Archive for the ‘olympics’ Category

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes

In just a few short hours, the Canadian Olympic brain trust is set to, at long last, unveil the team they’ll take to Sochi. After months (or even years) of speculation, hockey fans all across Canada get to sink their teeth into the roster.

It’s great fun, a source of endless debate in the lead-up to the announcement. Who’s in, who’s out, who deserves to be on the team that goes for gold. Barroom debates drill down to potential line match-ups and third goalie choices. Hockey reporters offer their educated guesses on the final roster, fans on twitter howl over perceived slights of their favorite player and on and on.

The debates are fun but they are nothing compared to the actual tournament – simply the best hockey we get to watch. The intensity level explodes through the roof as the most skilled players in the world go head-to-head over a two-week span. Seven games separate immortality from four years of second guessing.

But here’s the thing: it is a seven game tournament played over two weeks. Seven games, twelve days. should preclude it from second guessing. Or even first guessing. The best team or The Right Team isn’t guaranteed to win gold – the team that wins the gold medal game wins the tournament.

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Ice Hockey - Men's Gold Medal Game - Day 17

Pictured: History

Every sports fan has “that game.” The lucky few of us have more than one “that game.” I live in Toronto so I only have one. Thankfully, my “that game” is the shared by almost the entirety of Canada. I am speaking, of course, about the 2010 Gold Medal game between Canada and The United States. Three years ago today the game was played. Three years ago today I became a Sidney Crosby fan. I remember…most of it.  A lot of people point to game 2 of the 1987 Canada Cup as the greatest hockey game ever played. I get that but I’ve watched that game recently and, with some distance and hindsight, I can pretty safely say that 2010 topped it. Maybe it’s the being there aspect but, for my money, there has never been a greater game than the one that was played on February 28, 2010.

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It’s sort of amazing what happens when people who don’t get a lot of attention get a bit of attention. The expressions of emotion at the Olympic games, unlike any other sport, seem genuine and not forced.

Who knows why this is, but perhaps because the day-to-day routine of athletes visiting with a few beat writers or appearing in scrums is all we know of most professional athletes. This makes a sprinter much different than a hockey player. A sprinter walks into a building with 80,000 screaming fans once every four years in front of the world media and world audiences. Of course they’d soak that up a little.

I really enjoyed the 100m dash. There isn’t a practical use to being able to run really fast for a short distance, but it’s become the staple of the games. It’s simple and nearly everybody can do it. I could walk three blocks to a park and calculate my own theoretical time against Usain Bolt or Asafa Powell and it won’t be a blowout by thirty or forty minutes like the 10k run would be, if I could even finish 10k. Anybody has the endurance to sprint 100 metres.

And they’re all showmen. That’s become part of the allure of the sport. As the sprinters were lining up, each had his own few seconds of face-time, and as athletes competing in an amateur event, they need to raise their stock and awareness. They need to smile for the camera and do the things the sponsors love. Richard Thompson danced and, like Bolt did in the semifinals, did some shadow boxing before saluting the crowd. Asafa Powell glared at the camera. Yohan Blake struck a pose before laughing at the reaction of the crowd. Justin Gatlin walked away from the camera and saluted the crowd.

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Via Gabriel Desjardins, this might be the most fantastic story I’ve ever seen.

The chart at the end of that link is simply fantastic, and might be the most poignant demonstration I’ve seen of how hockey mad Canada is. When the number of people rushing to the bathroom during the intermission of the gold medal game is big enough to be reflected in the City of Edmonton’s water consumption charts, it’s fairly obvious that the sport matters (a lot) to the country.

I don’t actually have much else to say about this, but I did feel the need to pass it on. Also, hopefully this will put an end to all that asinine talk about how hockey is becoming irrelevant to Canadians.

Canada Wins Gold


There isn’t too much to say after a game like that; it was tremendous hockey on both sides, and a real pleasure to watch.  Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal joins a host of other great moments in Canadian hockey, and adds to his already stellar reputation.

It’s hard not to be happy after an event like this.


There were moments when it looked like some other combination of teams was going to play for the gold medal, but after almost two weeks of playing and months (even years) of preparation, it all comes down to this.  At 12:15 PST, Canada will faceoff against the United States for Olympic gold.

We will of course be live-blogging the festivities, starting around 12:00, and once again I’d like to invite everyone to join us here. 

Canada Vs. Slovakia Postgame


There were basically three hockey games played in the contest last night between heavily favoured Team Canada and a surprisingly good Slovakian team.

In the first game, the Canadians established themselves as a dominant presence, outshooting the Slovaks 21-9 through two periods and dominating the play.  The Slovakians hung in there, to be sure, and their defensive scheme worked to some degree, but there was no doubt who was in the driver’s seat and a 3-0 lead resulted.

The Canadian team seemed to sit back after that, playing to the score, and the Slovakians had difficulty generating much in the way of offence.  It wasn’t exciting hockey by any stretch, and it was easy to get caught thinking that the Canadians had already won.  I was almost bored watching it, and seemingly the crowd was too, because they started chanting “We want U-S-A!”

Unfortunately for the Canadians, it looked like they slipped into that mindset too, because the third part of the game was completely different.  Slovakia started pressuring, and they did a great job of it.  With just over 8:00 left on the clock, Lubomir Visnovsky scored a goal that Roberto Luongo would undoubtedly like back.  Then miscommunication and a defensive zone faceoff loss led to more trouble, as Michal Handzus scored to draw Slovakia to within one goal at 15:07.  Suddenly, there was time left and only a one-goal lead left for the Slovakians to surmount.

They tried.  The Canadians seemed unable to even get back to an even keel, let alone pressure the Slovakians, and they allowed numerous quality chances as the clock ran down.  Luongo had to be brilliant and made one seemingly impossible save with almost no time left, robbing fellow Canuck Pavol Demitra.

Three Stars

1. Ryan Getzlaf.  Getzlaf didn’t have to play against the best Slovakian forwards for most of the night, but he finished with two points including the game-winning power play goal.

2. Michal Handzus.  It’s a little strange to see a name like Handzus here, but he’s an underrated player who can line up against anyone and come out on top.  In last night’s game he was an effective presence at both ends of the rink, he played physically, and he led the Slovakian team in shots with four.  He also scored the goal that brought the game within one.

3. Brendan Morrow.  I want to credit Morrow for some incredible work on the forecheck early on in the game; he did score a goal but it was more than that and he’s done a good job of proving he belongs on this team.  As you might expect, however, there were lots of other players worth considering here, from both sides.