Sunday 23 February 2014

The Maple Leaf Dominates the Rink

"In 2010, Crosby capped a towering pyre of emotion and terror and excitement with a goal every Canadian will remember.  In 2014, Crosby scored in the gold medal final too.  So did Jonathan Toews.  And instead of a ride, it was a bloodless, dominant, crushing affair."
(Bruce Arthur, National Post)

Jean Levac/Postmedia News

It was the last day of the Sochi Olympics.  Athletes were packing up to go home -- all except the hockey players.  They were sharpening their skates, putting on their equipment, and perfecting their game plan. Could Canada, the defending gold medallists, beat the Swedes?

The Canadians had taken awhile to warm up, awhile to gel as a team.  Their non-committal coach, Mike Babcock, wasn't willing to give much away.  Their captain, Sidney Crosby, had not scored to date.  Time would tell.

My family, like so many Canadians, got up early this morning to watch the game.  Our neighbour, David, worked the night shift and then joined us for the Canada-Sweden match.  My teenager, Thomas, hopped out of bed like a spring chicken and was already showered and dressed by the time I walked downstairs.  My husband, Rob, skipped the shower and headed straight for the T.V.  My daughter, Jacqueline, joined us after a few minutes.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

About twelve minutes into the first period, Jonathan Toews scored.  But the Canadian coach Mike Babcock refused to react.  The Swedes were capable of tying it up at any time.  But the tide seemed to change in the second period when, on a breakaway, Sidney Crosby raced to the net, held onto the puck, and then tipped it in off the back of his stick.  The Canadian bench erupted in cheers.  But Mike Babcock stood, his face emotionless, his hands in his pockets.

The final goal came when Chris Kunitz scored in the third period.  Once again the Canadians players cheered, their arms upraised.  Now it was just a matter of hanging on to the lead.  That was up to the goalie, Carey Price.  Calm, cool and collected, the young Price earned every penny of his salary today as he shut out the Swedes.  


Finally, the clock ran down to nothing.  Gold for Canada!  The first back to back Olympic golds for a nation since the Soviet Union did it in 1984 and 1988.  The fans erupted in cheers, waving giant maple leafs.  The Canadian players on the bench jumped over the boards to hug the players on the ice.  The cameramen closed in for a series of close ups.  And Mike Babcock finally took his hands out of his pockets and cracked a smile.  Wait to go, Canada!

Jean Levac/Postmedia News

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