One Game, Hundreds of Battles

Please check out ColoradoAg from Spence Park Soapbox (@SpenceParkSB) who is dishing hilarious and informative Aggie scoop.

He also happens to be a huge puck head and has followed the Olympic Hockey scene the way HenryJames follows elementary school buses. I asked him if we could reprint his post mortem of yesterday's heartbreaking loss and he said go fuck yourself.

But I did it anyway.

Enjoy.

- S.R.

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Listen as you read this post. I'm feeling nostalgic.

Hockey is a game of battles. In the course of a game, there are hundreds of battles that take place in the corners, in front of the net, along the blue lines, and in the minds of the combatants. Most of these battles result in a benign stalemate as the opposing players both do their jobs and play continues. Sometimes a goaltender bails out a defenseman that was pantsed on the blue line. More often than not, a lapse in focus or effort signals a lost battle and the puck winds up in the back of your net as the host country’s syrup suckers toast Molson and blast Brian Adams.

Sunday’s gold medal tilt between the US and Canada was a tremendous culmination of two weeks of elite hockey. It sucks something fierce to lose the way the US did. However, winning just wouldn’t be as fun if you weren’t violently kicked in the stones every now and again would it? Aggie fans live by this credo.

I couldn’t be prouder of Team USA. Coming into Vancouver, they really had no business medaling. The closest thing we have to a Crosby or Ovechkin is Patrick Kane – a helluva player in his own right, but a virtual unknown to most of America. This team of fearless young guns and savvy vets drove their tank into Hockey Mecca and came as close as one could to ripping out the Queen’s heart and turning it into a McRib – socialized medicine be damned.

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If you didn’t have a boyish celebration complete with squealing and jumping on furniture when Zach Parise knocked in the tying goal with 24 seconds left, then I deem you a traitor. These boys were down 2-0 against a big, disciplined team that was bent on delivering gold to the guttural Canadians whose pride in the game of hockey is unrivaled by anything we have in the States. The US played with a platinum set of balls. Look no further than veteran Chris Drury. Drury’s role had been reduced to penalty killing and defensive situations. He accepted his role without complaint and decided he was going to block shots like a maniac. As someone who was largely expendable during his playing days, I can tell you that blocking shots blows. It is scary as hell and hurts. Yet, the US were sacrificing their bodies and throwing their faces in front of 100 mph blasts. Battles.

Canada won two distinct battles that led to their first goal and the game winner in OT. On the first goal of the game, Mike Richards of Canada won his battle in the corner with a strong forecheck that resulted in Jonathan Toews putting the puck home. The golden boy of Canada – Sid Crosby – notched what might be the biggest goal in Canadian hockey history with the tally in OT. Crosby will be the one that is forever remembered, but he isn’t the one that made this happen. Jarome Iginla made it happen. Iginla fought like hell along the boards and was able to deliver a beautiful pass to Crosby. Battles.

ColoradoAg’s All-Tournament Team
Note: there are no Euros or Russians on this team. Why? Fuck ‘em. That’s why.

Forward | Sidney Crosby| Canada | Twenty fucking two years old. In the last year, he has been the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the Cup and he just scored the largest goal in Canadian hockey history. While I think he had a quiet tournament by Crosby standards, he still managed to be one of the best players in Vancouver. His hockey intelligence is scary. It is on a Gretzky level. His humble confidence gleans a maturity level decades beyond his age. He might be the best player in the world and he is just scratching the surface on his ability. I’ll enjoy watching him dominate for the next 15 years.

Forward | Jonathan Toews | Canada | Toews might have been the best player in the tournament not named Ryan Miller. Sure, he only had one goal, but his seven assists drove the Canadian offense. Another superb young talent. The Chicago Blackhawks are blessed to have him and Kane together at the beginning of their careers.

Forward | Zach Parise | USA | Watching him silence an insane arena with 24 seconds to go was a thing of beauty. Parise plays with a non-stop motor and speed that isn’t matched. Make him the US captain in 2014. And, um, NHL marketing department: how’s about you do your job and let the world know who these guys are? Thanks.

Defense | Brian Rafalski | USA | Rafalski was a monster. He is such an asset offensively. He is an excellent distributor of the puck as he quarterbacks the offense. 4 goals/4 assists/+ 7 in 6 games speaks for itself.

Defense | Duncan Keith | Canada | I could be admonished for not going with a big name like Pronger, but Keith was the best defenseman for Canada. He was very strong in his own end and chipped in on the offense. Another great young player for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Goaltender | Ryan Miller | USA | Surprise surprise. His postgame interview was indicative of just how huge this game was. His pain was hard to watch. Miller was the great equalizer for an undermanned team. He might be the best goaltender on earth.

Side note: Did you watch the medal ceremonies for the men’s and women’s ice hockey? What a striking contrast between the men’s and women’s sports. Both ended the same – Canada with the gold, USA with the silver. However, the US women’s team didn’t look too sad with the silver. Hell, some of them looked happy. Meanwhile, the US men looked devastated. They left it all out there. That shit just runs deeper. Sorry, ladies. The US women won silver. The US men lost gold.

Where does hockey go from here?

The NHL has been lobbed a marketing softball from this Olympics, but I’m still not confident they won’t find a way to fuck it up. For the past couple weeks, Americans cared about hockey for the first time in decades. Some unknown US talents are now recognizable. Kane, Parise, Miller, Statsny, Sutter. Market these dudes.

Look, hockey players will never be the sexy marketing figures of the NBA or NFL. They don’t peacock around and beat their chests. They’re not controversial. While most athletes love the spotlight, hockey players get embarrassed. The culture of hockey is not about individualism. The vast majority of hockey players are the types of guys you would want to get drunk with and then let them date your sister. They’re humble. The NHL needs to capitalize on their likeability and grow the game.

Second order of business: there are a couple sport entities that are looking down the barrel of a work stoppage in the next couple years. Namely, the NBA and NFL. If this happens, the NHL needs to find its way back to ESPN immediately. For the sake of viewership, take whatever financial offer you can get. This Versus nonsense needs to stop.

Finally, stop being a buzzkill and threatening to not send NHLers to Russia for the 2014 games. Are you retarded? The past two weeks have best thing to happen to hockey in 30 years.

I’m too invested in the game. I’m curious to your thoughts, especially those of you who don’t watch hockey normally.

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