I sincerely hope some of you were able to sleep. As I write this, I've been awake about 10 minutes. The coffee is brewing, the dogs still cuddled up to the wife in bed. It appears like any other Sunday. But I know it's not. Today is about realizing the goal. It's about a game that means so much more to us than to them, and a rivalry that means more to them than to us. 37 1/2 years ago, the Great Soviet Bear came to Canada, and we didn't take him seriously. The salt in the wounds came in this very city. Then one man stood up to a nation of disillusioned hockey fans and changed history...
Phil Esposito didn't plan on giving a speech that would go down in history as one of Canada's most inspirational sports moments. Johnny Esaw didn't cut him off, or try and prod with questions. He was able to see that these guys weren't a bunch of bums, but that they were trying and yes the Russians were that good. But if the nation could just get behind them, they could win and prove Canada was the superior hockey nation.
They want you to think this is like 1960 and 1980. Their 'miracles'. But we know better. 2 teams, the best professional players each country has. One trying to embarrass the other by staking claim to our game. Even some of the circumstances are similar. In 1972, it was thought that Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito would lead the way, but he was soon switched in favor of Ken Dryden. Many people questioned the make up of that team. But after the speech, the team went to Moscow, and despite losing game 5, won the 3 remaining games.
That was remarkable enough, but considering the political ramifications, the way the Russians tampered with the games through horrendous officiating, withholding food from the team, harassment of players, team officials and even fans. None of that could stop those boys in white, with the red maple leaf.
The nation found a hero in the waning days of the summer of 1972. Paul Henderson scored the winning goals in game 6, game 7 and of course, game 8. He did so despite suffering a head injury in game 6 that surely left him with a concussion.
Game 8 was the deciding match. The stakes were clear. This was more than just hockey, this was about establishing Canada as a nation on the world stage. And in the dying moments of the game, Paul Henderson slid the puck past Vladislav Tretiak. Today's game IS game 8.
They are going to tell us about their anniversary today. They remind us how they are 'underdogs'. They'll take shots, some innocent and funny, others baseless and mean spirited. They'll attack our nation, our identity. They say things some of them don't believe and some of them do. And that's fine. Battle brings out the beast in man. I get that, as do we all. But we ride into this battle confident that these guys have this incredible and relevant moment to draw on. This isn't a round robin game. They're not David, and we're not Goliath.
Patrick Kane has gotten a ton of press for his comments about wanting to face Roberto Luongo. Kane feels he has a book on Team Canada's goalie. The press refer you to that game in the playoffs. They have failed to mention however, that in 3 games against Chicago this season, Luongo has given up a total of 4 goals to the Blackhawks. None of them to anyone with the surname Kane. Better bring your book, Patrick. You're going to need it.
There were many who doubted Roberto Luongo's ability to get Team Canada to this moment. All he wanted was the opportunity. Now, he has clearly taken the torch from Martin Brodeur and is ready for the game of his life. He has experience, as the two World Championship gold medals prove. But we know this is much bigger. Luongo has waited his whole life for this moment. I believe it's his time. I believe it's our time.
The funny thing I see raised often is they say we have an inferiority complex. The Russians too, raised this in their post-slaughter hissyfit in the press. They say that, yet we know the truth. They're insecure about hockey, and look for this as a moment to claim superiority after often seeing us beat them for it. I get that. But when the smoke clears today, the only way America sees gold around their necks is if they're actually capable of defeating a nation. And as talented as they are, I don't see that happening. Our house. Our game. Our time.
A lot of the talk today is going to be about revenge for taking gold in their house in 2002. Interesting thing about those games in Salt Lake City. America tied the record for most gold medals by a host nation that year. This year, by virtue of a 3 gold medal haul yesterday, we have shattered that record and now sit tied with Norway and the USSR for most gold at one Winter Olympics. A historic day, win or lose. Roberto Luongo, Sidney Crosby and the rest of Team Canada are ready to take our nation to the top of the podium.
The one thing that's been great for me as a blogger has been actually being on the same team with some really great writers and bloggers. This Olympics has a much different feel thanks to social media applications like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It's been fun to go on this ride with those that tomorrow, I once again call foe.
To the American hockey fans, and when I say that I mean those of you that live and breathe this glorious game, I hope that either way, you continue to show your passion for the game of hockey. Should you win, relish the victory. Should you lose, keep in mind true fans will not be the ones reveling in your misery. These games can bring out the most heated emotional responses. Many of us will say things in hindsight we may want to take back. Within reason, I don't hold it against anyone. Nature of the beast and all that...
The mind games have been played, sides chosen. All that's left is to play the game now. Drop the puck.