Going for Gold
As authors with considerable audiences, we try to keep ourselves from showing our allegiances. Whatever teams we may cheer for, and whatever teams we may cheer against, we attempt to keep our biases to a bare minimum. Everyone who reads my articles knows that I'm a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. They know that, as a Montrealer, born and raised, I have built in disdain for the Toronto Maple Leafs and for the Boston Bruins. If I'm not showing it in my blogs, it's in the comments. It's on my twitter account, it's on other message boards and it's on Facebook.
But despite this, when I put my blogs, my articles together, the bias is pushed to the side. The stats come out, the analysis comes out, and I, just like any other writer, will even choose to opposing team to take the victory every so often for the sake of appearing objective. Even if the moment the team takes the ice, I'm cheering for them 100%, and I'm upset if they lose. Because even though we're fans, even though is it that very fan-dom that drives us to write about our teams and about hockey, a certain level of professionalism is expected out of all of us.
From the authors and columnists from major publications such as Kevin Allen and Stephen Brunt, to the lowly bloggers looking to make a name for themselves such as myself; whether we're served accreditation to major events such as the Vancouver Olympics and Stanley Cup Finals, to whether we experience most of these events sitting on our couches at home, we're all expected to maintain our objectivity and respect the level of competition we are witnessing in front of us. But no matter how "professional" we really are, or try to be, that "fan-dom" will always escape out into the open and manifest itself in some fashion. We will always be cheering for our teams, or in this case, our countries.
And now, with only hours to go before the game that will define these Vancouver Olympic games, the gold medal game between the United States and Canada, I sit here wondering how I can put forth my thoughts on this one and final game of the tournament, and how I can do it in such an objective fashion as described above.
I've come to the realization that I can't. I can't objectively describe what I and millions of other Canadians are feeling going into this game. We could go through stats, we could talk about the players, we could talk about the past and about the history, but it wouldn't do justice to the epic battle that is gearing up to take place tomorrow afternoon at Canada Hockey Place.
Simply put, tomorrow's game is the most important moment of these Vancouver Olympics. We could talk about Alex Bilodeau making history being the first Canadian to win gold at home. We could talk about Jon Montgomery walking through the streets of Vancouver chugging pitchers of beer after he won his gold medal. Joannie Rochette giving the figure skating performance of her life only days after the passing of her mother.
The stories from these games are endless, and a lot of them will remain with us for a very long time. But the talk of the games, before and during, and, I've very certain, after these games are done, will be the men's hockey tournament.
We started with 12 teams, and at least five gold medal contenders. Through a group stage, through qualifiers, quarters, and semi-finals, we are now down to two. Through nearly 30 games and plenty of goals, games which have featured the biggest names that currently play in the NHL and even a few international leagues, all that remains is the United States and Canada.
On the line, a set of about 25 gold medals, and bragging rights for the next four years until twelve teams meet once again in Sochi, Russia. But they're not just any bragging rights. They're the rights to say that you were the best hockey nation in the entire world, the best collection of players from the best least in the entire world, and that you won your gold medal in the place where hockey was born and where it's most important to tis residents.
Some hockey bloggers and writers (who shall remain... anonymous) have attempted to turn this game into a battle of nations. Into a matter of whether or not the winner of tomorrow's game will be able to claim hockey as "their" game. Without getting to deep into the political and social complications as to why a single game, no matter how important, can solve the equation of which country a game might belong to, you just can't decide that based on how a single bounce or tip or hit or even player selection might go in the favor of one team or the other.
And while tomorrow's game is extremely important, we shouldn't be rash and exuberant in overstating its importance. Yes, it is important, but it's one game. One game where, as stated above, one tip-in, one bounce, or good or bad decision could decide the entire outcome of the game. No matter the outcome out this one game, Canadians will still say that hockey is their game, and Americans will - or at least should - be happy with a solid performance from their team.
But even though we can't decide the proprietor of a sport with this one game, we can say that on the line along with gold medals and bragging rights will be national pride.
For the USA, while the overall medal count victory is in the bag, what these players will be trying to prove is that they are as good as Canadians, that they can compete with the best and that they can overcome the underdog status that they've been labelled with. They've been the most consistent team of the tournament and certainly deserve to be medalists at these games. Tomorrow, they get the chance to take it to that final, golden level.
Conveniently, Canada faces an equally, if not more important situation going into tomorrow's game. They've witnessed the hockey women win gold just days ago. They've witnessed their Canadian peers garner 13 gold medals, tying an Olympic record at any Winter Games. Tomorrow, they get the chance to set a new record, at home, with the entire country watching. If they lose, they get their consolation prize, silver, and go back to their respective NHL teams to compete for the Stanley Cup. If they win gold, they do the same, but the go back as the darlings of the country, that brought back the glory of being Olympic Champions in our own sport, and brought it on our own soil.
For various reasons, going into this encounter, the game between the United States and Canada has shaped up to be one of the most important games of our generation. Maybe the most important. However, while we celebrate the importance of this game, we have to keep in mind that it is just that, a game. One that should be enjoyed no matter the outcome, because it will be a doozy. And for a few hours, we can all take off our blogging and journalist caps and enjoy what will hopefully be a hockey game for the ages.
Tomorrow, we can all give into our bias, and cross our fingers as Canada goes for gold one last time.