Archive for the 'Hockey' category

Hockey Gold in Canada

 | March 1, 2010 7:25 AM

At the start of every international hockey tournament I am always worried.  Canada is always the favorite or one of the favorites but so often Canada disappoints.  Maybe my expectations are too high since disappointment means not winning it all.

I remember how Canada finished fourth at Nagano in 1998 and I felt so bad for Gretzky because he never won a gold medal.  I remember Canada losing the first World Cup in 1996 to the United States because Mike Richter stood on his head stopping everything.  In 2002 though the curse seemed to be broken as Canada won the gold and I loved that team and watching Gretzky, the architect of the team, celebrate from his box.  But then Canada finished 7th in Torino in 2006.

Canadian athletes also in general seem to not be the type that rise to the occasion.  They seem to be almost too polite, sympathizing with their opponent, being embarrassed about winning too much.  This is unlike American athletes who seem to love overcoming all obstacles, winning no matter the odds.  It’s Canadian politeness vs. the American dream.

Alexandre Bilodeau celebrates Canada's first gold gold medal of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, and the first ever for the country on home soil. But in these Olympics Canadians no longer are the polite hosts, allowing others to win on their soil.  Canada, who had never won any gold medals at home, suddenly won the most of any country and broke the record for most gold medals in the Winter Olympics.  It was stunning.

Despite this apparent change I was still so worried about this game.  Maybe it’s because the thought of losing to the U.S. would be more painful than losing to anyone else.  Even though I consider myself mostly American when it comes to hockey I’m still a little Canadian boy playing street hockey all day with the neighborhood kids.

I was hoping that Canada would score quickly, put the U.S. back on its heels, and continue to press and hold onto win, outshooting the U.S. 2 to 1 with Ryan Miller stopping practically everything.  The game seemed to go as planned with Canada getting the first goal.  But the U.S. was going toe to toe with Canada, Canada was not dominating.  Canada then got the second goal and I felt good.  But then Canada started playing conservatively and I remember thinking that’s a bad idea.

But the Canadians took advantage of another defensive miscue, when at 7:13 of the second period U.S. defenseman Ryan Whitney deflected a centering pass from Ryan Getzlaf directly into the slot, where an uncovered Corey Perry pounced on it and snapped it past Miller, giving Canada a 2-0 lead.

Soon the U.S. scored on a goal that was not an easy one to stop for Roberto Luongo but something I thought Ryan Miller could have stopped.  Canada then started pressing the attack again and I thought maybe it’s good the U.S. scored.

This pressure continued for the first five minutes of the third period but then the U.S. began dominating.  I was just watching the clock, wondering why hockey teams use such a strategy to protect a lead, wishing it would reach the twenty minute mark and worrying because Luongo wasn’t looking sure-handed.

Then with 24.4 seconds to go Zach Parise scored and I was deflated.  I was thinking “Now I won’t be able to go to church.” (The service had already started.)  I was also thinking please don’t let it go to a shootout, I just hate the concept of anyone winning that way.

I thought overtime was kind of gimmicky, 4 on 4.  I was hoping that would be in Canada’s favor but the U.S. was playing well.  Sidney Crosby rushed in and tried to break through two defensemen but got stopped.  I remember thinking how Sidney hadn’t really done anything in the last two games, not judging him for it, just observing.  Then he got that break and shot it past Ryan Miller.  I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was impossible to score on Ryan Miller unless he can’t see it.  But I thought how appropriate that the symbol of Canadian hockey should score the winning goal.

Although the Canadians sat back late in the third period, they came out shooting in overtime. Sidney Crosby's shot from the lower part of the left circle eluded goalie Ryan Miller, and Canada Hockey Place erupted in deafening cheers.

I was screaming and jumping up and down until I became hoarse.  No one was home except Victoria upstairs playing Dora on the computer.

Sidney Crosby's overtime winner gave Canada its first Olympic gold medal on home soil.Now I am debating whether to go buy the Canadian Olympic hockey jersey.  Would it be too brazen wearing it here in the U.S.?  Whose name should be on it?  Sidney Crosby?  Joe Thornton (San Jose Shark)?  Alan “Goliath” Kwok?  Vincent “Ping Pong” Wong?  Are there any Christians on the team?

One cute family note.  Isaac likes to know who to root for.  When I was watching the first Canada vs. U.S.A. game he asked if I am rooting for the red team or the blue team.  I said the red team so he started cheering for the red team.  Then he realized the blue team had the U.S.A. flag so he started cheering for U.S.A.  Dylan said he’ll keep cheering for the red team.  Then they asked Ji Seon who she is rooting for and she said she doesn’t really care who wins but knows that I really care so she will root for Canada too.   I actually want them to root for the U.S.A., it’s their country and it should be mine but hockey is Canada’s game.

You can see the video highlights of Canada’s win here.

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NHL Finals Prediction

 | May 31, 2009 4:50 AM

I haven’t followed the NHL since I was a kid growing up in Toronto.  I remember watching Gretzky, Lafleur, Lemieux and the one and only Bobby Orr growing up.

The NHL is drawing me back and it’s because of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.  Check out this YouTube video of “Ovechkin’s incredible goal“.

I desperately want the Penguins to win.  To me it’s like the Islander and Oilers where the Red Wings are the Islanders and the Penguins are the Oilers.  The first time they met in the finals the Islanders won and the second time the Islanders won the first game and then lost the next four.  Let’s hope history repeats for the Penguins.

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20 years after the Gretzky trade

 | August 9, 2008 7:16 AM

ESPN has a great article, the Residual effect from Gretzky trade still felt today.  The article also lists the other greatest trades in NHL history.

I still remember learning about the trade and being angry at Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, for breaking up what could have been the greatest team in NHL history, definitely one of the most entertaining.  I loved how the Oilers played hockey, how I felt hockey should be played, with speed and flair and excitement.  With Gretzky on board the Oilers could have won maybe three or five more straight Stanley Cups.

What I did not realize was that the issues leading up to this trade had been brewing for several months.  Gretzky had already told Pocklington that he would be testing free agency after the upcoming season because he wanted to paid fair market value, which is reasonable.  Pocklington realized he could not afford Gretzky and told him he would need to trade him.  Gretzky said he only wanted to be traded to Detroit or LA which tied up the hands of the General Manager, Glen Sather.  And even when Glen Sather told Gretzky about the trade, as you will hear in the interview below, and said that he would block the trade if Gretzky wanted, Gretzky agreed to proceed.

When I saw Gretzky crying in the interview after the trade was announced I thought a savvy business owner had screwed over a young, naive hockey player and the fans of the Edmonton Oilers.  It turns out that Gretzky was well aware and complicit in what had happened.  It turns out it was me who was young and naive, now I’m just naive.

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Sports Guy apologizes (kind of)

 | June 8, 2008 7:31 AM

Sports GuyA few months ago I wrote an angry letter to the sports guy about his article which seemed to encourage violence against fans of the opposing team. Sports Guy apologized, kind of, in a later article in the Clarifications and Follow-Ups section.

In last week’s hockey column, I mentioned the fights during and after the Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston but didn’t know about the fan who was brutally beaten up after Game 3 — obviously, I wouldn’t have made the Murph/Sully joke had I known someone was hurt. Here’s a Boston Herald column that explains what happened. Not Boston’s best day.

Not exactly what I was looking for. Sports Guy seems to be saying it is alright to attack opposing fans as long as no one is really hurt. But I guess that’s still better than nothing.

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\Apparently the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song may have been played for the last time. This was the theme song of mine and most Canadian’s youths. Here is a YouTube video of two toddlers dancing to the song.

This reminds me of when the NBA switched from NBC to ABC and we no longer could hear the great NBA theme song by John Tesh.

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Angry letter to the Sports Guy

 | April 24, 2008 8:45 AM

Being originally from Toronto I share much of your love for the old NHL. Bobby Orr is one of my favourite players and I loved watching Lafleur fly down the ice.

I am also a big fan of yours, Mr. Sports Guy. However I cannot agree with your applauding violence against fans of the opposing team.

We won an emotional Game 3 in overtime, followed by a number of postgame brawls on and around Causeway Street between Boston and Montreal fans, at least 50 of them involving guys named Sully and Murph teaming up to beat the hell out of someone named Pierre.

Do you know that one of the Montreal Canadiens fans ended up in the hospital because of some overzealous Bruins fans? The Boston Herald called it “just plain evil” and that the fans were “Sore-loser B’s fans.”

Do you really think sports is worth it? It’s just a game. Why can’t a fan of an opposing team go and watch the game?

I was once at a Red Sox game wearing my Blue Jays jersey. I was heckled a little by a female Red Sox fan but it was all in good fun, especially for her since the Red Sox won. That was good. Being beat up is bad.

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