Monday, February 22, 2010

Your Monday Hockey Reality Check

I am a hockey fan, and former player of the game. I admit, I fell in love with the sport as a child, when my father took me to see the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers at the old Chicago Stadium when I was in 1st grade. I didn't understand the game then, but loved it. I hit the ice for real in the days after the "Miracle on Ice" USA win over the Soviet Union (which occurred 30 years ago today).

As a former player, and someone that covered the sport in both Chicago and Raleigh with the Hurricanes, I will tell you this:

Sunday's USA win over Canada was not the stuff of miracles, and it assured Team USA of absolutely zero.

I pick up the paper this morning over my coffee, and see the word "miracle," used in the headline describing Team USA's 5-3 win over Canada.

Was Canada supposedly invincible? If they were, they certainly didn't look it against Switzerland, especially when they had to go beyond the first 3 shots of a shootout to finally put the Swiss away. The Canadians are playing under the most intense pressures in sports. Imagine the pressure on Tony Romo, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Or Joe Girardi, Manager for the NY Yankees. Those are big-time, everyday pressure packed sports jobs. Those two face the heat of a city. Team Canada is facing it from a country. Even the Quebec province.

I'm not making excuses for the Canadians. I am also not making the American's victory into something more than it is. There are nights in the NHL that a hot goaltender can be the difference in a win. Take for instance the Hurricanes recent 4-2 win over the Blackhawks in Raleigh. You remember that one, right? It was the Saturday after the statewide snow/ice blast. I was foolish enough to drive to Raleigh in that soup for a game. Ring a bell? Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward was peppered with shots. Chicago outshot the Hurricanes 41-24, but Ward made sure the Hurricanes had the support on the back end.

Ryan Miller did that for Team USA against Canada. Canada thoroughly dominated play, but Miller was the difference. Period. End of story.

Do not call it miraculous. Last I looked, both the USA and Canada rosters are populated by players that are on NHL teams. This was an NHL All Star Game, only there was defense, hitting, and passion. There was no miracle here. This was the essence of the sport. It was poetry. It was beautiful to watch.

So, as you go through your day, maybe with a little more bounce in your step, keep in mind the USA hockey team hasn't won anything yet. They are the top seed heading into the medal round, and along with Russia, Sweden and Finland, will have a bye into the quarterfinals. Team USA hasn't seen any of them yet. The road to gold is a bumpy one, and it's only beginning.

Mike Solarte

Follow me on Twitter!

No comments: