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.

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28 days later…

4 weeks ago today when the clock struck midnight it was announced that the lockout had become official. 4 weeks. 28 days. The clock ticks a little louder each day as more and more players flock to play overseas. The American Hockey League has officially kicked off their season with an overhaul of NHL vets filling their rosters. There has been little progress [translation: NO progress] in the latest round of CBA meetings and you can almost feel the tension building everywhere you look. The media is constantly looking to break the lack of news first or fabricating a story out of nothing. NHL executives and NHL Players alike are never short of vocabulary to voice their varying opinions on the ever important topic. 28 days later. 28 days later and still the face of the NHL, Sidney Crosby has not lost faith that BOTH sides will agree to a new CBA before the year is over. So it shall be that the face of the NHL continues to wait for such an agreement to come into place along with the rest of us. It has been said via an article published through Sportsnet that “Crosby would prefer to believe that the owners are committed to making a deal, but like many fellow players he can’t help but wonder if the lockout was something they long ago decided to use as a means to coax a better deal out of the union”. Is this just how negotiations work? Let’s hope not. Like many of the players and executives involved, Crosby is keeping close tabs on the CBA debate and still confident that both sides will work out a deal sooner rather than later….wow, you still have ONE current player who still believes that the season WILL happen. Lucky for you higher ups…it is the face of your NHL that has yet to lose faith. The question is are you willing to take that faith away? Let’s hope not…because that would be a tragedy.

When will the game return? Like Crosby many fans are asking when the REAL negotiations are going to happen and just what is their target date for the season to get back on track? 28 days later and still the same questions remain. What will it take to get both sides on the same side? How much money is the NHL willing to lose? When will the game return?

“It’s still early,” said Crosby. “There’s time for decisions to be made and to make sure that nobody does anything that they’re going to regret.” Like Crosby, I will continue to hold out hope that in the end no one does or says anything they will regret.

28 days later and the NHL has still not returned. You know, as a Canucks fan it is embedded in my DNA to NEVER cheer for Chicago…NEVER….but this lockout has me cheering for Chicago….#theWolves that is[not to worry fellow #Canuckfans, I am not and will not be rooting for the #blackhawks….EVER]. It is nice to have at least a few games to watch…between the AHL and the WHL[Chiefs & Giants]. Congrats to EBBETT on getting the #wolves first goal of the year & congrats to the team starting the year 2-0!!

28 days later and we still miss hockey even though some may claim they will not return to the game [we all know you will!]. 28 days later and the lockout still continues with no progress on the core economic issues. 28 days later and things are more or less the same. 28 days later and I still remain one of the few who have hope….but the longer this lockout endures the fewer who think the NHL will return.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

 

Dear GB, NHL execs, Don Fehr, and Players

Dear Gary Bettman, NHL execs, Don Fehr, and Players,

This letter is dedicated to all of you out there who will determine the future of the pending season and the game that captivates us all.

This is a letter to remind you of a simple fact that you keep overlooking…the fans. The fans do not care about the numbers and percentages or which side gets more money. The fans do not care how each side chooses their words extremely carefully in addressing the media following each round of meetings.The fans simply put, care about the game that has been cancelled temporarily[at least for now…]. The fans just want the game they love to return.

Do you really think this game of tug of war over the numbers waiting to see who blinks first, is worth the risk of losing the fans? Some fans have vowed to not return back to the game after yes the third lockout of your career, GB. Seems absurd that a few words could cause such an uproar…but the words “lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement” and “lockout” go hand in hand when neither side is willing to see beyond the numbers. The longer this war of words over who gets the bigger slice of the pie continues, the bigger the risk.

Are numbers important to hockey? YES. Take 82 for example. 82 is the number of total league-wide regular season games that YOU have cancelled. 82 is also the number of regular season games EACH team plays in one season [unless shortened by a lockout such as 1994-1995…and now 2012-2013]. Effectively you have already taken away a season’s worth or games from ONE team already….how far are you willing to go to make a point?

Some players have begun to flee abroad just to keep themselves viable should you finally come to a new agreement. Ovie, Datsyuk, Malkin and Gonchar are just a few of the notable players making their presence felt in the KHL. Each day brings more news of more players signing to play elsewhere during this “work stoppage”. It is concerning that the best players in the league are playing elsewhere when they should all be participating in what should have been the first week of the regular season. What is more concerning…that Sidney Crosby is READY to freaking play symptom-free for the first time in more than a YEAR! The face of the NHL in recent years and he is still holding out hope unlike many other players that a deal can be reached. Has he considered running abroad…probably…but instead he is waiting to see what you can accomplish. It concerns me that should Crosby finally cave and go abroad….the hope for the season will grow dimmer. Does it not concern you all that each day brings news of your best players signing to play else where….and that any day now, Crosby and more just might join those already overseas?

Thursday marks what was supposed to be the beginning of the 2012-2013 regular season..but thanks to all you and your money squabbles, it will simply be a plain old Thursday. You keep saying that the fans of the NHL are the best fans….yet you are not listening to US. Somewhere along the way of these negotiations, you all lost sight of not only the fans, but the game that once came before the numbers. The game that you are dreamed to be a part of back when you were a kid. The game that captured you all when you saw a great player such as Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, or Mario Lemieux bring the game to new heights with a play that you could never have imagined possible. The game that gives every player or the team the opportunity to rise above their expectations. The game that you all claim to play or work around because you love it and it defines you. How can it define you or be something that you love if none of you are a part of it right now? The game that you all claim is what you all want back…..is the one that none of you seem to be fighting very hard to bring back. It is time to stop merely discussing secondary issues at these scheduled CBA meetings and get down to the heart of the matter. Start talking those numbers that you all are fighting over and lets get all those NHL super stars back in North America [ahem…such as Malkin who once again is playing ridiculously good…just at the moment it is not for the NHL…time to change that!].

The fans just want the season back. Will we accept a shortened season?…that’s the only option you have left us after canceling the first 82 games, GB! Do you really want to make the financial colossal mistake or canceling the Winter Classic? I must say that really truly would be an all-new low for the league. All people will remember of the Bettman legacy at this point is the 3 lockouts endured during your tenure as commissioner. The fans do have a voice. The question is will you hear us? Does the NHL have the best fans? Yes…but how long will you, GB, NHL execs, DF, and players make us endure this ever loathed state of a lockout? The fans do not have a choice in the matter…but it is the common opinion that we all despise the lockout. That is all, nucksaid.

Sincerely, a fan who just wants to watch hockey again!

Sarah E.L.

#SC87 Crosby’s back!!!…but where will he lace ’em up??

SIDNEY CROSBY is back!! The NHL received some amazing news about one of it’s most notable faces while the fate of the hockey season is still in limbo. A lockout is looming ever closer. Sidney Crosby is back. He’s healthy and throughout the summer experienced no concussion setbacks. Crosby is healthy for the first time in more than a year and he might not get the chance to play. Questions have surrounded him since the hit that knocked him out of the game for 10 months and then again for a time after his comeback whether he could ever reach the high bar he set before his concussion. Answer: YES he could and he did just that in his return game last year….and now that he is 100% healthy there is no doubt of the fear he could instill in the leagues best goalies once he unleashes that patented wrist shot! One of the BEST players in the game since Gretzky…and he has a chance to put on a show once more but the league might not have a season? Are you kidding me? Can you blame Crosby and other players for making a plan B to play in Europe or Russia? I think there is something wrong with that picture. I think all PENS fans want their dynamic duo of Sid & Malkin back in the igloo creating ridiculous plays. I know I would rather have Crosby and company playing in the league we all love to watch then somewhere abroad! [who doesn’t want a Crosby or Malkin on their team?…the league would not be the same without them]. The league needs to remedy this situation before it loses its top tier players to the other leagues for longer than the [potential full-season] lockout. None of the players want to lose the whole season…so is there a solution[besides Bettman stepping down]? There is something not quite right when one of the faces of the NHL is not able to play due to politics among the league and its players.

Bettman, are we really going to let politics and numbers get in the way of what could be an amazing NHL season and let the KHL and European leagues showcase the NHL’s best talents? Wow. New low for the NHL if this becomes a reality with a lockout. The worst part about this ordeal is that while Bettman has been spewing his line of ‘the NHL has the best fans’…he does not actually care about the fans at all. The only thing that seems to concern is the money involved. In short, Sidney Crosby is back 100% healthy but what exactly is he coming back to?…a full or shortened season?..or NO season being pushed to play abroad? I have got to say that I do not like the prospect of Crosby or any other essential NHL player taking their careers abroad..but what other choice will they have if the NHL locks them out.

Here’s a glance at what could be next season if the NHL and NHLPA can agree on a new CBA: Sidney Crosby back 100% with NO setbacks since the season ended and raring to get back to the game he plays at a higher level than most; Shane Doan finally signing on the dotted line; the Staal brothers united for the first time in their careers with so much upside; the combination of Parise and Suter in Minnesota; the trade deadline as teams seek that one missing piece for their playoff push; teams fighting for that last playoff berth or pushing for a division title; a hard fought playoff battle come April-mid June ending with of course ONE Stanley Cup champion. These are things that will happen should a new CBA be reached. Without a new CBA in place none of these things [save Doan finally signing a contract] will happen. We will miss all of these moments and any others that could be. A lockout takes away all the possibilities of what next season could be.

The NHL and NHLPA met this morning and exchanged proposals. Players that were there to represent the union included: Schneider, Malhotra, Darche, Campoli and Parros to name a few. At least both sides were finally in debating mode after days of no real conversations. Another round of meetings is set for tomorrow in one last major effort to forge a new CBA in time before the existing deal expires. Both sides have stated that they both have made adjustments in their view points…but there is still work to be done before they are both on the same page.

3 more days before anything is official. 3 days before we find out if these talks are in any way meaningful to the season that could be. I am getting tired of seeing the word ‘lockout’ but until a new CBA is in place…it will be unfortunately in my vocabulary…not welcome mind you…but in it none the less.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.