Olympic Hockey Update

After hearing that HTR had a meltdown, I’d thought I’d run a Reader’s Digest version of what has happened so far at the men’s Olympic hockey tournament.Preliminary Round
Out of the two pools, Slovakia and Switzerland were heavily favoured to advance out of their pools. However, with the constant roster shuffling because the preliminary rounds occured before the Olympic shutdown, many of the teams, especially Slovakia, were hampered, and, out of the blue, Belarus and Germany advanced. The preliminaries provided some memorable moments such as Germany’s Marc Selinger backstopping the team to an unprecedented 3-0 win over Slovakia, even after Slovak Zigmund Palffy started playing. It also included some unfortunate moments such as the National Hockey League’s rulings that certain players couldn’t compete and the snub by the Latvian coach of Arturs Irbe, telling him that he won’t be used in Latvia’s placement game following their elimination.

Group Stage
This was the second-most anticipated event in the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament, where the “Big Six” could “strut their stuff”. Not every team started off well, as the Canadians were disoriented and were hopeless in a 5-2 loss to Sweden. The Canadians did regain their composure to beat Germany 3-2 and tie the Czechs 3-3. The U.S. and the Swedes, meanwhile, both went undefeated in group play, with Sweden going 3-0 and the U.S. going 2-0-1. Russia and the Czechs each came away with a 1-1-1 record, and both wins were over the teams which advanced from the preliminary rounds, Belarus (6-4) and Germany (8-2), respectively, while the Finns came back from a 6-0 shellshock by the U.S. to post impressive victories over Belarus (8-1) and Russia (3-1). As for the qualifiers, both finished 0-3 and looked equally unimpressive during this stage.

Medal Round
This was the most anticipated stage of the tournament, and provided some shocking upsets. The biggest came from Belarus, who handed the Swedes a 4-3 loss that not even Mats Sundin could comprehend after the game finished. The Canadians gained a measure of revenge against Finland (who beat them for the bronze medal at Nagano), by winning 2-1 in an impressive game. The Americans were all over Germany, clobbering them 5-0 with five different scorers, Mike Richter’s 28-save performance and Mike Modano’s two assists. Finally, the Russians received a 41-save performance from Nikolai Khabibulin, preserving Maxim Afinogenov’s goal as the only goal needed the entire hockey game in a defeat of the Czechs. That set the stage for an interesting semi-finals, with Canada facing upstart Belarus and the U.S. facing Russia on the 22nd anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” later today.

Overall, the tournament has provided some of the best hockey I’ve ever seen. I’ve always heard so much of the talents of greats like Teemu Selanne, Paul Karyia and Jaromir Jagr but never got a chance to see them until now. Selanne’s side-step of two Canadian defenders to provide a great scoring opportunity is something I’ll never forget. Thereon Fluery and Karyia have proven to be valuable workhorses for Canada, and the Americans’ offence has just been brilliant, outscoring their opposition 21-3 in a 3-0-1 Olympic run. The Russians seemed to redeem themselves with the win over the Czechs, who were impressive but faced the “Bulin Wall” and experienced first-hand what their goalie, Domonik Hasek, does so often. Sweden looked as though they too would roll on in the Olympics as their play had been flawless up until they met the Bieylorussians. Speaking of Belarus, the Bieylorussians proved that a record means nothing in the overall picture, as a well-played game can at least bring teams to even keel or even bring them above a team that is supposed to clobber them like the Swedes were supposed to. Unfortunately, Selinger’s Olympic run is over after a disastrous group stage, but hedge your bets that Belarus’ Andrei Mezin, their goaltender, will land a job in the NHL.

That considered, the preliminary round proved why the NHL should change it’s Olympic format. Having a team like Slovakia be forced to shuffle their line-ups and the Canadians not having to is a double-standard, almost saying the NHL only cares for certain countries. In addition, it’s been argued that the NHL would only view the Olympics as a success if Canada or the U.S. wins. This sets a terrible precedent because it says that the NHL is favourtist, which is not a way to gain more players. The NHL needs to celebrate their diversity not undermine it: if they let the world that they do indeed care for all of the world’s athletes, then more people would want to play hockey around the world because they’ll have an equal opportunity. Of course, when the sole motivation is money, there’s not much do, and, unfortunately for the world, in the end everyone loses out.


(P.S.: By the way: I have created a new Web Site for you guys on HTR to enjoy. It’s an opinion-based Web Site and it deals with non-hockey related events (the hockey stories come here). It has everything from the world of sports to politics to society at large, and, if you like my articles on HTR, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Site. However, do keep in mind that, because it is an opinionated site, some of the comments may come out harsh and if I unintentionally offend anyone, I apologize in advance. Anyhow, the site is theranter.4dw.com, and this week’s topic is the state of the “War on Terrorism”: has it become tedious? Anyhow, I hope you’ll enjoy it and if I offend anyone, I apologize because it is not intentional)