February 21 2010 04:16PM
Olympic question: Who is Canada ’s biggest rival when it comes to hockey; Russia or the United States?
We could sit here and argue until the 2014 Winter Games begin but there would be no clear cut winner. There are such different styles of play when comparing games against the US compared to those against Russia that the rivalries are almost completely different.
The North American games seem like a sibling rivalry. There is nothing worse than losing to your little brother and often the games become cheap and vicious as a result. When the Canadians play Russia on the other hand there is a greater sense of respect, taking into account the history of the big games between the two Northern Nations througout the past 60 years.
For years, the political maneuvering required to get the two teams to play almost overshadowed the game on the ice and represented one of the few glimpses Canadians would have into life behind the Iron Curtain. But even though the Cold War is now over and with many Russians playing in the NHL, there is still a lingering sense of a rivalry that is bigger than the game of hockey and bigger than the Olympics.
But until the Russians meet the Canadians, this afternoon's game against the US will start the National Heart pumping for every true hockey fan in Canada, as well as the Yanks who think they understand the best game on the planet.
Make no mistake; Canada is the States’ biggest rival.
We are the little brother who has kicked their ass for years. Sure, they’ve had a few victories from time to time, but when the Red, White and Blue lines up against the Red and White they are always entering the game as the underdog.
This isn't a position the Americans are used to being in and they will be looking to knock off the Canadians and reclaim top spot when the puck drops today.
COMPARE AS WE DARE
The American all-time leading scorer, Brett Hull, wasn’t good enough to represent Canada in international play, so he defected to the States. Eighteen Canadians have more career points than the traitor Hull , and the highest scoring real American is Mike Modano.
Only 24 Canadians have more career points than him, and even the Czechs, Swedes and Finns have a player with more points than an American and the Euros have only been in the NHL for 25 years.
Perhaps you think it’s unfair to compare the past. Fine, let’s look at the present. We have Sidney Crosby. They have Patrick “20-cent” Kane. We have Drew Doughty. They have Erik “I can’t-drive-a-golf-cart” Johnson. We have real beer. They have 3% tastes-like-something-else-altogether beer.
We have Marty Brodeur, the greatest goalie to ever play, not to mention he is so smooth off-the-ice that he can divorce his wife and marry her sister without much fanfare. They have Tiger Woods, who speaks like a robot and had his wife knock out his chicklets with his own 3-iron.
We have Shawn Horcoff (wait for it before you toss your cookies) sitting on a beach not playing. They have Chris Drury, with a worse contract, wearing an “A”. Is your depth that shallow that you need a $7 million boat anchor on the team? We have Crosby, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla in the top-30 in scoring.
They have 20-cent, Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler and Paul Stastny. Hell, we have three guys in the top-10 in scoring, Steven Stamkos, Marty St.Louis and Brad Richards, who couldn’t make our team.
We have Mr. Class, Steve Yzerman.
They have Brian Burke.
And they have Johnny Weir.
When your fellow figure skaters think you are too flamboyant, you are raising the bar for your entire sport.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Mike Babcock stated yesterday he is happy that his team faced some adversity v. Switzerland , because he was worried that they wouldn’t have been challenged in the first two games and might have come in over-confident this afternoon.
That’s all fine and dandy, but Babcock needs to start coaching to win. He has struggled trying to get everyone involved. The extra forward and D-man make it hard to get guys ice time, but this is not the time to worry about hurting a player’s feelings. I say roll four lines and three sets of D-men, and maybe spot in a guy as a specialist on the PK or the PP, although putting a cold guy in on the PP wouldn’t be a great strategy.
No one on Team Canada will confirm it, but with Mike Richards replacing Jarome Iginla on a line with Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash, you do wonder if Iggy is hurt. He only played two shifts in the 3rd period v. the Swiss after taking a hit to the shoulder/head area.
This might make Babcock’s life easier, because he can just go with four lines. We will see if Iginla slots in on the “4th line” with the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Brendan Morrow and Jonathon Toews. Mike Richards will have an impact tonight, because the States have a lot of guys who play on the edge, and Canada will need Richard’s to counter that. Patrice Bergeron has been a demon in the draws so he’ll be a factor and they will also need Morrow to counter the aggressive hitting of the USA .
The San Jose trio has looked good, and I’d expect Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Eric Staal to remain a line, although Babcock loves Toews so we might see more of him tonight.
With Canada not coming close to “Owning the podium” the focus on the Men’s hockey team will be even bigger now. If Canada had 15 or so medals at this point, the focus wouldn’t just be on hockey, but now with no chance of “Owning the podium” Canada will look to the hockey team to salvage these Olympics.
Sorry Denny Morrison, but blaming the Own the Podium’s decision to not allow Shani Davis to train with you as the reason you tanked it in the Olympics is the lamest excuse I’ve heard. Why couldn’t you push yourself? Are you saying that you needed him to push you to get better? If you thought you were losing a step (stride) in the last year, why didn’t you do something to alter it?
Call him? Get a better coach? Blaming the program as the reason you struggled in Vancouver only makes you look like a choker and a whiner. I’m sure you are better than that, but you came across as someone who wants to blame others, rather than yourself, for your disappointment.
That’s not the Olympic spirit.
Do Nancy Greene (CAN) Gold medalist in the 1968 giant slalom in Grenoble, France proud fellas.
Let's get at 'er.