Canadian pride swells once again; let it!
Pride is considered the worst of the seven deadly sins.
If that is the case, then Canada is a smokin’ ‘n’ steamin’ hot den of iniquity right now.
A few short hours ago Team Canada closed the 22nd Winter Olympic Games with a convincing and workmanlike 3-0 victory over Team Sweden.
If you turned the sound down on your television and listened with your eyes closed, at the end of the game, you could almost make out the sound of chests puffing out all across our enormous land.
For the second straight Olympics our men’s and women’s hockey teams captured gold, re-establishing Canada as the pre-eminent hockey power on the globe.
And they did it in such style, and with such class. How can one not feel great pride?
The women’s team channeled some of the great men’s teams from the ‘70s and ‘80s by showing powerful heart and soul and coming from behind to claim victory over an opponent that had been having its way with them in recent years – their nemesis: the Americans.
Providing the Paul Hendersonesque heroics this time was Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored the tying goal with 55 seconds remaining, while rock-steady goaltender Shannon Szabados was on the bench for the extra attacker.
And then she scored again 8:10 into overtime – scoring “the golden goal” of the 2014 Olympics. Hockeyheads – male and female – will remember that goal and this game as the highlight of the 2014 Olympics.
It wasn’t such high theatrics for the men’s team as it steamrolled to its second straight Olympic title Sunday morning, though the collective tension in hockeyland, 34 million or so strong, could not be cut with a chainsaw sporting freshly sharpened teeth.
Always the favourite to win every tourney it plays in, most especially by those at home, Team Canada began its quest for gold in tepid fashion. It only beat Norway 3-1, a score that was more of a victory for the extremely overmatched Vikings, who not too long ago were sliced to ribbons by Canadian teams that didn’t break sweats in 8-0 or worse wins.
They showed their superstar form in a 6-0 pasting of Austria and still the pundits, both televised and bar-stooled, squawked away about what was wrong with the team. Coach Mike Babcock should be playing so and so and sitting buddy boy; Luongo should be playing goal; why isn’t Canada slaughtering these bums?
A tough game against Finland, a 2-1 overtime win, didn’t surprise hockey faithful as the Fins are always a tough W. Still, what was wrong with Canada’s vaunted attack?
Next up, a quarter final tilt against hockey mouse Latvia. Canada’s $150 million a year (plus) lineup was given everything it could handle against Latvia’s $6 million or so lineup and they ‘escaped’ with a 2-1 win.
Questions continued; what’s wrong with Sidney Crosby? Will Corey Perry every score again? Why isn’t Martin St-Louis playing in place of Chris Kunitz? Has anyone seen Rick Nash’s keys?
Mike Johnson, former NHL player and current TSN hockey analyst, unimpressed by Canada, declared following the Latvia game that the USA, Canada’s next opponent in the semi-finals, was the undisputed favourite going in. America was scoring at will, he said.
Meanwhile, while not lighting up weaker opponents, Canada was quietly smothering every team with a sublime mix of puck possession and supportive team defence. And defence wins championships.
Sure enough, Canada just needed a single goal to sweep their southern rivals into the bronze medal game. It was a game many proclaimed as “the real gold medal game.” Canada’s strict adherence to the system implemented by Babcock and coaching company, with superstar snipers mucking and grinding, was textbook.
And this morning, the team expended all its remaining ordnance and confounded Sweden 3-0.
It was as dominant a victory as any Team Canada has ever handed an opponent in the past 30 or so years.
Were it not for Swedish netminder Henrik Lundqvist and some love from the hockey gods, the score could have been 7-0.
Canada bested Sweden in every aspect of the sport; every position – for 60 professional minutes. In short, this collection of players showed why they are valued at $150 million or so a year by their prospective club teams.
In the biggest moment of the Olympics, for most Canadians, we snagged our 10th gold medal and finished third overall in the medal standings.
Vastly improved facilities and financial arrangements for athletes, thanks to corporate sponsorships and enhanced government willingness to provide support, are paying off in elite performances by Canadians as our overall performance at Winter Games remained stellar at Sochi, following the amazing Vancouver Games.
To each and every member of the Canadian Winter Olympics Team, all 220 of you, and to your coaches and support systems – we are all immensely proud of you!
Sin be damned, sin be damned!