Olympic Hockey Afterthoughts

Prayers are Answered, Whereas Taunts are Avenged

I found this from CDC Sunday morning, before the Gold Medal hockey game:

“Our Father, who art in GM Place, HOCKEY be thy name, thy will be done. GOLD shall be WON on ice as well as in the stands. Give us this day our hockey sticks and forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who crosscheck against us. LEAD US not into elimination but deliver us TO VICTORY, in the name of the fans… …CANADA… and the Holy Puck. AMEN!! GO CANADA GO!!!!!!!!”

As you can see, unlike the heathen Americans, who indulge in crude battle irony, we Canadians always show due reverence in our parodies.

A Goal Scorer’s Goal

Yes, the Hockey Gods are just. Team USA lost honourably, but when you are so close to winning, it’s makes it that much harder to lose, eh? This was by design, no doubt.

So it must have really stung to push us to overtime with a last minute goal, and feel like another miracle on ice was about to be performed, only to see some kid come flying into the zone, jumping onto the backs of two defensemen in an effort to break through, a kid with wide eyes and determination, a kid who’s unrelenting, who wants it that freakin’ bad.

He beats the defencemen to the puck in the corner and cuts up the boards where the ref tries to check him. But he pokes it down to Iginla to get the cycle going, then streaks towards the net for a give-and-go. Jarome eats a hit to deliver the pass.

And now it’s just some kid on Britannia Ice Rink or a frozen prairie pond, alone with the goalifor the next three seconds, dreaming of scoring the winner against the Russians or during game seven of the Stanley Cup final. The moment might as well be played out in a garage as the frozen River of the Water of Life.

The kid has maybe 15 feet to work with, so the next touch of the puck is of the utmost importance – what, where, when, why. How? Deke, wrap around, snap shot, fake, backhand or forehand? This one touch will determine everything that happens next.

And where most players would still be focused on controlling the puck, the kid gets his head up. And that is crucial, that is everything.

He sees all he needs to see to make his decision in a blink of an eye: the goalie’s hand sliding up the stick for a poke check, the five hole opening for the split second it takes to knock the puck off the shooter’s stick.

Because he got his head up, the kid sees all that, and now he knows he has an even smaller split of a second to react, to get the shot off and hit the tunnel of light that’s opening up between the goalie’s pads.

When a boxer sees the shoulder drop and a roundhouse coming, there’s a brief opening to throw a straight jab. When the safeties are blitzing, the quarterback has a second to find an open receiver.

When Goliath is rushing at you across the desert, his forehead glistens in the sun.

The risk-reward of aggression is huge because there is always a moment of naked weakness revealed. And if it gets exploited, if you are beaten to the punch, it can cost you a touchdown, a knockout, a golden goal. It can kill you.

For pure scorers, the act is second nature, instinctual, adrenal. It’s been rehearsed a thousand times before in basement hockey, floor hockey, ruler hockey, barn hockey, kitchen hockey, road hockey as well as on the pond, river, lake and in the rink…

Opportunity and execution: snipe.

The kid pulls the trigger so fast he doesn’t even see it go in. He just hears the roar of the crowd and knows he’s done it, delivered jubilance to millions across the country.

At just twenty-two, he has already earned his wings.

Celebrate.

Religious Fervor

The endless street parties that took over the city during the Olympics reminded me so much of 1994, and how incredible it was. Walking around downtown on Sunday night was like the atmosphere after Game Six vs. the Rangers: utter euphoria. It’s been 16 years!

But the crowd was bigger on Sunday, and having been caught up in the Game Seven riot in 1994, I shudder to think what would have happened if we had lost to the Americans? In Canada, one goal separates tens of thousands of happy, high-fiving drunk guys and an angry, violent mob. And this time, the Army was ready to intervene. They were everywhere. Imagine that end to the Vancouver Olympics and I guess you can understand why 1 billion was spent on security.

Such is our religion.

The Redemption of Bobby Lou

After suffering through a week of Pang, Kypreos, Mackenzie, Hodge, Ferraro and every other analyst on TV calling Luongo shaky and questioning his ability to win big games, it sure was nice to see him with the gold medal around his neck at the end of it all.

For Canuck fans, the script was almost as compelling as the Crosby winner. Luongo is a class act all the way, and the Rodney Dangerfield treatment he’s had dogging him since the Hawks knocked us out last spring has never seemed just. The guy gives his heart and soul every minute. He wears Johnny Canuck on his mask. He reveres Martin Brodeur. He simply loves the game.

But Vancouver has been known as The Goalie Graveyard since the 1970’s, and I have to admit that I have wondered if Luongo might eventually get claimed, too. I mean, wow, the Gold Medal game in Vancouver? The potential for a horror show – like the boos for Team Canada in 1972 at the Pacific Mausoleum – was certainly there. And shit, the city could have been ripped to shreds if you let in another goal. Now that’s pressure.

But let’s face it, Luongo is easily the best goalie the Canucks have had in 40 years in the NHL. If anyone deserves to come out a winner, it’s a guy like him. Demitra couldn’t beat ya’. You got the last laugh on Kane. The media is finally playing a different song.

And tonight, even in Detroit the “Looo’s” were ringing out all night long!

The Holy Grail

As we all know, hockey’s true grail is silver, not gold. And post-Olympics, I am suddenly optimistic about the Canucks’ chances of taking a run at the Stanley Cup this year. Luongo has a 400 pound gorilla off his back, Kesler and Burrows forecheck and backcheck harder than anyone in the league, Demitra looks like he’s 25 again, Henrik and Daniel seem to be toying with defencemen most shifts.

Who knows?

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One response to “Olympic Hockey Afterthoughts

  1. Amen to that, brother.

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