I planned all day yesterday to head to a local pub around 7:30pm to watch Team USA take on the Canadians in Olympic hockey. Although there was no medal on the line, the hype has been building for two weeks as the top seed Canadian squad demolished its first opponent, Norway, 8-0. Yeah, that’s a hockey score. You could feel tension begin to rise in the streets, however, after several much-hyped Canadian athletes, from alpine skiers to figure skaters, failed to medal. I’ve been cheering, and cringing, with home team fans since arriving. Setting aside the “own the podium” program aimed at securing the overall medal competition for the host country, Canada still has hockey. Even with a tough overtime win over Switzerland, everyone here remained confident that Canada would close the games holding gold in its national sport. Commercials like this have been running 24/7.
The combination of Canadian athletes under-performing, and a surprisingly strong showing from the Americans, increased the importance of the hockey game. The winner would move on to the quarter-finals and the loser would have to meet Germany for a chance at the quarters. As the 3-hour pregame started winding down, it was pretty clear that this hockey game carried a lot of pressure for both the players and the spectators. I’ve never been very good at being a quiet sports fan and I figured the only scenario in which I was going to make friends was if Team Canada jumped out to an early lead, the game never developed much tension, and I could buy a round for the happy locals. That didn’t sound like much fun so I made some dinner and stayed home.
What a game. I covered the San Jose Sharks as a photographer last year and at one point, there were five Sharks on the ice. Most of them sported a maple leaf, and shot at will. Incredibly, the Canadians outshot Team USA 45-23 but never held a lead. As much as I enjoy Ottawa and the people here, this was not a night for camaraderie with America’s closest international partner. I’ll be rooting for Canada to run the table through Germany, Russia, and maybe the Czechs. Right up to the finals. I can only imagine what a rematch would look like with the gold medal on the line. Go team.