoving one up and into the box in the first period.

Team USA came rallying back with a goal by Patrick Kane which may or may not have been tipped in thanks to the help of his teammate Ryan Kesler.

The third period was a fast and furious blur of shots on goal on both ends. Luongo and Ryan Miller, the US goalie and member of the Buffalo Sabres who would later be awarded the well-deserved title of MVP after his incredible performance as a brick wall in front of the goal throughout the Olympic matches, were both holding strong.

USA pulled its goalie with over a minute left as a last ditch attempt to catch up to the Canadians and put the added pressure on Luongo. With 24.4 seconds left, USA's Zach Parise shoveled in a puck that had rebounded off Luongo's pads to tie the game 2-2. My family and I jumped from our seats cheering. We knew Team USA had it in them, but it was still unbelievable. These are the moments fans dream of.

Team USA fans and Canadian fans were getting the game they deserved between these two evenly matched teams. The game went into a 20 minute overtime.

About halfway into overtime, Canada's Sidney Crosby, member of the Pittsburgh Penguins and my boyfriend, hovered near the Team USA net, screaming for the puck from teammate Jarome Iginla. Iginla, swarmed by two USA defensemen, frantically heard Crosby's calls of "Iggy!" and quickly passed the puck between the defensemen to him.

“There's different pitches to a guy's voice when he's yelling for it. This was pretty urgent, so I knew he had a step. I didn't see it go in, I just heard everybody yelling, and saw him jumping around, so I knew we won.” said Ignalia.

Crosby, who would later tell interviewers he wasn't even looking at the goal because he knew he had to react immediately and just feel it out, quickly struck the puck as it reached him and sent it barreling toward the goal... and into it. It was so quick Miller never had time to stop it.

"CROSBYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!" is what I was yelling with my arms in the air in momentary happiness when my favorite hockey player scored. I'm pretty sure all of Canada was cheering it with me. It's one of those knee jerk reaction moments where you're incredibly happy for an individual before the larger ramifications dawn on you.

As soon as I put my arms down, I was sad for Team USA, who I had been rooting for throughout this game and the entire Olympics. Team USA is my team and, like the rest of the country, I really thought we would win when we rallied back to tie the game in the last seconds of regulation. I was sad for Orpik, as a Penguin, who played his heart out on the ice. I was saddened by the looks on the faces of all of our team, and the way they dragged their sticks solemnly across the ice behind them as they slowly skated off. Team USA left it all on the ice, and as US citizens, that's all we asked for.

Crosby and the Canadians won Olympic gold. At that moment, Team USA and fans could probably only think about how we had lost it. But, the truth is, Team USA won silver in a game that could not have been any closer. And if there is one team to which the US should not feel bad about losing, it is Team Canada. The Canadians invented hockey and it is their national sport. Crosby is the face of Canadian hockey, the face of the '09 Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins, and one of the best hockey players in the world.

As Crosby's #1 fan and also rabid Team USA devotee in every sport throughout the 2010 winter Olympics which I followed religiously, I was torn. I supported and stood with Team USA in this game. I wanted us to win. I also wanted Crosby to have a good game. It turns out I can't have my cake and eat it too.

There is no shame in only winning silver, and hopefully Team USA won't be having any "coulda, shoulda, woulda" moments when looking back, because the truth is they played like gold.

3 comments:

  1. Apparently one guy's opinion gets no airplay around here. I like how my comment about Crosby being a cherry picker got taken down quicker than a freshman intern in Georgetown. Where's the fun in that? I guess it's hard to refute something when it's 100% true. Feel free to take this one down as well, I won't be checking back. Go caps.

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  2. Bob, I never removed any comment so perhaps you didn't post it correctly. I don't disagree with you that he's a cherry picker (in addition to his many other talents on the ice) so I'd have no reason to remove it. Having played field hockey myself and having been a huge cherry picker, I don't see any problem with that. Opportunism in sports wins games and knowing where to be to take advantage of situations in hockey is a useful and praiseworthy skill.

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