Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mother Russia

So imagine you're watching a hockey game, and after two periods, you're dead asleep and decide that the game is all but finished, and decide to hit the hay.

Imagine you wake up the next morning and turn on the hockey highlights at 7 am. Imagine your increasing surprise when you see the heretofore down and out team score one, two, three, four five goals in the third period, completing a shocking comeback.

Canada had their foot on the snake, and they let up. It was an amazing collapse, and an amazing comeback for the Russians. Canada should have known Russia's penchant for dazzling third-period surges. It seems unimaginable, having seen team Canada play like pros against the Americans and for the first two periods against Russia.

So, we come to it: Canada may have gotten revenge against the US for last year, but cannot claim themselves the undisputed best in the world. Once again, they come home second best in "their" sport.

It was a shocking defeat. Imagine if the US had lost the gold-medal game to Finland in 1980. As Herb Brooks said to his team during that match, "You'll take it to your graves." I am not going to be so melodramatic as to suggest that these young men will have a lifetime of remorse. Unlike the 1980 US team, most of them have a lot of hockey left to play, with most of them destined for the NHL. But their jubilation at having so soundly beaten the USA has taken a very bitter turn today.

It's interesting for this US citizen who is so proud of his Russian heritage. I am very happy that Russia won. But I can't help feel bad for the Canadian boys who were doing so well, and had such high hopes. Losing gold at the WJC would not have hurt nearly as bad for any other team (save Finland losing against Sweden). Perhaps no other country puts so much of its national pride on the line for one sport as the Canadians do.

What I'm suggesting is, perhaps it's time to stop setting yourself up for disappointment. Canada puts some of the best players in the world on the ice. The best hockey player in the world at this moment is a Canadian. But the gap is extremely narrow, and the US, Sweden, Russia, and Finland all can claim a very large piece of the hockey pie. The Czechs and Slovakians can also lay claim to some significant portions as well. If any of those countries lose, it hurts. It sucks. But it's not the end of the world. For Canada, that seems to be the case.

Canada is indeed one of the best hockey countries in the world. If you want to keep claiming it as "your" sport, go ahead. Just be prepared to see other people from other countries playing your game better than you can sometimes.

No comments: