Sunday, February 21, 2010

How About USA Hockey, Eh?

Hey hose heads, USA men's hockey just beat the Canadians 5-3 in the Winter Olympics! And, they did so looking good in "throwback" 1960 style uniforms. This was a big win and completes a 3-0 record for the first round of the tournament. Nice!

I do not watch hockey much, but I really like checking out the Olympics version with nation vs. nation. In the old days, the USA and all other nations not named the USSR fielded teams of NHL or pro players allowed. And, predictably, the USA didn't do so well - only winning gold in 1960 and 1980. The USSR fielded teams of "amature" players from their military whose duty just happened to be playing hockey 365 days a year. Guess who won a lot of Olympic medals in the 60s, 70s, and 80s? But, that's all changed in the 1990s as since then pros are allowed to participate.

Anyway, regardless of era, when Canadians are living and dying for the pseudo sport of curling, they are living and dying for the very real sport of ice hockey. And, over the decades they have won a bunch of Olympic medals in the sport, although they suffered from the same "armatures only" rules for a long time too.

Since pro players have been allowed to play in the Olympics, countries like the USA, Canada, Sweden and others have suddenly become big time competitors for the three medals on offer every four years.

Therefore - these days - the USA vs. Canada is one of the best match ups you could possibly think of for an Olympic hockey game. This proved to be the case Sunday night. Featuring a lot of back and forth action, great passing, many shots on goal (mostly by Canada), and many great saves by both goalies...the Americans jumped out to an early lead and persevered to never fell behind. Canada tied it up a couple times, but that was not enough to do the trick.

I viewed the game with an novice fan's eye. But, having watched enough team sports of other varieties over the years, I can tell you that regardless of the sport that penalties (or for you b-ball fans, fouls) and turnovers will absolutely KILL you. On Sunday, despite a very aggressive and impressive effort, team Canada committed too many turnovers and penalties to win against a good USA team.

To wit, the US took advantage of Canadian turnovers twice to score goals, netted a power play goal following a Canadian penalty and then slipped in a goal late when the Canadians pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker. And then, the USA played inspired defense against big time offense from Canada. I think the shots on goal were something like 25 to 10 or something, but the Americans held them off. In particular, the Canadians put on a fast, furious and desperate barrage of shots on goal in the last five minutes of the game that the USA somehow, some way stopped.

So, a BIG win for Team USA.

However, I wonder. Have they just had their moment in the hockey sun? Is it all down hill from here? Or, will they use the win as a springboard into the medal round with a short at Gold or Silver? We shall see. Beating Canada is a good sign, and along with the other two wins the team has earned in first round play they will now not need to play an extra game for the next round. Things are looking good for now.

I know this though. I saw a great hockey game tonight, and I will be watching team USA until they are eliminated.

Until then...take off eh, team USA is on a roll!

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