Canada has already lost. Several days ago the Canadian side experienced its 1st failure as they lost to an under-dog American team. Their 2nd failure has been their inability to meet the astronomical expectations set upon them. Yesterday the Canadians managed to get past Slovakia (a 7 seed), and claw their way back into the Gold Medal game. The gold medal match vs. The Americans will be played at 3pm on Sunday. The Americans have had an easier ride to the final, surviving The Neutral Swiss & Embarrassing an unprepared Finnish Team on Friday.
Sunday will pit friendly border rivals against each other in a repeat of the 2002 Salt Lake City Final. The result is of far more importance to the fans North of the border. Their nations pride rests upon bringing home a gold medal. Most onlookers including myself, assumed that the Red Maple Leaf would walk over the competition & coast to the Gold. This expectation was unrealistic for many reasons, one of which is that it would require opposing teams to lay down and let Canada have their way. About half the competing nations are similarly stacked with NHL stars. And let’s not forget that Canada doesn’t exactly have a sparkling history of winning Gold at The Olympic games.
Canada was poised to dominate but Uncle Sam had different plans. This is the United States; No free healthcare and No easy victories. The US team applied the medicine the Canadians needed with a 5-3 spirit awakening loss. The Canadians proceeded to conquer Germany and then showed no mercy to the Russians in a 7-3 blow-out. Last night Team Canada edged Slovakia 3-2 to advance to Sunday’s Gold Medal game.
Canadian citizens simply care more about winning this hockey tournament than their American counterparts. Canadian coach, Mike Babcock was quoted saying “The way I look at it, it's the rubber match," Babcock said. "They won the World Juniors, we won the women's gold and here's the rubber right here.” Many casual American fans have no idea what The World Juniors are. To Canadians, it’s about pride, for most Americans it’s an entertainment option. This piles more pressure onto the Canadian players. And let’s not kid ourselves, Coach Babcock, The Men’s Olympic Gold is worth a whole lot more than either the World Juniors or the Women’s Olympic title.
Babcock also said, somewhat jokingly “…they(The US) must be the favorite coming in." Even if the US is favored on paper, all the pressure rests squarely on the Red Leaf. The tourney is in Canada, on the Canadian friendly NHL sized rink & they sport the most intimidating roster ever put together.
When the Puck drops on Sunday, The Americans will be in a win-win situation. Compete well, and lose, and they’ll grab Silver. Upset Canada and they’ll take their place next to the 1960 & 1980 Miracle Teams. For Canada it’s different. A loss is unspeakable. A win over the US gets them a Gold Medal; a medal which they will accept more humbly than expected.