Canucks Breathe Barely
Canada's OT win over USA in Olympic hockey staves off national nightmare
OK, so we really don't care about hockey after all.
After one of the most dramatic sporting events of the Vancouver Winter Olympics—what's likely to end up being the most watched hockey game of all time—Canada escaped a national nightmare that would have haunted it for generations by beating the United States 3-2 in a sudden-death overtime that put even the most casual fan watching it on edge.
Canada gets the gold medal it wanted most of all, the one it would have been beyond embarrassed to lose, the one for its national sport/obsession.
If the U.S. had pulled off the upset, surely American offices everywhere would have been filled with guys feigning that they paid attention to hockey on any of the other 364 days of the year. U.S. goalie Ryan Miller would have been Michael Phelps—or at least a day and a half.
But now that it didn't happen?
Oh well. We can pretend it's only hockey—even if the U.S. Nielsen numbers for this gold-medal game say otherwise. Not to mention the breathless reports from Houston bars done by the local TV stations (you know the kind, usually reserved for National Championship college football games).
Canada, on the other hand, had no such fallback. When Sidney Crosby—who was already the most famous hockey player since Wayne Gretzky—whipped the game-winner past Miller seven minutes and 40 seconds into OT, Canadians everywhere didn't jump for joy as much as collapse in relief.
For Canada, this wasn't like winning the lottery. It was more like being pulled out of the way of a speeding bus at the last possible moment.
When U.S. forward Zach Parise delivered a sucker punch straight into Canada's soul—scoring to tie the game at 2 with only 24 seconds left in regulation, with the Olympic host nation's salvation only ticks away, with thoughts of the gold medal ceremony already filling the arena—it's a wonder that the entire country of Canada didn't simply implode from worry on the spot.
A few NBC voices too-eagerly branded this "The most important game in the history of hockey," which is akin to a 20-year-old calling the iPhone the most important invention in human history. How about that little U.S. over Russia affair at Lake Placid in 1980? Or even the U.S.-Canada hockey gold medal final from 1960 (the so-called Forgotten Miracle), which the Americans shockingly won?
It is impossible to overstate how much this single game today meant to our neighbors to the north though.
I have a friend in Winnipeg—part of the true bleak heart of Canada, where winter temperatures sometimes drop to 40 below—who basically went underground the moment the U.S. beat Canada 5-3 in group play. If you were from the U.S., you couldn't have reached him even if you had a million-dollar deal for him. His power hadn't gone out (that happens a lot too). He hadn't been run over by a moose.
He simply refused to talk to an American while our country held hockey bragging rights over his.
Another buddy from Vancouver confided that he'd give up anything besides his three kids to see Canada throttle the U.S. in the gold medal game—and if his teenage daughter kept giving him attitude, he'd consider including her too.
And you think Americans can get their priorities out of whack when it comes to sports?
It's a collective Canadian insanity too. Take the most deranged, insane University of Texas fan you know, multiply that fiftyfold and you have your average Canadian when it comes to this Olympic hockey tournament.
So yes, Canada ended up winning—by the hair of its collective chinny chin chin.
If you know a Canadian, you still may want to wait a day or two before pointing out that Canada-USA finished with a 1-1 record against each other in these Olympics with the Americans actually outscoring the Canadians a combined 7-6. You also may want to refrain from mentioning how unusual it is for the second-place, silver-medal team to have its star (Miller) named the MVP of the tournament over anyone from the champions.
Just to be safe. They have snowballs up there, eh.