Friday August 22, 2014

The Golden Age of Canadian hockey


*Warning: Patriotic overload*

Allow me to start off by quoting two of the best professional wrestlers of all time.

“Best in the world!” – CM Punk.

“The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.” – Bret “Hitman” Hart.

Because that is exactly what Canada is when it comes to hockey.

The best.

We knew it right from the get-go. We knew that Canada is the best in the world when it comes to hockey (both male and female). Now the rest of the world, some of which doubted it, know it as a fact.

Now we have the gold…  No, wait…  Now we have the REPEAT gold to back that claim up.

But it wasn’t easy for the Canadian women, or men for that matter, to repeat as Olympic champions.

Our women had a scare put into them by our rivals from down south, the United States.

Hats off to the American women.  They battled tooth and nail right down to the bitter end and actually led 2-0 with minutes left in the game.

Fortunately for us they got a little too cocky and with four minutes remaining their world came tumbling down, first with a Brianne Jenner goal and then a pair of goals by the woman that will haunt American dreams for the next four years (the same person who had haunted their dreams for the past four years), Marie-Philip Poulin.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t expect our women to repeat as gold medalists.

Don’t get me wrong, they are amazing athletes. It’s just that they brought in Kevin Dineen months before the Olympics began and promptly began to lose.

As a matter of fact, their first win under Dineen came in game one of the Olympics against Switzerland.

Up until that point the Canadian women, with Dineen in charge, had lost several times to the US and many times to Alberta midget AAA boys teams.

But I’m the first one to admit that I am happy to be wrong (this is the only time that I will ever say that).

As for the men, they definitely didn’t have an easy time.

But we’ll credit that largely to the other teams’ defence (and forwards) collapsing towards the net every time a Canadian player thought about touching the puck.

After our offence failed to do much of anything people began to question how good Team Canada really was. They forgot to acknowledge the fact that the puck had to get through seven or eight bodies just to get to the net.

After all, it’s much easier to score a goal when there are just one or two bodies screening a goalie.

It’s much harder to get a shot through seven or eight bodies, which was the case when Canada played Norway, Latvia and even Finland.

Of course Canada found a way to combat that. Just let Shea Weber shoot the puck.

It was evident in the Latvia game. Weber continually blasted the puck toward the net. Yes, most of the time it didn’t make it through. However, Weber’s shot is so devastating that he eventually cleared a path to the net simply by hurting the Latvians with his cannon blast.

The result?  A Weber game-winning goal from the point.

We then shut down the Americans much talked about offence easily before shutting out the Swedes in the final.

But here is where the most convincing argument is made in regards to Canada being the best hockey nation in the world today.

In the third period, in both the semi-final and gold medal games, Canada simply dominated.

Almost every American shot was from the outside with little to no chance of beating Carey Price.

Against Sweden, at a time in which the Swedes should have been pressing to score (the entire third period) Canada casually cycled the puck and put shots on Henrik Lundqvist (arguably the best goalie in the world).

That’s right.  Canada got better later in the game when panic and desperation was supposed to set in for their opponents, making their offence that much more dangerous.

Instead, we controlled two of the elite hockey nations in two of the biggest games like marionette puppets. We. Simply. Dominated.

I must admit, as a person who follows pretty much every pro hockey league in Europe (as well as the Australian and Asian leagues), the gap in the level of skill when it comes to hockey in countries is quickly closing.

But the fact remains.  When we put our best hockey players on the ice there is no one that can compete.

Not Russia. Not Sweden.

And, as proven in Sochi, certainly not our southern neighbours the United States.



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