Let’s go back in time a little. Specifically, let’s go back to around 4 am Eastern Standard time on January 3rd of this year. With me? Cool. Let’s watch some TSN. Or, I guess, we could just go back to sleep, but if that’s how you roll then this probably isn’t your post, and anyway what the fuck is wrong with you, that you want to use time travel to sleep through hockey games six days in the past? If you don’t want to watch TSN, just go get your own time machine and kill Hitler, why dontcha?
Anyway, in my time travel experiment, Canada hasn’t lost to the USA in the semifinal yet. Canada hasn’t even started to play the semifinal yet. Rather than being three hours of nearly-constant misery culminating in the most embarrassing sort of loss, the game is still a space of bright possibilities. In this time we’ve gone back to, Canada might still beat the Americans like so many rented mules.
In this cheery past, the TSN commentary is optimistic. While, like smart hockey people always do in single-game-elimination situations, they’re hedging their bets (gotta control the puck, need strong goaltending) they’re also looking for the positives, and in doing so, they come up with this: by virtue of their bye to the semifinals, Canada has had more rest. The US has played six games in eight days. They’ll be worn down. This is an advantage for team Canada. The time off will make them better than their weary opponents.
Hockey discourse never puts out only one narrative. That’s part of the bet-hedging- always go into a game with four or five storylines and you’re sure to have one of ‘em pan out. In broadcasting, and even in certain kinds of writing to a deadline, an analyst doesn’t have the luxury of wait-and-see. He’s gotta emplot this shit in real time, and that means keeping more than one plot in play as long as possible. Before the game, this particular story- the well-rested, relaxed Canadians vs. the tired, harried Americans- is just one thread of explanation being laid down in anticipation of a possible outcome.