Why Hockey Is The Gold Standard Of The Olympics
I don’t make many concessions when it comes to sports. I’m a hockey fan. Everything else is tertiary. Seriously. There is no second or third place. Hockey is the most exciting sport on ice or earth. Give me pre-season, regular season or the playoffs; everything else just melts in comparison.
I’m in ‘like’ with the Summer Olympics. Sure, I enjoy watching the swimming medley and Table Tennis but the whole spectacle lost its luster after the last Tug of War in 1920. The balance beam and the Dream Team just don’t add up to “Must See TV” for me.
It’s ironic, I must admit. I hate the cold. No matter how many layers I have on, I shiver like a toy poodle on a mild day. I don’t like the snow; I prefer the surf and sand. I’m just a beach bum. Explain, then, why I love the Winter Olympics. Explain why I love hockey?
Hockey is to the Winter Olympics as the Empire State Building is to New York, the Eiffel Tower to Paris, the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. It would make the Winter Games unrecognizable, unimportant. Some could even argue that Olympic hockey is superior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs! After all, the players haven’t endured an 82 game season. They’re fresh. They’re hungry. For some, this will be their only chance at a title, medal or championship of any kind. Some have even come out of retirement for these Olympic games.
Watching some of these games I get a flashback to the mid-nineties with Jagr (and his mullet), Teemu, Lidstrom, Fedorov … The only guys missing, it seems, are Lindros and Bure. The level of play, in almost every game, is unparalleled.
The Importance of Hockey to The Olympics
There is a reason why the Winter Games close with the Gold Medal hockey game. There’s a reason why the NHL suspends the season for the Olympics. There’s a reason why there is no All-Star game this year. Every game is the All-Star game. Every team is an All-Star team.
This isn’t just the Olympics, this is All-Star Week. We’re watching the Puck Control Relay, the Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, Breakaway Challenge and Elimination Shootout. We’re watching the playoffs. We’re watching the Stanley Cup finals. We’re watching the culmination of careers and dreams. The hopes of countries that often don’t get to show their national pride on a global stage. Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all get to wave their flags and scream until they’re hoarse. They’ve got a shot at gold in hockey and that only comes once every four years at best.
There’s something distinctly different about Olympic hockey. It’s not that the players grew up as neighbors or that they speak the same language; it’s not the common hatred for neighboring nations: it’s pride, patriotism and passion at its purest.
This past Sunday we witnessed one of the best days of hockey I can remember. The Czech Republic lost a battle versus Russia. The United States played their hearts out, beating the home team, Canada, in a frenetic fight. Bitter rivals Sweden and Finland clashed in a hard-hitting and emotional, albeit one-sided, game. And, that was just Sunday.
Forget March Madness. Forget the Super Bowl. Forget baseball and basketball (as if you had to). This is it. We’re spoiled rotten. We have the best trophy in professional sports, the best Olympic event regardless of season, the best sport and the best athletes. We’re spoiled rotten as hockey fans and we want more.
Hockey may have lost its spot on network television but it hasn’t lost its edge, its passion, its heart or its place in our living room. No matter what channel or time it is on, I’ll certainly be tuned in to each game from here on out.
Hockey is the gold standard in Olympic competition. There are three rewards to be had but silver and bronze are hardly consolations. Gold is why these players are here and hockey’s got it. Especially at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
This article was a contribution to NHL Digest by David Weiner. David is a Social Media Communications guru and hockey fanatic. When he’s not jet setting around the globe giving presentations, you can find him professing his love for the sport on Twitter – @davidweiner