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Silver

Well, we can all sit down and wonder the what ifs. What if, Parise hadn’t snapped his stick in the first period on a shot toward the Canadian goal, or what if we had gotten what we really wanted in a Martin Brodeur-Ryan Miller show down, or what if the US Hockey team didn’t play so cautiously in the over time period? All legitimate questions in this, the post 2010 Gold medal game era but tomorrow the NHL begins again and these questions become part of hockey trivia to be trotted out before the audience in four years in the Russian City of Sochi.

The American team, winning the silver medal after a frustratingly difficult game against the Canadian team they had previously beaten a week ago, showed obvious disappointment as the game was over the crowd was in bedlam celebrating their home team’s win. The hockey tournament for the Winter Olympics is the crown jewel of the games, it’s the most attended, the most paid attention to, and the most exciting. Sure I could probably write a couple paragraphs on the elegance of the figure skating competition, the suicidal danger of the sled races, or mental focus of the curling matches; but none of those events really can hold a candle to the hockey struggle.

Did the Canadians have the superior team? Well at the end of today they did, but also at the beginning of the Olympics they were predicted to just what they did: win the Gold. The American team was the underdog from day one, they were poised to place but never to win. Which is a culturally American position to begin with, we do love our underdogs and as the rubber biscuit slid underneath goaltender Ryan Miller’s leg pad we came to the stunning realization that the love for an underdog is not unconditional. We love our underdogs when they win.

Isn’t silver still winning? It doesn’t mean you suck, it means that of every hockey team in the world (and this part is important): there is only ONE that is better than you. In this case it’s even better because that team had already been beaten by the Americans a week ago. They just lost this game (I think the two teams need a rubber match, the Canadians can keep their medal, but this 1-1 tie is bullshit).

The truly amazing thing about the games was how well put together the teams looked, even though they had very little practice time. The American offense looked like they all played on the same NHL team, the defense sacrificed themselves for shot blocks so many times I began to wonder if the goalie had dirt on them. These were things that I haven’t seen regularly in NHL games and things that amazed me when I did.

Yet none of that matters to some, because for them the entire series boils down to one play. A flubbed stick handling in the American defensive zone, after a face off that never should have happened, resulting in the puck going to (admittedly) the worst person for a goalie on the ice, and a shot skirts passed Ryan Miller for the over time with.

These people seem to forget that Miller hadn’t been scored on in the past two games in the Olympic playoffs. One against a defense so strong that even the Ottoman Empire would have had trouble beating it (The Swiss) and against the mighty Finns whose play belied their Viking ancestry. They also probably turned the game off in a string of expletives that begin with the letter “f” to have heard the virulently anti-American crowd cheer for him as he was presented the silver medal, and certainly before he was named MVP of the entire hockey event. Miller was undefeated in Olympic play, but there is an element out there right now that blames him for the loss.

I’m partial I know, because he’s the spine of the Buffalo Sabres and because he sort of resembles me (remember I’m older so it’s that way not the other way), but if a hockey game comes down to one goal the offense failed too.

The bright side for the Sabres is that every hockey medal is represented on the team. Toni Lydman with a Bronze for Finland, Ryan Miller with the Silver, and coach Lindy Ruff with the gold. In four years a brand new group of players will have to try again. This is going to be the new rivalry for Hockey Gold, even if the NHL doesn’t take a break for the Olympics it won’t matter in this border dispute. This type of energy had to be these two teams and at least for now it’s settled. But there’s always the world cup, the world juniors, and all of the other tournaments that the two countries will shuffle a team into just because the other is doing so. Great rivalries dictate that one team has to win once in awhile, it’s just that now the Canadians have two in a row. There’s always Russia.

And to prove that I’m not a sore loser like the Russkies: “Good job you syrup suckers, good job.”

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