Category — Winter Olympics
It is rare when a sporting event lives up to its hype. But the Olympic hockey final did just that.
The United States and Canada, two teams made up of cold-hearted, down-to-business professionals, played an exciting brand of the game they could both be proud of.
Instead of mailing it in, like pros have done over the years when it comes to playing in the Olympics, these two teams showed pride in their game, country and profession.
Every member of the two teams that played Sunday is rich. They all have other teams that pay their bills. The Canadians mostly play and earn their checks in American cities.
Still, there was something different about this contest. There was something that mattered more than all the checks cashed, cars bought and houses built. These guys actually seemed to be playing for the love of their game and country. This doesn’t usually happen.
When the NBA stars take to the court in the Summer Olympics, it seems more like a marketing tool for athletes who have become bigger than the game, business franchises themselves. You get the feeling that behind every player there is a marketing firm ready to cash in on their achievements.
Not so Sunday. When the Americans rallied to send the gold medal game into overtime with a goal with 24.4 seconds remaining, there was actually joy on the faces of all players. They knew what they were playing for.
When the game ended on Sidney Crosby’s goal it was much the same for Canadians, and you could tell the members of Team USA were hurting. It’s that hurt which shows how much this game meant.
When the pros were first invited to play in these games, you wondered if it was worth it. You wondered if the pure joy in the effort would be lost and the struggle no longer would matter. At times it did suffer, and at times, American players embarrassed their game and country with poor behavior. Not so this time around.
Despite losing to the favorite, Team USA proved that hockey in America is not dead. It may have expanded to places where the only really ice can be found at the bottom of a glass of scotch, but it still does exist.
The game on Sunday was pure. There was enough hard hitting to keep those who love that portion of the game happy. However, there was also skating you rarely see in the NHL. The ice opened up and for the entire tournament, we saw passing, shooting and goaltending like we are supposed to see.
All this and not one fight, not that I mind a good dropping of the gloves, but too much of that stops the action and can turn a match into a night of WWE.
It’s been a long time since the winter of 1980, when a young group of American kids took on the world and beat it on a sheet of ice in Lake Placid, N.Y. On that February night, it seemed like an entire nation was turned on by hockey.
This was nothing like that. There was no great upset in the end. The team favored to win the championship did just that, though it took the Canadians a little longer than expected.
Tomorrow night all these players will be back with the teams that pay them money in a league that has a solid fan base, but not much of a national following. That is unfortunate.
Still, those who represented their countries on Sunday can be proud. They put on a very good show.
February 28, 2010 No Comments
Finally, hockey will take center stage.
Pushed to the back of these Olympics by figure skating, bobsledding and even the X-Games sports, hockey will take its rightful place in Vancouver Sunday.
Live, on regular television, the team from the United States will play host Canada for the gold. It is a rematch from eight years ago (and a week ago), when the Canadians came to America and won the Olympic title.
Can the Americans shock the world and beat the tournament favorites for the second time in four games? That is the ultimate question.
More importantly, this matchup gives this sport a lift it clearly needs. Hockey is no longer a sport that Americans watch. That could be because the ESPN is no longer the NHL network, but instead Versus, which isn’t even in the same ball park. That hurts.
There is a national game every weekend, but let’s face it, that is not enough. The NBA is all over the television, same with the NFL and MLB. They prosper, yet hockey struggles.
The Olympics is the perfect platform. The rules are different and the games are faster and more entertaining with much more skating involved than pounding.
Still, these hockey games, which are filled with the world’s best and have been truly competitive, are forced to suffer on the back burner.
Team USA has given us the most exciting and surprising run of victories since the “Miracle on Ice” 30 years ago. The USA’s victory over Canada in the first meeting last Sunday may have been the most important hockey win for this country since the day it upset the Russians in 1980.
Many of today’s players on Team USA can thank the players on that team for opening doors that would have never been open before the Lake Placid win.
Now more youngsters have a chance to play hockey in this country than ever before and it seems to be paying off. America is competitive again and looks as if it is becoming the true rival to Canada, which can’t believe what is happening at these games.
This was supposed to be the time when proud Canadians came together to witness the greatness of their country’s top sport. Yet there is this group of Americans, who are standing in their way, about to steal their thunder on the world’s biggest stage.
For the Americans, it is all about taking another giant step toward bringing hockey back from the dead in this country. And it makes for great theater.
Simply put, the Americans really can’t lose Sunday. Just getting to the gold medal game means so much and the U.S. program. It could jumpstart another generation of players.
For Canada, it must win. There is no choice. A loss to the Americans would be devastating.
That is what rivalries are made of. Let’s hope they put on a show worthy of the stage they skate on.
February 26, 2010 No Comments
Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care.
The stiff collars at the IOC are “investigating” (what, it missed it?) last night’s celebration by the Canadian women’s hockey team after it beat the U.S. for the gold medal. The players celebrated sucking down beers and champagne and fired up some stogies on the ice. Bad girls. Kidding of course. Wonder what the celebration was like once they got out of the arena?
The Canadians have already apologized. The IOC will probably slap the on the wrist for their behavior. Seriously, what’s it going to do?
February 26, 2010 No Comments
Now that was good hockey.
Fast, hard-hitting, even a bit on the nasty side at times.
All this and the U.S. beats Canada. You missed it? Forced to watch ice dancing instead, I bet?
The biggest problem with hockey in the Olympics is it still gets no respect. None. Thirty years after the miracle on ice and it still gets a cold shoulder from out-of-touch network suits.
Meanwhile, every U.S. basketball team is called the “Dream Team” (and one is on the current Hall of Fame ballot) and given rock star status.
I understand the mighty dollar and how much power women have in the home when it comes to spending the buck, but really, was there anything more important at the Olympics than U.S.-Canada Sunday night?
Ice dancing. That wasn’t figure skating, nor was it even pairs competition. It was ice dancing.
I can’t dance on dry land, so there was no chance I could figure that sport out.
But it was more important than the biggest hockey clash of the Olympics (at least so far). If you’d believe the NBC pencil necks, this was no bigger than curling, the star of MSNBC. Don’t get me wrong, I like curling. Any sport where one rock slams into another works just fine for me.
This is nothing new, of course. When the young Americans beat Russia back in the winter of 1980, the game was on tape delay in the United States. The greatest American moment in winter Olympics history and nobody in our country could see it live.
That was ABC making that decision. It was NBC’s call Sunday.
Same principal applied. The network execs want their Olympics soft, giving up personal-fluff pieces instead of hard news. And of course some good hitting.
Now we are left to wonder if the NHL will release its players next time around when the games are in Russia. Why should the league?
The NHL shuts down for two weeks and has its big-name players exposed to injury while receiving no money and little attention. It is a slap shot to the face that’s for sure. Fortunately, most hockey fans are connected to their sport in the cable world. It’s just that a lot of fans missed out on seeing the best the sport has to offer.
February 21, 2010 No Comments
The Canadians had boasted they’d these Games would be theirs. But the U.S., instead of host Canada, has dominated the Winter Olympics with a record number of medals won. Through Saturday, the U.S., which leads the medal count, had earned 23 medals (six gold) to only eight for Canada (four gold). Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis, Bode Miller, Shaun White and Evan Lysacek are among the U.S. athletes to earn gold. Still, much of the attention (and bragging rights) will be on whether the U.S. hockey team can upset favored Canada today and capture the gold during next week’s tournament.
February 21, 2010 No Comments
Kumaritashvili is the luger killed today in an awful crash during a training run at the Winter Olympics. He was only 21.
February 12, 2010 No Comments
Its official, the Winter Olympics have begun.
I know this because of the opening ceremonies and NBC promised to show us more figure skating than any one person should ever be forced to endure.
Figure skating holds no interest to the average sports fan, but NBC has become the new network for females. The heads of that once proud peacock even made the decision to show live the dance figure skating – whatever that is – instead of the U.S. vs. Canada hockey match. That’s right, the one event that could really give us something all to watch has been booted to cable for dancing on ice.
They don’t even hide the fact that they are no longer after the sports fan. They want those who they can sell more products to.
It makes business sense I guess, but it limits much interest the rest of us have on the two-plus week event.
It is time to set the record straight. Figure skating is not a sport. Never has been, never will be. It is a performance art and I will grant you that those who are on the ice are very talented and dedicated to their craft.
However, it does not make for good sports watching. A triple axel isn’t really better than a triple lutz double toe loop. Or is it?
I know when figure skating is on my television I need a triple shot of Jack Daniels just to make it interesting.
That is except for one year when hockey took over figure skating. That’s the year when one woman’s team tried to wipe out the other before the competition even started. You remember Tonya Harding, the train wreck that was trying to become an Olympic hero.
Clowns like her made figure skating fun to watch. Even Nancy Kerrigan, who got whacked in the knee by thugs supporting Harding, could not manage to stay a person we like. Her sour actions after losing the gold said it all about her and the sport that was lifted to the top by a few goons.
Truth is, the numbers of those watching figure skating goes down almost every year and no doubt will again this year.
Curling? You could ask for it, but you’ll rarely see it.
It is simple why most Americans don’t get into these Games. We in American sports chase the green, not the gold.
Our best athletes go after money and sports that can make them rich. That means team sports for the most part, ones that give you big contracts and maximum exposure. Gold is good, but green is greater.
And with all the global warming predicted by Al Gore and his friends, maybe our athletes are just ahead of the curve.
Then there is the overexposure that the networks give us for every American athlete who finishes in the top 10 in any event. Enough.
We will hear about their hard times and how they have to work for their dreams. It is a common theme with those who think the only stories that sell are American. Meanwhile, the real stories are out there from other parts of the world, where real heartache is overcome every day.
The Winter Games are here again, but it doesn’t seem like most of us really care this time around. Now give us a little violence and a real rivalry and maybe I’ll tune in.
February 12, 2010 No Comments
The neighbors are wondering if Stephen Colbert will interview Shani Davis during the Winter Olympics. Or if Davis will grant it. What are the odds?
Anyway, if you lose whatever rag you’ve got your Winter Olympics schedule printed on, here’s one with the daily highlights that won’t disappear anytime soon.
February 12, 2010 No Comments
We’ve been trying for weeks to get excited about the Winter Olympics, which starts Friday in Vancouver, but we’ve been having trouble doing so. Maybe we’ll get geeked up when the action starts this weekend. Or maybe it will be a nice break when we start dozing on the NBA All-Star Game. Doubtful though.
Of course the good folks north of the border are all excited about the Games. And the Canadians believe these Games will be a huge success for them as they make some serious runs for gold.
February 10, 2010 No Comments