Ever since 1998 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed professional athletes the opportunity to play for their respective countries, the talent pool and depth in ice hockey has increased exponentially. Most hockey experts agree- having a diverse and talented pool of players usually results in greater parity among the competitive teams, if not overly favoring the traditionally dominant countries that we all know about. History knows that exceptions exist.
In the 1970's, Team Canada boycotted the Olympic games over the supposedly flagrant use of professional players in the former USSR. The question remains why? Is it relevant to consider administrative "cold war mentality" factors including pressure from a neighboring country and of course, the progressive 1970's Canadian politics? Was it because of certain vocal hockey purists- we know they exist in Canada- who regularly discredited and ridiculed the foreign opponents while promoting their own brand of old fashioned team spirit? Not that USA is free of scrutiny. We've always been known as a country that defends rugged individualism.
he shoots... he SCORES!
In retrospect, we humbly recognize that Soviet Union athletes like goalie Vladislav Tretiak and forwards Valeri Kharlamov and Boris Mikhailov were simply disciplined hockey players whose skill level, team-play, and use of strategy were considered a step above your average puckster. Sure they played together more, sang songs, lived closely, and bonded together as comrades. So what. A simple recognition of these facts suggests that these guys were the hockey sharks of yesteryear. Untouchable. In fact, nobody dominated world competition hockey more than the USSR in 1956-1976. Not even Canada. That all changed in 1980 with the "amateur" victory of Team USA’s “Miracle on Ice”.
"I never consider myself an underdog... I go into every game believing I can win and that I am going to win. It's the organizations I've grown up playing in and fortunately I've been on some good ones and it's kind of fed that a little bit...I don't think anyone going on the ice wearing our jersey is going to be thinking, 'Oh we don't deserve to win tonight.' That's not going to be our mentality and that's not going to be anyone's mentality. We're all competitors, we're all in the NHL and we're all the top of our profession."
Read more: U.S. team: We're no underdogs vs Young US team relishes underdog role.
What's hard to believe is no Canadian ice hockey team has won gold medal while being the Olympic host nation. Nevertheless, I'm concerned about our neighbors to the north. While I acknowledge the passion of the sport and it's link to the cultural fabric of Canada, I cannot help but whisper ...the pressure's on my friends of the North! May the best (or luckiest) team win. By the way...do you have a game plan to stop Alexander Ovechkin? I don't think we do either.
Finally, let's all be sure to watch and support our Women's ice hockey team. The growing rivalry with Canada is not to be missed. As former Wisconsin Badger Hockey coaching legend Bob Johnson says, "It's a great day for hockey!"