Column: Sochi sorrows
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 22:02
This year, at the Olympic ice facility in Sochi, Russia, there will be no playing of the Star Spangled Banner, and the stars and stripes won’t be lifted high to the rafters, slightly elevated over two other nations’ flags. The U.S. Olympic hockey team will travel back to the states without a medal after being routed in the bronze medal game against Finland.
It all started on Friday afternoon when the Americans took on their arch-rival Canada. The game was a rematch after the U.S. lost a heartbreaker to Canada in the gold medal game during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Team USA had all the momentum heading into the much-anticipated matchup with Canada. The U.S. made easy work of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals en route to a 5-2 victory. Meanwhile, Team Canada was nearly upset by Latvia — of all teams — after they clawed out a 2-1 victory to set up the semifinal with the U.S. With spirits high, it looked as if the U.S. was the superior team considering Team Canada’s captain, Sidney Crosby, was held goalless in Sochi heading into the contest.
You had the feeling that something special was going to happen in this game. It all seemed to add up. The United States downed Russia in dramatic fashion earlier in the tournament. In fact, the United States did something that Adolf Hitler and Napoleon couldn’t do: defeat Russia in the winter on Russian soil. Anytime the U.S. defeats Russia in hockey, it obviously conjures up memories of the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980, and this U.S. men’s team seemed destined after T.J. Oshie stuck a dagger in the heart of the home country.
The first period of the game with Canada lived up to the hype with end-to-end action you will only see in Olympic hockey. While I love the NHL, Olympic hockey is more about a player’s skill, not if he can take a hard lick into the boards, and quite frankly it’s a nice to see a finesse game for a change.
Enter Canada’s Jamie Benn.
After a powerful slap shot from the top of the left faceoff dot by Jay Bouwmeester, Benn tipped in the only goal scored during the game for either country. I wasn’t one of the many patrons who crowded into a bar to watch the game, but I can only imagine the sadness of everyone down at their favorite local watering hole.
While they were no longer in contention for gold, the U.S. could still take home the bronze. Team Finland had other ideas, after U.S. Goaltender Jonathan Quick allowed five goals in a humiliating defeat.
What started out as a promising Olympic games quickly turned into a nightmare for fans of Team USA hockey. What surprised me the most was the fact that the U.S. rolled over the way they did in the bronze medal game. I know for a fact that if this was during the Herb Brooks era, that would not have happened.
I think this Olympics is a great example of why we need to switch back to amateur athletes for hockey. The other day, WEEI had the legendary Mike Eruzione on before the game with Canada. He talked about the 1980 team that shocked the world and trained together for six months before facing the mighty Soviet team. During that time they became not just a group of talented guys playing hockey, but they became a cohesive unit. By sending NHL players to the game, you can’t shut a professional league down for half a year; it’s just not possible unless, of course, it’s for a silly labor dispute.
There are many questions surrounding USA hockey as the team travels back, one of them being: “Where do we go from here?” The ending of the movie “Miracle” said it best: We have dream teams playing in Olympics nowadays, but it’s robbed us the chance to dream.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey