Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Hockey

February 28, 2010: I am watching Olympic Hockey. It is the finals between the US and Canada. It is an exciting game truly. Canada scored the first two goals. The US scored later in the second period to close the gap. In the third period, the play became even more furious. The US played with abandon to try to tie the game. Time was running out and it looked Canada might just win 2-1. At least that was my thoughts with three minutes and change left in the game. With less than two minutes left, there was a stoppage in the play with a face off pending in the Canadian end. The US called a time out. Well someone called a time out. (Can you call a time out in hockey?)

Coming out of the time out, the US pulled their goalie to begin play with an advantage of six skaters to five. I thought the chances were more likely that the Canadians would score an empty net goal to win 3-1 rather than the US score to take the game to overtime. Well probabilities are one thing, reality is another. The US scored with forty some seconds left in a period. The only strategy the US could follow worked and the game was sent into overtime.

The overtime period began with Canada playing more aggressively and putting a lot of pressure on the US. The reason for the intensity is because the overtime play in Olympic Hockey is four skaters per team instead of the normal five. This makes for a more wide open game and I am guessing decreases the mean time between goals. That is probably correct since the Canadians scored and won the Gold Medal.

I was very interested in watching the game. Yet, I was more interested in watching a good hockey game then to root, cheer, live, and die for the good old USA. I used to be like that back when the players were amateurs, basically unknowns. Now, most of the teams are made up of professionals and mainly NHL players especially for the US and Canadian teams.

Of course, I am stuck in 1980 when the amateurs of the US stunned the professionals of the then USSR in what we in the US have called the Miracle on Ice. I was only twenty seven years old then. It was a bleak time just like these days. The scrappy US team of upstarts captured the hearts and souls of this country back then. Their exploits raised the spirit of this nation and captivated the majority of the nation, who were not remotely hockey fans, to watch the big semi-final games against the Soviets.

The US Goalie, Ryan Miller, in a post game interview basically summed it up by saying it was a great game but they came up one shot short. When pressed further by the interviewer to say something profound about the game, Miller with no emotion said "it was just another hockey game." That may well be the difference between a team of pros playing in the Olympics in the midst of their very long season and a team of college players playing in the biggest game of their lives.

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