Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Gold

The good old hockey game...the best game you can name...Canada wins gold 7.4 minutes into an overtime period.

The Americans, facing stiff opposition, did not fade in the last minutes of the game like the Canadians did, and they played a very crisp and rough game. With only a minute left on the clock, they pulled their goalie (the one who had stopped 8 times as many shots on goal as the Canadian's goalie....NOT an easy decision!) and put an extra man on the ice. The only way this works is keep the pressure on...that extra man has to hover back a bit and pick up the puck as it bounces around like the ball in a pinball machine, and drive it back in there. This almost never works....let off for even an instant, and the puck slides the length of the rink and falls into the pathetically open goal. But THIS TIME, it worked. The Americans tied it up with thirty seven seconds left on the clock! They took a twenty minute break, and then flung themselves into a "sudden death" overtime period. First goal scored is the winner.

These guys who have been skating like crazy for the last 20 minutes trying to to avoid just this situation look at their team mates trying to suck enough wind to survive, down at their trembling, rubbery legs, and try to clear eyes blurry from fatigue and sweat. The game goes into overtime, and the game is won in the line changes...if the coach can change his people over during play without leaving too few people on the ice. All considerations of strategy and trying to match up teams against the opposing team goes right out the window, its a matter of "who can drive their body for another 30 seconds drive to the goal!?" Because the first side to score a goal wins the game. The referees mostly just try to stay out of the way....fouls and infractions take too much energy at this point for anybody to commit them, and if they did, their coach would yank them for good for delaying the game. Besides, the players are too tired to play a crisp game anyway, it is nothing BUT fouls, mostly by accident, tired players stumbling over their sticks, their own feet, their opponent's feet, over a shadow on the ice..., no point in getting upset about it.

Now... the goalies have to earn their pay. Shaved ice from dangerously dull skates coat them from head to toe, and it freezes to their clothing, their hair, their masks. The goalie has to see through the sprays of shaved ice and the sweat trickling into his eyes from the the exertion of moving 50 pounds of padding from "here" to "there", in order to throw himself bodily onto a tiny little puck coming in at 80 miles per hour. The ice is chopped and cratered in and armound his crease causing even experienced skaters to trip and crash down into a melee of flying blades, elbows and splintered sticks, quite possibly bringing the goalie with them.

There is no heckling, shouting at individual players...they can't hear you anyway over the noise of a crowd going wild, not to mention the pounding of their heart beats, and raspy breathing. Any comment they could make would be short, almost in code..."Pass to you...Rob, got that?...change out Pat...." and of course "ooofff, you son of xxxx that was a cross check! Oooh, my ribs..."

This is when the goalie shines though. Not for him the glory of scoring points, only the panic of seeing 8 men in various colours of uniform charging in on him in the fastest game on earth.

Sidney Crosby from Nova Scotia scores the winning goal a quarter the way into sudden death overtime. Gives Canada the world record of most gold medals for a hosting nation EV-ER. Considering that two weeks ago Canada had never EVER got a gold medal in a winter Olympics on Canadian soil. Amazing!
I'm going to open a bottle of the good stuff....