As you might expect, I am jacked up over Team USA's hockey win over Canada last night. To paraphrase Badger Bob Johnson, "It was a great day for hockey."
You had all of the 30-year anniversary retrospectives on the Miracle on Ice from the 1980 Games--just to get you in the mood for another huge Olympic match up. The NHL Network (perhaps in a stunning bit of foreshadowing) aired Game Three of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey when Team USA upset Canada in Montreal to capture its first "open" hockey tournament title ever. After watching all of that, I was all set for another great effort from the Red, White and Blue--and boy did they deliver.
I know some pundits will try to compare this win to the historic victory over the Soviets at Lake Placid--but that comparison would be unfair. Everyone on the ice in Vancouver last night was a paid professional. And let's be honest, while their fans may be unbelievably smug and pompous, it's kind of hard to hate the Canadians like we hated and feared the Russians. Now if Al Qaeda would just field a hockey team. And as bad as things are economically and socially right now--it still pales in comparison to the "malaise" that hung over the US in 1980.
Last night's victory should instead stand as a tribute to everyone who has worked to bring the United States to the same level as the Hockey Superpowers of Canada and Russia. The win justifies all the hard work put in by Badger Bob and Herb Brooks and all of the executives at USA Hockey over the years that worked to build the lower levels of the sport everywhere around the country--even places where Al Michaels so cleverly put it "they don't know the difference between a blue line and a clothesline."
The win is also a tribute to all of those hockey parents who buy or bought all of the expensive equipment, the ice time and tournament entries just so their kids can play the sport...who sat through games where players spent more time on their butts than handling the puck...and the kids for realizing that actually going out and playing the game is far more satisfying than just playing EA Sports NHL 2010 or Wii Hockey...not to mention the volunteer coaches who could only get practice time at six a.m. or ten at night...and all of the officials needed to make sure the kids learn the proper rules.
Last night was also a tribute to the fans of hockey here "below the border". It's the payoff for years of being relegated to "secondary" channels during the Olympics--so we don't miss ice dancing. The years of not being able to even watch the NHL because it was on a cable network that you could see in only about 20-percent of the country. Labor strikes that almost cancelled the playoffs one year and the domination of the European-dominated Detroit Red Wings.
This is no miracle that the US has joined the elite in international hockey. It's the result of decades of hard work and passion by hundreds of thousands of people at every level. Good job everyone--you deserve this.