Hockey Gold in Canada

 | March 1, 2010 7:25 AM

At the start of every international hockey tournament I am always worried.  Canada is always the favorite or one of the favorites but so often Canada disappoints.  Maybe my expectations are too high since disappointment means not winning it all.

I remember how Canada finished fourth at Nagano in 1998 and I felt so bad for Gretzky because he never won a gold medal.  I remember Canada losing the first World Cup in 1996 to the United States because Mike Richter stood on his head stopping everything.  In 2002 though the curse seemed to be broken as Canada won the gold and I loved that team and watching Gretzky, the architect of the team, celebrate from his box.  But then Canada finished 7th in Torino in 2006.

Canadian athletes also in general seem to not be the type that rise to the occasion.  They seem to be almost too polite, sympathizing with their opponent, being embarrassed about winning too much.  This is unlike American athletes who seem to love overcoming all obstacles, winning no matter the odds.  It’s Canadian politeness vs. the American dream.

Alexandre Bilodeau celebrates Canada's first gold gold medal of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, and the first ever for the country on home soil. But in these Olympics Canadians no longer are the polite hosts, allowing others to win on their soil.  Canada, who had never won any gold medals at home, suddenly won the most of any country and broke the record for most gold medals in the Winter Olympics.  It was stunning.

Despite this apparent change I was still so worried about this game.  Maybe it’s because the thought of losing to the U.S. would be more painful than losing to anyone else.  Even though I consider myself mostly American when it comes to hockey I’m still a little Canadian boy playing street hockey all day with the neighborhood kids.

I was hoping that Canada would score quickly, put the U.S. back on its heels, and continue to press and hold onto win, outshooting the U.S. 2 to 1 with Ryan Miller stopping practically everything.  The game seemed to go as planned with Canada getting the first goal.  But the U.S. was going toe to toe with Canada, Canada was not dominating.  Canada then got the second goal and I felt good.  But then Canada started playing conservatively and I remember thinking that’s a bad idea.

But the Canadians took advantage of another defensive miscue, when at 7:13 of the second period U.S. defenseman Ryan Whitney deflected a centering pass from Ryan Getzlaf directly into the slot, where an uncovered Corey Perry pounced on it and snapped it past Miller, giving Canada a 2-0 lead.

Soon the U.S. scored on a goal that was not an easy one to stop for Roberto Luongo but something I thought Ryan Miller could have stopped.  Canada then started pressing the attack again and I thought maybe it’s good the U.S. scored.

This pressure continued for the first five minutes of the third period but then the U.S. began dominating.  I was just watching the clock, wondering why hockey teams use such a strategy to protect a lead, wishing it would reach the twenty minute mark and worrying because Luongo wasn’t looking sure-handed.

Then with 24.4 seconds to go Zach Parise scored and I was deflated.  I was thinking “Now I won’t be able to go to church.” (The service had already started.)  I was also thinking please don’t let it go to a shootout, I just hate the concept of anyone winning that way.

I thought overtime was kind of gimmicky, 4 on 4.  I was hoping that would be in Canada’s favor but the U.S. was playing well.  Sidney Crosby rushed in and tried to break through two defensemen but got stopped.  I remember thinking how Sidney hadn’t really done anything in the last two games, not judging him for it, just observing.  Then he got that break and shot it past Ryan Miller.  I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was impossible to score on Ryan Miller unless he can’t see it.  But I thought how appropriate that the symbol of Canadian hockey should score the winning goal.

Although the Canadians sat back late in the third period, they came out shooting in overtime. Sidney Crosby's shot from the lower part of the left circle eluded goalie Ryan Miller, and Canada Hockey Place erupted in deafening cheers.

I was screaming and jumping up and down until I became hoarse.  No one was home except Victoria upstairs playing Dora on the computer.

Sidney Crosby's overtime winner gave Canada its first Olympic gold medal on home soil.Now I am debating whether to go buy the Canadian Olympic hockey jersey.  Would it be too brazen wearing it here in the U.S.?  Whose name should be on it?  Sidney Crosby?  Joe Thornton (San Jose Shark)?  Alan “Goliath” Kwok?  Vincent “Ping Pong” Wong?  Are there any Christians on the team?

One cute family note.  Isaac likes to know who to root for.  When I was watching the first Canada vs. U.S.A. game he asked if I am rooting for the red team or the blue team.  I said the red team so he started cheering for the red team.  Then he realized the blue team had the U.S.A. flag so he started cheering for U.S.A.  Dylan said he’ll keep cheering for the red team.  Then they asked Ji Seon who she is rooting for and she said she doesn’t really care who wins but knows that I really care so she will root for Canada too.   I actually want them to root for the U.S.A., it’s their country and it should be mine but hockey is Canada’s game.

You can see the video highlights of Canada’s win here.

6 Responses to “Hockey Gold in Canada”

Catherine wrote a comment on March 1, 2010

I was also hoarse from screaming so much. Carl was laughing at my reaction and then Jacob started copying me. Carl videotaped Jacob and I watching the game. You should get a jersey, get CROSBY or KIM on the back. Your kids are dual citizens and can root for Canada and/or USA! 🙂
Right before Crosby scored, I said to Carl that Canada is going to win and Crosby is going to score. Then it happened! LOL!
I was so happy and proud to see Canadians so patriotic, loud and cheering for our athletes, supporting their victories and heartbreaks and rising to the occasion!

eyeman wrote a comment on March 2, 2010

We had small group right during the game. I made sure I avoided all media until I could watch it on tape. My heart also sunk at 24.4 seconds in the third. In retrospect, how else could it have ended? Listened to Bill Simmons podcast and he thought that the 4 on 4 was a sham and it totally would favored Canada. He said it’s sort of like the NBA implementing that and Lebron would go nuts and win every time if that was the case. Anyway, it was a great game to top a great tournament and Olympics for Canada.

Your kids are cute. I worry sometimes that Aidan is going to grow up a die hard Red Sox fan :-).

eyeman wrote a comment on March 2, 2010

I was surprised too that Miller stopped Crosby’s shot, but looking at the replays (repeatedly ;-)), the play developed so quickly and Crosby was so close, Miller had no chance to react. Really a bang bang play.

seonghuhn wrote a comment on March 2, 2010

I listened to Ryan Miller’s interview after the game. He was obviously distraught and I felt bad for him. He did comment about the final goal and he said the he didn’t expect Sidney Crosby to lift his head so quickly. I guess that’s the difference between good and great players, how quickly they can shoot on net.

What a game! And Bill Simmons should stop whining. I also thought the 4 on 4 favored the Canadians but one I also was worried about it because:

A. the Americans were supposed to be faster than the Canadians
B. it’s harder to crowd the net and screen Ryan Miller or deflect shots

You’re amazing to have waited so patiently to watch the game. I would have not gone to small group like I didn’t go to church. 🙂

eyeman wrote a comment on March 2, 2010

I tried to stay away from all the media hype before the game so I wouldn’t get all worked up about it. Going to small group as a result was bearable because it wasn’t on the forefront of my thoughts.

Other random thoughts:

I think that deflecting shots is second to hitting a MLB fastball in terms of the most difficult thing to do in sports. It’s amazing that they’re able to do that.

As much as I wanted Canada to win, I actually felt a little bad for Team USA and Miller. Probably because I’m more removed from Canada. That said I would have been pretty down if Canada lost.

I heard in some reports during the tournament that this was the best team Canada ever assembled. I admit I don’t know this generation of players as well, but I have to think that the ’87 Canada Cup team with Gretzky, Lemieux and Messier was better. Even the ’76 team with an aging Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke and Darryl Sittler were pretty good.

seonghuhn wrote a comment on March 2, 2010

Wow, where did you read that it’s the best team ever? Yeah I don’t know that much about hockey but after last year’s playoffs and now this year’s Olympics I am more interested.

I loved that ’76 team just because of Bobby Orr and Sittler. And I think you’re right, the ’87 team sounds better.

It’s fun reliving memories.

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