February 21 2010 12:08PM
Instead of racking my brain trying to invent new expletives to describe what almost happened to Team Canada last night, I'll focus on that big ole Russian bear that's lumbering around on the other side of the tournament. While most Canadians were still dwelling on what would've been the most painless way to kill themselves had Sidney Crosby not pulled it out in the shootout, the Russian team was losing in the very own shootout against Slovakia. Bonus point for local hero Pavol Demitra, the best Pavol with an "o" in Canucks` history, scoring the shootout winner (okay, so Pavol isn't quite a local hero, spending much of his time here alternating between being overpaid, underachieving or injured, quite a resume, one that he'll surely be taking to another team next year, but Canucks fans shouldn't be picky).
The Russians had sky high expectations, just like Canada, coming into the Olympics, and have to be feeling just as down as we would have felt. I for one don't care. You see, I remember a time when Russians were evil. Monstrous machines from behind the iron curtain, who were hellbent on destroying our way of life and stealing our national game. Team Canada was playing not just for pride or a trophy, they were playing for freedom, democracy and the right to make unseemly amounts of money off the backs of third world countries. Weened on movies like "Red Dawn" (probably the most accurate depiction of 1980's cold war culture ever put to film, just ask any historian, I'm sure he'll tell you the same) we felt like we HAD to win, that we COULDN`T lose because we`d be losing more than just a hockey game. 1972 and 1987 are events that shouldn`t need any further explanation to Canadians for just these reasons. Other than the sleepless nights of my childhood spent wondering whether the world would be destroyed in a nuclear annihilation, I have say I miss those times. As great as these Olympics are, it will never be quite like that again.
That said, I guess it`s for the best. You see, it turns out the Russians weren`t evil. Anyone one who had the pleasure of running into Igor Larionov will tell you that you`d be hard pressed to meet a nicer, more congenial hockey player. What would our memories of 1994 be without Pavel Bure (1994 has to be the most revered loss in Canadian hockey history). If we look at it closely, Canadian hero Mark Messier was a little further along on the evil scale (just ask Flames fans from the 80`s, and Canuck fans from the 90`s. We both have compelling, yet distinct reasons).
So, I accept that Alex Ovechkin is probably the most popular hockey player in Canada, but for these next few weeks, I`ll be cheering on Canadian wins, while quietly, secretly doing internal back flips for every Russian loss remembering what once was.