BGDB3: SUPER SUNDAY

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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.

WTF

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.

IGINLA HURT

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.

PRESSURE RISING

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.

FINALLY

Do Nancy Greene (CAN) Gold medalist in the 1968 giant slalom in  Grenoble, France proud fellas.

Let’s get at ‘er.

  • Reggie Dunlop

    I won't get caught up in all the Junior hockey hoopla. I can't remember when all the schools met in the gym to watch a junior tilt. Nation vs. Nation it's Canada/Russia.

    • Jason Gregor

      I said Canada is the States' biggest rival. And while you might think it is obviously Russia for Canada, many fans and PLAYERS of this generation admit it is the States. Both are great rivals.

  • Reggie Dunlop

    Hey, pay attention. The question is about who is Canada's biggest rivalry, not what the freakin score tonight is going to be. You give the Americans way too much credit for being any kind of power hockey nation. The precitant has been set. The 72 series answers any questions about Canada's rivalries. The Russians were the bad boys of international hockey. It's because of them that the current set-up of allowing pros has been established. No series between countries has been more climatic. Even the Americans big moment came beating the Russians. IMO I'd line up the competition for Canada as Russia, Sweden, Americans for rivalries.

    • If I choose to prognosticate, that's my prerogative. Don't like it, don't read it. You want me to comment on the rivalry, USA is a very close 2nd to Russia, but they're getting better, and should they accept the game more as a country, could $ wise, and development wise, surpass Canada and Russia

      oh, and because you were being a dink, the word is "precedent"

    • Jason Gregor

      World Cup 96, States beat us. World Juniors last month USA beat us. Ask any fan if they hate Sweden more than the USA, and I'm guessing the answer is no. I think the fact you hate them show much just re-enforces that the rivalry is bigger than you think.

      I can't stand the US, but I never get fired up for a Canada/Sweden game unless it is for the Gold medal.

  • PattQuinn'sChesthair

    I recall Tiger saying in that not so beautifully delivered statement, that his wife did not physically hurt him (but he wouldn't say otherwise so…..).

    It's too bad alot of our athletes could not go in more loosey goosey to their events, too much pressure?

    Wonder if we'll see another goalie play his lights out against the big red and white machine. I think the goalies get up for games vs. Canada, understandably. Canadians have to get greasy inside and down low.

  • PattQuinn'sChesthair

    "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."

    M. Brodeur= Super Pimp.

    Respect!

  • Speaking of blaming others, did anyone else see that interview with disqualified Skeleton(er?) Bryan Burke? When he was explaining what happened he was like "I take full responsibility, but usually your coach is looking out for you for this kind of thing. I'm not blaming my coach at all, it's my fault, but I could have used the help that day". Followed by "During the first day John (Montgomery) and I were pumping each other up, and with a couple minutes before the deadline I asked him if he took his guards off. He didn't even say anything and dashed out the door. I'm not saying he's in charge of looking after me or whatever, and I'm not blaming him for this at all, but, I mean, I had his back on day one. So."

    It was hilarious. Hilarious and douchey all at the same time. But with a name like Bryan Burke can anyone really be surprised?