By Jon Gabrielle, Special to The Hockey Writers
Let the hype begin!
Unlike the Super Bowl, which has seemingly 48 days to hype it’s event, the IOC and NBC has less than 48 hours to dissect, analyze, pick apart and present hockey’s glorious showcase; the men’s Gold Medal game!
The United States of America versus Canada. Nothing more has to be said…but the media will say it anyway!
Last night, during Team Canada’s post game press conference, head coach Mike Babcock launched the first volley, even if it was tongue in cheek. In reference to the Americans annihilation of Finland earlier, he said, “they just crushed the other team today, so it should be a lot of fun and they must be the favorite coming in.”
And although Babcock’s remark broke up the room, these Americans are upstarts no more, their prominence on the world stage 30 years in the making. From that miraculous group in 1980 to “the greatest generation ever,” as Brian Burke referred to them, and now in Vancouver, these Americans feel quite comfortable on the world stage.
If Americans feel it is their birthright to compete and win more gold medals in any Olympic year, in any country and in any sport, then that thought wasn’t lost on Los Angeles Kings defenseman, Jack Johnson. Before the tournament’s first puck was ever dropped, Johnson brazingly said, “we are the United States of America and we’re a pretty big deal, I think.”
America’s ability to “police” the world notwithstanding, it’s exactly that sort of bravado that has always had other countries cringing.
Now, in British Columbia, having already “stolen” a game, thanks to Ryan Miller, they have the audacity to stand toe to toe with the nation that invented hockey! (Of course that depends on your sources.)
And if Canada didn’t “invent” hockey, they certainly perfected it.
The litany of stars that have graced the Canadian Maple Leaf is long as it is prodigious. They come replete with titles, bearing sir names, excellence and world dominance! Wayne Gretzy, “the Great One! Gordie Howe, “Mr. Hockey!Maurice Richard, “the Rocket!” Bobby Hull, “the Golden Jet!” And Eddie Shack, “the Entertainer!” Legend has it, that during the days of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Big Bad Bruins, a billboard in Harvard Square read, “Jesus saves, but Espo scores!” I could go on…
No, to be clear, America can never compete with Canada’s lore. On Sunday they won’t have to. All they will have to do is stare down “Sid the Kid” and company. (yes, they like nicknames north of the border). That’s Sidney Crosby, the youngest Captain ever in the history of the NHL to hoist Lord Stanley’s Chalice. Mind you, it’s not easy to be the first “anything” in the history of the National League let alone a feat like wearing the “C” in such a momentus occasion as a game 7 win on the road, in Detroit! In fact, another storied Original Six franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have played the entire season without deeming anyone worthy of wearing that coveted symbol of stature.
And yet, for many of us…we nervously wait in anticipation of sunday’s 3:15 p.m. (EST) starting time hoping that everyone, including the goalies will “show up!” Seems, Evgeni Nabokov and Mikka Kiprusoff forgot to bring what’s inside their collective cranium’s the past couple of days, leaving some in world-wide time zones to doze off.
Canada’s demolition of the Russians, 7-3, and yesterday’s beat down of the Fins by the Americans, 6-1, may have reminded us of too many over-hyped yet under-preformed Super Bowls. When the biggest suspense during intermission is what in the world are we going to do with all these leftovers! Let’s hope this Gold Medal game lives up to it’s billing.
And then there’s the minority, myself included, that have divided loyalty. My mom growing up in Montreal, literally steps away from the holiest of hockey cathedrals, the Montreal Forum, while my dad was honing his skill in the mining town of Sudbury, Ontario. Leaving me, an American, in a quandry as to who to root for?
So as millions of North Americans and more across the globe watch nervously sunday afternoon, I will secretly hope and pray that I see the most gifted and talented athletes preform up to the level in the sport that I was privledged to play, coach and cover most of my entire life.
Would an 11 or 12 round shootout be too much to ask for?
With all due respect to the redundant hype of sports…
Here’s to the Greatest Game on Ice!