Someone should tell the big, bad Canadian hockey team not to mess with the Americans in the Olympics in any year that ends with a zero.
Squaw Valley, 1960. Lake Placid, 1980. And now, Vancouver, 2010?
The USA won Olympic hockey Gold in ’60 and ’80, and while they still have a long way to go to duplicate those feats, they took a big stride in that direction Sunday, snowing on the Canadians’ parade in front of a partisan crowd in Vancouver. Final: USA 5, Canada 3.
It was the Americans’ first win over Canada in Olympic play in 50 years.
So much for entitlement.
Sports don’t always follow scripts, especially the Olympic Games. You can pen it, if you’d like, and figure that you have a proper ending all worked out, but all it takes is a petulant, stubborn little player who doesn’t like the first draft to screw everything up.
This is hockey and it’s the official Canadian pastime and these are the Olympics and the Olympics are in Canada, and the Canadian team is filled with an NHL All-Star team, so let’s fast forward to the medal ceremony and drape those Golds around the necks of those guys from the Great White North.
Nuh-uh—not so fast.
The Americans are obviously not too crazy about that version of how this 2010 Olympic Mens Hockey story should play out.
Our neighbors to the north don’t hope for hockey Gold. They’re not wishing for it. They don’t think it would be nice. They don’t even demand it.
Canada—and I don’t mean the hockey team, I mean the country—positively expects the Gold medal. If coach Mike Babcock’s neck isn’t adorned with the Gold come next weekend, he won’t even need a neck because Canada will have his head.
What else do the Canadians have, really? The Blue Jays aren’t really any good. No one cares about the CFL. The Expos haven’t existed for years. The Raptors are a rumor.
The Canadians have clean cities and Donald and Kiefer Sutherland and socialized health care and beer. And hockey.
So you’ll forgive that country if there’s a spike in the sale of razor blades, and rope for nooses this morning. I heard the United Nations officially put Canada on a suicide watch.
The Canadians may have Sidney Crosby, but the Americans have…Brian Rafalski?
Yes, Rafalski—the Red Wings’ ancient defenseman—has suddenly become a scoring machine. He had two more goals and an assist yesterday, and played solidly in his own zone, too. He is, so far, the Olympics’ Conn Smythe favorite.
The Americans jumped on the Canadians 41 seconds into the game, with Rafalski pausing at the point, apparently waiting for Crosby’s stick to get in the way, then slid a shot toward it. The puck deflected dutifully, and eluded Team Canada goalie Marty Brodeur.
The Canadians kept coming, but all they could manage were a couple of ties—1-1 and 2-2. Team USA goalie Ryan Miller (MSU) was getting all Jim Craig-ish, repelling the furious Canadian onslaught at almost every turn.
Most impressive was Miller’s performance after Crosby brought Canada to within 4-3 with 3:09 remaining. For about 90 seconds, Miller flopped, slid, flailed, and kicked, and whenever he did something like that with his body, the puck hit it. The outcome wasn’t determined until the ubiquitous empty netter that normally quells hockey riots.
All is not lost for Canada, though. They can still win Gold—they just have a harder route to take now. The Americans are safely in the quarterfinals, while Canada has to dispatch Germany on Tuesday in order to get there.
Could Team USA and Canada meet again? Certainly. Could Canada, in that contest, wash the Americans’ faces with snow and snap their suspenders? Absolutely.
Will Babcock escape Vancouver with his life? Or will Brad McCrimmon have to take over the Red Wings when NHL play resumes?