Jim Adams: No loser to be found in Olympic ‘game for the ages’
Wally Lacroix is a hard-nosed Canadian. His obsession with hockey is not unlike that which one would find throughout Canada.
He is a Quebec native. Hockey beckoned him to the States. He spread his love for and conviction of the game in much the same manner as most Canadians do.
You see, they will be the first ones to tell you that this is their game. No one else dare lay claim to it. Hockey is Canada and their supremacy in these Olympic games, being played on their home ice, is a non-negotiable. This is not a matter of sportsmanship. It is a matter of life and death. Losing Olympic gold would invoke the unthinkable.
However, moments before the game, Lacroix could not help but contact me. In a totally uncommon approach, he humbly asserted that regardless of the outcome, this is great for hockey and great for North America. He claimed that there was no loser here, that both must take pride in the fact that a North American sport was being decided by North American teams in a North American venue.
He was right.
Sunday afternoon’s game was an indelible classic, a game for the ages. It was a contest that surpassed the hype, confused the prognosticators and left fans, regardless of their locale, on the edge of their seats until the final overtime second. It presented a brilliant exhibition by a sport that in some circles has been dismissed as secondary. It provided a Olympic Final that will be discussed and analyzed for years to come. A moment to remember, this Olympic gold game really was North America hockey’s proudest moment.
It is easy to understand that the end result was difficult for Americans. The team had come so far. It had rendered those who predicted an early exit by Team USA speechless. A group of talented hockey players, they were not viewed as an upper echelon entrant into these games. Yet, as each game passed, Team USA continued to prove the world wrong. They won each game and capped off their first five contests leading to the Gold Medal Game with a 6-1 blitz of a talented Finland team.
However, all this assured was a match-up against the juggernaut of the games, the bear known as Team Canada. The All-Stars that adorned this team were overwhelming. One complete line alone; Dany Heatly, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau; came from the San Jose Sharks. After Team Canada battered the Soviets, most felt it was a team on a roll ready to finish the games with their mandated Gold Medals.
Yet, the American squad gave them everything they could handle on Sunday. When Zack Parisi scored with less than 20 seconds to tie the game at two, it became a one shot, overtime game. Sidney Crosby was that one shot. He settled it for Canada. A collective sigh of relief was exhaled throughout Canada.
In the end, Wally Lacroix was right. This was a North American Classic. It was an event about which we all could be proud. The sport had received a big boost.
With so much opportunity for the National Hockey League to cash in on such excellent exposure, one wonders whether they will have the foresight to capitalize. They find themselves at a crossroads.
There was very little from NHL’s Marketing Department to highlight the league during this tournament. In fact, Commissioner Gary Bettman emerged to proclaim that the league is not sure it will let its players participate four years from now in the 2014 games. A decision that seems obvious to most is still in question by a league desperate to raise its standard among American sports fans. After such a brilliant showing in 2010, it would be a travesty to skip the 2014 games.
Yet, when the dust had settled and the final fan departed Canada Hockey Place, there was one thing no one could debate. This had been a great tournament for Team USA, one of which we should all be proud. They represented our country well. They denied the predictions. They showed everyone in the hockey world that of which Americans are made.
Yes, it was an incredible end to the tournament. Both teams are winners. As it turned out the Canadians will get the gold and the Americans come home with the silver. Yet, there was something about Sunday afternoon. It was an outclassed USA team, a last second goal to force overtime, and a Sidney Crosby overtime clincher that made this great … just great.
Jim Adams lives in Nevada City, is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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