Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
Last week I predicted that the USA would take the Silver Medal, Sweden Gold, and Finland Bronze in the Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament. The only one of these I got correct was Finland’s Bronze Medal win, so even Meat Loaf would be disappointed in me. One out of three is bad.
Bad is also how the rest of the tournament played out for Team USA, though luckily as a St. Louis Blues fan, I am used to crushing disappointment in games that matter from teams involving David Backes, Kevin Shattenkirk, and last weekend’s hockey darling, TJ Oshie. It’s so St. Louis Blues to have your breakout player on the international stage be the best at something that doesn’t even occur in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that being the shootout.
The USA team’s win over Russia, as cool as it was, became diminished by neither team winning a medal, and the Russian team not even making the semifinals. Truth be told, Russia is no longer a dominant world power in hockey, and as fun as it might be for the US to beat them in a game, it is no longer a sign of something special in the American team. The Sochi Olympics were supposed to be a breakout time for the KHL, Russia’s answer to the NHL, with nearly half of the Russian team composed of KHL rather than NHL players. I think it’s safe to say that the NHL is still the world’s dominant league, particularly after Russia’s showing, unable to even play for a medal on home ice where all the advantages should have been theirs.
Instead, they were beaten by Finland, who wound up defeating the United States in the penultimate Olympic hockey game, a dominant 5-0 win to take the Bronze. I’d rather the US have won, of course, but it’s hard to be angry at Teemu Selanne taking home a medal in his sixth Olympics playing for his home country. One of the NHL’s most likable stars for more than two decades, Selanne is the quintessential hockey superstar—awesome and flashy on the ice, and seemingly a humble, real dude off the ice. The first time he played in the Olympics was before NHL players were even allowed to play in the Games. He’s brought home a medal four times in six Olympics with a small country that is underrated as a hockey power. Also, I’m probably related to like half the Finnish team since I have roots in that small sorta-Scandinavian, sorta-Russian-esque land, so I can’t help wishing them well and smiling when they beat out much larger, cockier nations.
Speaking of larger, cockier nations, it seems to me Canada’s hockey team is the exact opposite of every Canadian I’ve ever met. Every Canadian I’ve ever met has been nice, friendly, and in possession of a great sense of humor about being from a country that is like America in so many ways and different from it in many others. The Canadian hockey team, on the other hand—well, they are cocky, entitled bros and far from likable. They are led by possibly the least engaging superstar in sports history in Sidney Crosby, who seems to carry being the best hockey player of his generation like a cross to bear, rather than being grateful for it, and has a bad case of permanent about-to-cry-face. They showed their brattish behavior and dirty play by physically attacking Latvia’s goaltender in a game they won 2-1 and should have, by talent, won 20-0. Like every Olympics, they were totally mediocre in pool play, and once again gave off the impression that they could be beaten by the US, or Sweden, or Finland, or another team that played more like a team.
Instead, they won again, because of course they did. The team that had looked mediocre in every game before completely schooled the Americans in the semifinals, the score only the close 1-0 because of the miraculous play of LA Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in net for the USA. It was the biggest blowout I’ve ever seen in a hockey game that ended with a one-goal difference.
Then, they completely dominated Sweden, who had appeared to be the best team in the tournament, in the Gold Medal Game, and they won again. It was a sad_trombone.wav end to what had been a great tournament.
While the Gold Medal Game might have been a sad trombone sound, the USA’s final effort in the Bronze Medal Game was fart_noise.flac. Finland was great, yes, but after missing on a couple of early scoring chances, the Americans seemed to defeat themselves. Perhaps I can go to a conservative blog and see how this was all Obama’s fault. Because, you know.