Column: ‘Tis the season for gold and goals
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 23:12
It’s that special time of year again, and no I’m not talking about Christmas and New Year’s. It’s almost time for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi Russia.
Last year around this time, hockey fans like myself were pining over the National Hockey League lockout and lack of hockey on our TV sets. This year, things are a lot different as the NHL is in full swing with no work stoppages in sight, god willing.
In February, athletes will gather from around the world to compete for more than a professional team or a trophy, they will be competing for national pride and a gold medal. In 2010, hockey fans in North America were treated to one of the most exciting gold medal games in recent memory between the United States and Canada.
It was none other than Sidney Crosby who stuck a dagger through the hearts of U.S. hockey fans with a golden goal in his home country in overtime.
Can Team Canada repeat as the greatest hockey team in the world this year? I say yes, but it won’t be an easy task. With the leg injury to Steven Stamkos, the Canadians will be missing one of their biggest up and coming superstars and goal scorers.
Team USA will pose a threat to Canada as they are a much deeper team than the last time the two North American teams faced each other in Vancouver. Goaltending will be the biggest weakness for the Americans, as Jonathan Quick will likely not play due to injury. However, Team USA is backed by a strong defensive front that will include Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh.
Russia, the host country, has not medaled in the Olympics since 2002 when they took home the bronze in Salt Lake City. Gone are the days of the mighty Russian hockey team most of us are familiar with from films like “Miracle.” While the Russians do have the red hot Alexander Ovechkin, it takes a team to take home the gold and Russia does not have a deep squad.
Perhaps the biggest threat to another Canadian team bringing home a gold medal is Sweden. Don’t expect to see a high scoring game when Sweden takes the ice with a defensive corps that includes Niklas Kronwall, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman. On offense, Sweden will have no problem lighting the lamp with veterans players like Henrik Zetterberg and the Sedin twins.
When all is said and done, one of these teams will be guaranteed to hear their national anthem as a flag lifts high to the rafters. This is one of the best traditions in the Olympics. While most athletes on the national teams come from the NHL, it’s still special to be playing for your country.
Over the winter break, the official team rosters will be released and a lot can change between now and then with injuries or if a player falls into a slump. Some things won’t change: Doc Emrick will have the call on NBC, dreams of reaching the final podium in the gold medal game will not fade and more memories in hockey’s collective memory will be made.
Before we know it, February will be here and it will be time to drop the puck. While the countdown to Christmas is in full swing, Christmas for hockey fans is not for another two months.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey