Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Greatest Day in Canada's Olympic History?

Ice Hockey Engenders Inconstancy

Is any game as fraught with hypocrisy? I'm not referring to the game itself but the fans who often denounce an occurrence in a game as offensive to God and humankind, and then valourize that same thing mere moments later.

At one point during today's gold-medal game between the Canadian and American women's hockey teams, I was screaming at the refs for calling a penalty in overtime. Less than a minute later, I was praising the officials for doing the exact same thing (except that the call benefited my team).

Prior to the game-winning goal, I was cursing the ref for not giving Canada a penalty shot after Hilary Knight hauled Hayley Wickenheiser down as she was breaking for the American crease on a clear breakaway. How foolish my outrage seemed once Marie-Philip Poulin netted the game-winning-goal on the power play that was awarded to Canada in lieu of the penalty shot.

Indeed, how foolish was I to bemoan Canada's inability to capitalize on the power play in regulation. Canada failed to score on six consecutive power plays, but all that was forgiven when the team clinched gold on the seventh opportunity.

Similar to the inner-conflict felt by fans during the game, the on-ice opponents had to battle each other as well as questionable calls from the officials. Indeed, a linesman's poor positioning during a play would have ended the game for Canada had it not been for the heroic efforts of a valiant post.

The goal post should be awarded the Order of Canada. (source)

And yet, once those same officials quashed assaults on Canada's defensive zone because the play was offside, I suddenly forgot the enmity that I had developed for the whistle-wielding zebras.

Other Afterthoughts

This game may have been the best match that I have ever seen, and I would've said that even if we had lost. Of course, the experience was immeasurably better given the outcome.

Nevertheless, both teams should be commended for their play today.

There isn't much that I can say about the game because the re-play speaks for itself in justifying why the game was such a triumph for the sport. Instead of discussing the actual event, I'll just offer some afterthoughts.

Canada's Jubilant Juggernauts

Canada's comeback against the Americans somewhat eclipsed the fact that they went undefeated in Sochi. How fortunate that they won gold as an undefeated team on the same day that the women's curling team did the exact same thing.

This coincidence makes me wonder if Canada has pushed ahead of other countries in terms of developing female athletes. Of Canada's seven gold medals, five have been won by female and two have been won by male Olympians. Canada may not own the podium in 2014, but its successes nonetheless make the country look rather progressive when it comes to demolishing gender barriers in sport.

Heckling the IOC in Hindsight

While on the topic of female athletes, here's one observation that occurred to me as my friends of Facebook and Twitter spent the day commenting on every development in the hockey game. How ridiculous does the International Olympic Committee look right now for having seriously considered cutting women's hockey after the 2010 Olympics?

Now that notion sounds like the mad ramblings of "the girl you wish you hadn't started a conversation with at a party."

Sure, there may only be two real contenders among nations right now, but the two hockey superpowers are putting on an absolutely stunning show for audiences. That sort of exposure is exactly how the IOC needs to entice other countries into investing more in this burgeoning event.

Vetter Luck Next Time?

And speaking of wronged athletes, I was disappointed to see many American fans (including one goaltending prospect for a prominent Toronto-based NHL team) hang the loss on Team USA goaltender Jessie Vetter. The American goalie had no chance on the game-winning-goal, but she did single-glovedly keep the Canadians at bay for more than 50 minutes in the game. Don't let a disappointing loss tarnish the way that Vetter played today or in the past.

Vetter has taken the American women's team to the gold-medal game at the Winter Olympics twice now. If a goalie can do that twice, the problems finishing the job probably have more to do with the team's skaters. That certainly was the case back in 2010, when the Americans were shutout 2-0 by Canada. In that situation, it doesn't matter how many saves Vetter makes: the team in front of her has to score at least once goal or else the game is lost.

This year, Vetter became something of a scourge for Canada, which lost four straight games to the US prior to the 2014 Olympics. It seemed like Vetter was primed to avenge the the loss in 2010 by shutting out the Canadians 2-0 in Sochi. Even though Poulin et al. prevailed at the eleventh hour, Vetter's play nevertheless caused Canadian hearts to quake in fear that the hockey gods were exacting retribution on the team.

That said, let's not overlook today's outcome. To dispel gloomy thoughts of what could have been, feast your eyes on the golden goal of 2014:

This'll be my new pick-me-up gif. (source)

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