Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hockeypocalypse: Can Canada keep its pride under control?

"A modern-day warrior, mean, mean stride/Today's Tom Sawyer, mean, mean pride" - Rush, "Tom Sawyer"

Today's gold-medal hockey game between Canada and the U.S. is pretty much a perfect way to end the Olympics. The U.S. leads the medal count, while Canada leads all countries in gold medals. Moreover, hockey's "Canada's sport", but one the Americans have taken up in ever-increasing numbers, and the talent gap between the two countries has increasingly diminished in recent years. It should be a fantastic display of hockey.

One of the questions is if Canada can keep its pride under control, though. For so long, there's been the attitude that all the Canadians need to do to win is just show up. That doesn't cut it anymore. Canada might still have the best roster on paper, but it's very close at the top, as their loss to the Americans in the round-robin and their close match against Slovakia in the semifinal proved. Anyone can win.

I think Canada will wind up taking today's game, but it's going to be close. The Americans are perhaps even more physical than the Canadian side, and they have a superb goaltender in Ryan Miller. They don't have quite the depth up front, but they do have some very skilled offensive players. To win, Canada will have to play with every ounce of effort they possess and not take anything for granted. I think they can do it, though, so if I had to pick a score, I'd say Canada 3, U.S. 2.

Win or lose, though, this game shouldn't provide a national crisis. If Canada wins, fantastic; that would be a great way to cap off the Games on home soil. If not, silver medals are still very good in a stacked international tournament like this. Many won't see it this way, but there's enough parity now that the "Any Given Sunday" cliche fully applies to today's hockey match.

I'm not generally a big nationalist or a fan of jingoism, but I would really like to see the Canadians win this, though. The U.S. already has had a tremendously successful Olympics, and a silver here would be better than many expected them to do. A loss won't overshadow their other accomplishments the way it likely would in Canada. For today, and today alone, I'll put on my hoserism toque and tell the Americans to take off!

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