Sochi Chronicles: Part FOUR

The 22nd Winter Games: SOCHI 2014

The 22nd Winter Games: SOCHI 2014

Canada’s Medal FINAL Medal Count – 25 MEDALS: 10 GOLD, 10 SILVER, and 5 BRONZE.[As of the end of the Olympics; February 23rd, 2014].

On the final day of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, there was one last event that many across Canada and Sweden had their eyes glued to, to find out what the final result would be. The Men’s hockey GOLD medal game. If you live on the west coast like me, than you were met with the dilemma to stay up all night OR get up ridiculously early to watch the game live. Did you opt for an all-nighter or set your alarm absurdly early? I opted for the sleep a few hours and then wake up early route myself.

Coming into the final Olympic hockey game saw TWO undefeated teams looking to take the gold medal. Canada was looking to defend their 2010 gold medal and Sweden was trying to win their second men’s hockey gold medal in the last 3 Olympics after winning in 2006.

Sweden earned their way into the gold medal game playing some incredibly consistent hockey despite missing two of their best centres (Henriks: Zetterberg & Sedin) due to injuries. They found a way and a will to win every game leading up their gold medal match-up. Canada earned their way into the gold medal game playing the best defensive style and only allowing 3 goals in their first 5 games. Both teams were very impressive in their 5 games leading into the final test…and the only questions that remained were who would win Gold and who would settle for Silver?

How would the final show down between the best two teams of the hockey tournament turn out? Which star players would step up to help their team? What would the final score be? There was an electricity in the air when the teams hit the ice and the puck finally dropped. You could feel the anticipation from both benches of what could be.

The start of the game seemed like all Sweden until they hit a post…after which it seemed it was all Canada. Every time Sweden touched the puck it was quickly back in possession of team Canada and eventually it started costing them on the scoreboard. Jonathan Toews opened the scoring at 12:55 of the first period with his first goal of the tournament (much like he did the 2010 gold medal game…which opened the scoring at 12:50 of the first period).

TOEWS celebrating the FIRST goal of the game!

TOEWS celebrating the FIRST goal of the game with the team!

It may have only been ONE goal in the FIRST period but the entire bench jumped up to celebrate when it went in[they did that for EVERY team Canada goal in the tournament]. The goal was a microcosm of team Canada’s entire tournament…every element from defense to offense had been a TEAM effort and it continued to show for the entire 60 minutes. Everyone held their breath as we awaited the next goal from either side. Whenever Sweden had the puck, there was ZERO panic from Canada has they executed their patience to perfection.It was magnetizing at times to watch the way Canada controlled the puck inside and outside their zone.

Cue the second period and Sidney Crosby on a breakaway…but he was double-teamed by the impeccable Swedish defense on his way to the net making his shot impossible. One could get frustrated after a play like that…but Crosby didn’t get frustrated…he instead skated back to the bench with a look of determination that seemed to say if another breakaway came he would make it count. He did get another breakaway opportunity when Sweden turned the puck over…and this time he could not be stopped…it was executed to perfection.

CROSBY in alone makes no mistake in giving #TeamCanada a 2-0 lead.

CROSBY in alone makes no mistake in giving #TeamCanada a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.

A picture does not do this goal justice, so here it is: SID THE KID STRIKES GOLD AGAIN!!

2-0 leads in hockey are almost never safe…BUT the panic that normally comes with those leads was never present in this game. Canada had set the pace for the game was not giving Sweden enough time to set up or when they did, Price had the answer.

The third period was much of the same. Every time Sweden had the puck, it was quickly turned back over and Canada was in complete control of the game. As fans around the world held their breath to see if Sweden would be able to find some offense, Canada calmly kept executing their game plan to absolute perfection. Any doubts (if you had any lingering) about the outcome of this game were extinguished when Kunitz, the beneficiary of a Swedish turnover made no mistake putting Canada ahead 3-0.

Sweden had found ways to win every game of this tournament BUT could not find the answer to solve Canada’s offense or defense in this game. This game would end with a 3-0 shutout (Canada’s 3rd shutout of the Olympics…1 by Luongo, 2 back to back by Price) as Canada defended their 2010 gold medal with a dominant GOLD medal performance. It was a tale of two games within one game…one team executed a perfect game and the other struggled to keep up.

This game was not nearly as dramatic as the 2010 gold medal game which saw the USA force OT before Crosby scored the gold medal goal. It was much more meticulous as the team moved together as one with every pass, goal and save. Every player knew where to be and where to go as they executed their BEST game of the tournament and Canada’s best players were exactly that, their best players playing their best to finish what they started.

Everyone outside of the team was so focused on what they perceived as a “lack of offense” instead appreciating that BEST team defense a team Canada has ever dressed. Canada gave up a very stingy total of 3 goals in 6 games while scoring 17 goals in those 6 games. It may not have been the offense that everyone expected BUT a tournament like this is not about the individual stats, it is about the TEAM stats. Perhaps, Luongo said it best: “It’s not about personal agendas, it’s about representing your country and trying to win a gold.” Babcock all along told media and those with concerns about offense that they needn’t be worried, he wasn’t worried about individual stats or scoring BUT rather with their team game and wins. If the team was patient with the offense, and focused on doing all the small things right while playing tight defensively, the goals would come. The goals did come and in the end they did exactly what they set out do from the moment this journey began: win the GOLD medal.

It was an incredible game to witness Canada ice a game as close to perfection as possible from the offense to defense and everything in between. This team will go down as one of [if not] the best team[s] that Canada has put together for an Olympic tournament. Before they could receive their medals, the teams had to meet at center ice for the obligatory handshakes and congratulations [this is one of my favourite parts of any hockey playoff series, is that once the game/series…it’s an incredible picture of good sportsmanship that is not always seen in other sports!]. It may not have been the result that Sweden expected or the medal that they desired receiving, but its is the one that they earned with their play in this game. “Winning” a silver medal in hockey doesn’t seem as amazing an accomplishment in the moment because is comes in a loss, but the fight to win that silver medal is something to proud of, so I extend a congratulations, to team Sweden on an excellent tournament!

In case you want to relive the best moments from the Sochi 2014 Gold Medal Men’s hockey game one last time, or if you missed the medal ceremony…here you go:

GOLD medal highlights:

MEDAL ceremony for Sweden & Canada:

For two weeks the NHL was put on hold and regular season rivals became teammates and almost like family on the other side of the world. Friendships formed or revisited during the Olympic break will be put once again on the back burner as the NHL season re-starts and rivals re-emerge. Hold on folks, we are in for a bumpy ride and one heck of a finish to the NHL season!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Sochi Chronicles: Part ONE

The 22nd Winter Games: SOCHI 2014

The SOCHI Chronicles 2014

Some people love events like the Olympics and others don’t care…I love the the Winter Olympics. Those of us who love the games have favourite events. My favourite events are: HOCKEY[big shocker there right?], the moguls event in skiing, ice dance and the half-pipe snow-boarding event. As we all know the NHL is on a break for the next few weeks and during that time my blog will be taking a closer look at the Olympics. Worry not, we shall return to the regularly scheduled NHL posts when the Olympics come to an end BUT in the meantime its going to be Olympic focus.

First impressions change the way we perceive people and events. There has been a lot of drama surrounding the 2014 Olympics from the terrorist threats, to interesting hotel accommodations that suggested that perhaps Sochi was not yet ready for the Winter games. Throw all the drama out the window…the torch was lit and the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter games have begun!

As is the case with all of the Olympics the world was treated to an opening ceremony which paid tribute to the host country. In true Olympic fashion it was quite a spectacle showcasing Russia’s history. When Vancouver hosted the games in 2010, it was absolute magic took over the city and the same seems to have happened to Sochi. The opening ceremony was just the beginning of the adventure that will be the 22nd Winter Games. Athletes from all over the world have arrived and are prepared compete for the gold, silver and bronze medals.

Let the GAMES BEGIN! In 2010, it took a few days for Canada to get on the podium but they finished by picking up 26 medals including 14 GOLD medals. How would that total compare to their 2014 endeavor?

It didn’t take very long this time around for Canada to set its mark on the Sochi podium. The first day finished with Mark McMorris picking up Canada’s FIRST medal of the games in the SLOPE-STYLE SNOWBOARDING event DESPITE having a broken rib.

After his triumph, McMorris had this to say: “To get on the podium is just a dream come true. I can’t explain this. I’ve just been through a roller coaster over these last few weeks.”

Mark McMorris celebrating his BRONZE medal performance in the Slope Style event.

Mark McMorris celebrating his BRONZE medal performance in the Slope Style event.

Congratulations to #McRIB for owning the podium!

Make room on that Podium McMorris, you’ve got company!

The Women’s Moguls event was the very event that started the medal magic in Vancouver. This year 2 Canadians made it into the final 6 to contend for the medals…the Dufour-Lapointe sisters Chloe and Justine along with the heavily favoured USA’s Hannah Kearney. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters had been consistent all day long on the moguls and gave their VERY best in their final run of the day.

Justine said that she was going to roar and roar she did with her performance that gave her the number one ranking and her sister was not far behind as Chloe earned the number two spot.

1-2 punch or the double double effect! Chloe & Justine moments after they solidified their SILVER & GOLD moments.

1-2 punch or the double double effect! Chloe & Justine moments after they solidified their SILVER & GOLD performances.

Dufour-LapointeMedals

Celebrating their GOLD & SILVER Mogul Magic with their OLYMPIC MEDALS!

“I had this fighter inside of me, and I thought, ‘You’re a fighter, you’re a tiger.… This is my moment. This is my day. And I will own that moment for myself and I will ski for myself.’ This is what I said going down.” -Olympic Moguls GOLD Medalist, Justine Dufour-Lapointe

Congratulations Justine & Chloe on your incredible feat!

For the first time the Olympics have implemented a TEAM figure skating event. Each country would have ONE competitor in each discipline of the sport. Representing Canada in the TEAM event included: Patrick Chan, Kevin Reynolds, Kaetlyn Osmond, Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Tower, Dylan Moscovitch, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Canada earned the SILVER medal in the inaugural Olympic team Figure Skating event.

Canada earned the SILVER medal in the inaugural Olympic team Figure Skating event.

Congratulations to all the skaters and best of luck to all of them as they look for success in their individual disciplines.

Charles Hamelin won two golds in the 2010 games but his start in Vancouver was not what he hoped for and he looked to improve upon that in Sochi. Improve he did in his opening event of the games: the short track 1500m speed skating event. In 2010 he finished 7th overall in the 1500m BUT this time he made his mark with a FIRST place finish!

Charles Hamelin started in the lead and finished in the LEAD to win GOLD.

Charles Hamelin started in the lead and finished in the LEAD to win GOLD in the short track 1500m speed skating event.

Congratulations Charles on your first medal of the games and best of luck in your final three events!

The Men’s Moguls event came with high expectations: Alexandre Bilodeau came into the 2014 Olympic games ready to defend his 2010 title…would he be the FIRST male to WIN back to back titles? Would there be more than ONE Canadian to land on the podium? 3 Canadians made it into the final 6 to compete for the medals. Alex Bilodeau had struggled in one of the earlier rounds BUT his FINAL run was absolute PERFECTION:

Would that perfect run BE enough to secure his 2nd GOLD medal in the moguls? His teammates both had individually great final runs as well BUT neither were able to catch Alex. Mikael Kingsbury secured the SILVER medal while Marc-Antoine Gagnon finished in 4th [nearly had the 3rd spot].

For the second time at the 2014 Olympic Games, Canada finished in the top two spots in the MOGULS competition.

Ki

Kingsbury & Bilodeau celebrating their SILVER & GOLD medal victories in the MOGULS! #MogulsMoguls #OneTwoPunch #DoubleDouble

After Bilodeau completed the feat of winning back to back GOLD medals in the MOGULS, he had nothing but praise for his competitor, Kingsbury. -“It’s a great feeling, but I need to first of all thank all my colleagues, I was the third to go, there were two other Canadians after me, every day they push me in training and that’s why I got my best skiing tonight. That’s why I’m the best skier I have ever been right now and the guy that finished second, he is going to win everything after I have gone.”

Alex Bilodeau celebrating his GOLD medal performance with his biggest hero & supporter, his brother Frederic.

Alex Bilodeau celebrating his GOLD medal performance with his biggest hero & supporter, his brother Frederic.

His brother Frederic means everything to him. “It was amazing. My brother is my everyday inspiration. Like I say all the time, if he had the life that I have lived he would be a three-time Olympic champion.” -TWO TIME MOGULS GOLD Medalist, Alex Bilodeau

Canada’s Medal Count [As of February 10th, 2014]- 7 MEDALS: 3 GOLD, 3 SILVER, and 1 BRONZE.

The Women’s Hockey Team is undefeated in their first two preliminary games and will take on the USA team in their third game of the preliminary round robin. As it always is between these two, it’s going to be one heck of a match up and both teams will put their best game on the ice. This game will act as a potential preview of a gold medal show down and BOTH will want the final score to be their own victory. Look out for Finland and Russia, though as BOTH are playing some great hockey and look to challenge the juggernauts of Canada and the USA teams.

The Men’s Hockey preliminary games will begin later this week giving everyone a better idea of how each team stacks up against each other and how the NHL players will impact their respective teams.

Look out folks because we are in for TWO great hockey tournaments featuring some of the best players (men & women) to ever play the game.

The games have JUST begun and there is a lot of joy and heartbreak yet to come as the games continue to unfold. History will be made with each feat that is accomplished by each nation.

As always until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.