Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Hockey Starts Today!

Today is the first day of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament. With the games being held in Vancouver and Canada being a hockey-crazed country, there is tremendous pressure on the Canadian team to win a gold medal. They will be one of the favorites to win the gold, but they will have to get through the Russians, Swedes and even team USA to claim the gold. I was reading up on the start of the tournament and found this article in the USAtoday about the high hopes of the Canadians. It is informative and shows just how crazy some of the Canadian fans can be. Here is part of the article written by Kevin Allen.

Eighty-six gold medals will be awarded at the Vancouver Games, but none will be talked about, analyzed and cared about more by Canadians than the men's hockey gold. And no Canadian athlete has a bigger spotlight on him than No. 1 center Sidney Crosby, 22, of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"For Canadian players, we all know what happened in 1972 or in Salt Lake City in 2002," the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native said Saturday. "That's why we have the pride we have in playing for our country."

In 2002, Canada captured its first Olympic hockey gold medal in 50 years when it downed the USA in the title game. Now, the hope is Crosby and Co. can give Canada perhaps the biggest hockey win on home ice, starting Tuesday against Norway.

"You can say he's our top player, and that's not overstating it," said Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, a Hall of Famer and player on the 2002 Olympic team. "He's the face of Canadian hockey." "It's like he's a rock star," said Frank Buonomo, the Penguins' senior director of team operations and communications.

Hockey is 'a way of life' in Canada

All of this attention is happening while the Vancouver tournament is being billed as one for the ages because it is being played with NHL players on an NHL-sized surface in a country that worships hockey with religious fervor.

"This will probably be the most-watched event in Canadian TV history, and this will be the biggest sporting event that Canada will ever have," Canadian-born NBC analyst Pierre McGuire said.

Canada loves hockey to the point of obsession. In a country of 33 million people, there are a half million registered players. The country has 2,451 indoor rinks, plus 11,000 outdoor rinks and countless backyard rinks. By contrast, the USA has a combined 2,050 indoor and outdoor rinks.

"It's not like there was ever a moment when a Canadian said, 'I am going to love hockey,' " Canadian TSN television analyst Bob McKenzie said. "It's just part of your being, your culture. For many of us, it's not so much a game as a way of life."

McGuire predicts that 15 million people will be watching if Canada is in the gold medal game.

"To a lot of Canadians, the hockey tournament is the Olympics," said Robbie Bursey, 56, of Tide Head, New Brunswick. "All the rest is well and good, but hockey is what matters. And hockey gold is what matters. Silver would be defeat and disappointment."

If Canada doesn’t win the gold, the entire country will be let down. But being so hockey –crazed, they should know that the competition is top notch and there is a good chance they won’t win it all! There are 4-5 other teams that could win the gold and all it takes is a bad game or a bad period or even a bad play to be the difference in a gold or silver medal.

It all gets underway on Tuesday with team USA playing Switzerland in the first game. Then Team Canada hits the ice to face Norway. It is going to be a fun tournament to follow and watch!


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