Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Canadian Trifecta: Canada's chance at cementing hockey dominance

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Once the NHL began sending its players to the Olympics in 1998, Canada has led the way with gold medal victories in Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010, becoming the only nation to win multiple times. Now, with the 2014 Winter Games taking place in Sochi, Russia, Canada attempts to assert their dominance on the grandest stage, winning a third gold in the modern era.

Since the dawn of time – or at least in the time international hockey has been a big deal – the two biggest rivals facing the great white north have been the United States and Russia. The Summit Series of 1972 kicked off a violent relationship between the Canadians and the Russians; an eight-game war that featured cheap shots, runs at stars, a broken ankle, and some old geezer charging the ice because the speed of an updated scoreboard wasn't to his liking. As everyone knows, Paul Henderson won it with 32 seconds left in the final match up, and the series went down as a turning point for the sport. Meanwhile, the rivalry between Canadians and our neighbours down south has picked up in recent memory, with Canada defeating the United States in both of the gold medal finals that they have faced each other in. 

Now, why is this column called The Canadian Trifecta? Well, in those two gold medal victories mentioned earlier, they were won on American and Canadian soil, respectively; a gold in Mother Russia would signify a clean sweep for the red and white in all three nations, further supporting the fact that Canada is the best hockey country in the world. When our best face your best: we're the best. 

Russia's dominance of the sport before VCR's were invented was blinded by the fact that their national team member's weren't considered "professionals" (they served under the Soviet Union's army -- either play hockey, or fight in war), and that the rest of the world was represented by college students and kids who didn't have their licenses. And the lasting impact of those old Red Army teams was getting bullied by some punks from Philadelphia, and being upset by a group of 20-something's that amounted to very little professionally. Not to mention a whopping silver and bronze medal since pro's could play on the biggest stage -- yeah, way to go. Good job. Good effort. And don't come at me with your three World Championship golds since 2008 -- congrats, you have the best group of players that aren't playing for a Stanley Cup. *presents cookie*

Now, as to those pesky Americans...when it comes to USA hockey, I give them equal amounts of respect and hatred. What they have been able to do with their program is no doubt impressive, triggered by a massive upset-victory in 1980 that must have stat-nerds pulling out their hair (sample size, anyone?). When your nation has a population of 300 million and puts as much money in their sports as anyone else in the world, odds are you're going to improve over time. And despite Canada being the New York Yankees of international hockey, the argument can be made that Americans may be the most despised. Pourquoi? The reputation of USA hockey is one of utter-arrogance -- in other words, they're cocky as hell. Since I can remember playing minor hockey tournaments growing up, there was something about the American teams from Michigan and Minnesota and Massachusetts. They thought their shit didn't stink, and a waft of entitlement stunk up the air upon their arrival. Most American hockey players come from rich six-figure families that don't want them to get hurt in football, and grow up to be the rich, spoiled, silver-spooned douche bags that have everything handed to them on a platter. Don't believe me? Ask any pro hockey player what they think of when it comes to an American, and you'll get an answer similar to the past few sentences you just read. Not to mention that a good chunk of American hockey players have a Canadian background, and that the grassroots of their program is due in large part to hockey players from Canada playing their pro careers in the U.S., and staying in the country once they retire, their children now a product of USA hockey. So, Mr. or Mrs. American-reading-this-column-and-already-writing-their-hateful-email-slash-comment-towards-me.....you're welcome. 

The quarter-finals take place tomorrow, with Canada facing Latvia, the U.S. against Czech Republic, and Russia facing Finland, with Sweden facing Slovenia. If they both win, Canada and the United States will face each other in the semi's, setting up a potential Canada-Russia gold medal final on Russian ice. 

Oh how sweet it is. 

P.S. Our women's team is better. 

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