T. J. Oshie scored 4 times in a shootout win for the USA hockey team over Russia. The New York Post headline calls it the biggest hockey win for US hockey since the Miracle On Ice game. Maybe it was the best win since then. I have no real opinion on that, but I am insulted that any game would ever be mentioned in the same sentence as the Miracle On Ice game.
This game isn't even in the same galaxy as the Miracle. Whoever wrote that headline was most likely not around to see that game, and to know the circumstances of that game. The United States beat Russia in a shootout, and it was a great win, but nothing will ever come close to matching the Miracle. There is no chance of that ever happening again. Ever.
And thus begins my Olympic rant. I was angry when the US decided to start sending our professional players to the Olympics in 1992. The Dream Team won their first game by a score of 116-48, and won the gold medal game by 32 points. The impetus of this decision? The US team of college players took 3rd place in the previous Olympics.
I was against this for two reasons. First, was that we were never going to see a competitive game again for the gold medal, and my biggest complaint was that these professional NBA players were depriving the only opportunity most of those college kids would ever have of their 15 minutes of glory. The majority of the previous college Olympics players never made it to the NBA. The Olympics were a shining moment in their sports career, and that Olympic medal, no matter what color, was the highlight of their trophy case. To an NBA player, it was just another bauble, in a case full of trophies.
So now we get to hockey, and it is a much different argument. The argument is much more compelling to send NHL'ers to the Olympics, because hockey is a big sport in many more countries, and these national teams are screaming for their homegrown stars to come home and play for them. Team USA, or Team Canada do not have the distinct advantage that the Americans enjoy in basketball.
In fact, the first year that NHL players were allowed to compete, the Czech Republic won the gold medal. Canada has won two, and Sweden has one gold medal since NHL players have been involved. So the competitive part of the Olympics has not been diminished by the pros participating in hockey as much as has been the case in basketball, but I still am dead set against it, but for different reasons.
First and foremost is that there will never be another Miracle On Ice. Never again will a bunch of plucky American college kids go up against the machine known as The Red Army Team. The Red Army Team from the Soviet Union used to play exhibition games against NHL teams, and beat them on a regular basis. These games were wild affairs.
At the 1976 Flyers-Red Army game, the Red army coach actually pulled his team off the ice in protest of a body check that a Flyer player laid on a Russian player. The crowd was booing the Russians, coaches were angry, and the Russians ended up finishing the game, only after the Flyers owner told the Red Army officials that they would not get paid their fee for the game if they did not go back out on the ice, and complete the game.
All in all, the Soviet Union teams competed in 36 games against NHL teams between 1975-1991 with a record of 26 wins, 8 losses, and 2 ties. 26 wins over NHL teams, and our college kids walked into Lake Placid for the 1980 Olympics, and beat the Red Army. They beat a Red Army team that had won the gold medal every single Olympics since the 1964 Innsbruck Games. It was truly a miracle. The funny thing is that almost nobody remembers that the US team had to go out and beat
Anybody who even remotely follows sports knows where they were when this happened. Folks pulled their cars over on the side of the road to just sit there and listen to the final few minutes. I was at Sears, at the Livonia Mall, we heard that the game was close, and we rushed home to watch it on channel 9. Everybody remembers.
“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” Unfortunately, there will never be another miracle. Not in hockey.
My final problem with the pros playing hockey in the Olympics, is I get very conflicted in who I am rooting for. The USA - Russia game is a clear example. It should be easy to root for USA over Russia right? Well, Jimmy Howard was not playing, and Pavel Datsyuk was. How the heck am I supposed to root against Pavs?
Who do I root for when Canada, coached by Mike Babcock, with Steve Yzerman being the General Manager, plays Sweden, who has Hank Zetterburg & Nick Kronwall playing for them? Or the US team against either of these teams? How do you make these choices?
Finally, we get down to my one true allegiance. Our Detroit Red Wings. The Olympics come once every 4 years, and then they are done, we are left with our Wings. Hank left for Sochi to play for his country, and after one game, he will be coming home with a herniated disk, and will be out for an indeterminate amount of time. Maybe the rest of the season.
The Red Wings simply can not handle any more injuries, and hope to make the playoffs. I watch these Olympic hockey games, and I can't even enjoy them because all I am doing is hoping none of my Wings get injured. Hank is the first victim, and I hope that there are no more.
The USA win over Russia was a great win, but it was no Miracle. The miracle will be if no other Red Wings get injured during the rest of the hockey competition...