In my article from yesterday, I mentioned that, for one of the few times I can really remember, I was extremely proud of a team I was rooting for, despite them losing. This is not because I am one of those “all or nothing” kind of people, and I’m not saying I’ve ever unfairly ripped my favorite team for not winning a championship every year. I just mean that, emotionally, in the aftermath of a tough loss, I usually don’t feel pride.
For example, in the NFL, the Jets went on a great run this year — in the playoffs at least. No one expected that. The loss to Indy in the AFC Championship game was crushing. True, no one expected them to get there, but I was still crushed. I don’t blame them, they lost to the better team — but my immediate emotional reaction was not one of pride.
For some reason, this was different last night. As explained in my article, I only felt pride, despite the crushing defeat.
To add some more to my ramblings about college players in those games, it should not be overlooked as well that the tournament’s top scorer was also a product of college hockey — Jonathan Toews, who like Zach Parise, went to North Dakota. There was also Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle and Duncan Keith on the Canadian squad.
I also wanted to respond to people who have called this the greatest hockey tournament they ever saw. I would agree, on one level, that, because there were 8 or 9 teams that were at least pretty competitive, and so many games were thrilling, that this was an awesome tournament overall.
But the best series I ever saw, was the Best-of-3 Canada Cup finals between Canada and the Soviet Union at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton in 1987. This was when, of course, pros didn’t play in the Olympics, so the occasional Canada Cup series — an offshoot of the original 8-game Challenge Series between Canada and the Soviets, 4 games in each country — was played every few years in the ’70s and ’80s. (It was later changed to the “World Cup,” which the U.S. won in 1996.)
The 1987 Canada Cup took the cake. Most of the other countries weren’t on par yet with these two superpowers, but man did they put on a show. All three games were decided 6-5. The first two were decided in OT. In Game 3, Canada fell behind 3-0, but rallied to tie, then won it — 6-5 — on a goal in the last minute by Mario Lemieux.
Which brings me to another point. Thankfully, the Canadians crowd showed some class in cheering Ryan Miller for winning the tournament MVP award. But throughout the Olympics, and really, for the past 14 years, Canadian fans have taken to booing the U.S. Not just in games against Canada, but in games against anyone. Vociferously. And not just in games against anyone, but even in games against Russia. RUSSIA!
What ever happened to Canadian humility and class? This is the reason why hockey is so great, and it emanates from a country with such great culture, and friendliness. I get that it’s become a great hockey rivalry. But there’s no reason — George Bush notwithstanding — to show such venom towards the U.S. hockey team all the time.
But the reason this bothers me so much, and why I take it as a big, personal insult, is that I grew up supporting Team Canada with all my might in every major International competition, including the 1987 Canada Cup. Back then, Canada was representing OUR collective way of playing hockey, and our lifestyle, against the dreaded, hated Soviet machine. I grew up loving hockey, loving NHL hockey, and loving the culture of Canada as a result. I poured my heart and soul into rooting for Canada.
To boo us now, when we play the Russians?!!? That’s just extremely offensive to me.
Finally, taking two weeks off from NHL play is not the greatest thing for the NHL, obviously. In an ideal world, we would still have the World Cup, and that would be the place where all the best players in the world would compete every four years for World supremacy in hockey. But the Olympics are something the whole world focuses on, and places major emotional importance on. It’s hard to generate that on a world-wide basis for something like the World Cup of Hockey. So, despite the problems with it, I think that for the sport of hockey as a whole — and not just the NHL — and for the fans, the pros need to keep playing in the Olympics.
And if you want to see amateurs, then wake up the American public to the awesomeness of the World Junior tournament.