Olympics Hockey: What Should the Nicknames Be for the 12 Men's Hockey Teams?
Here in the United States (and Canada), we're used to nicknames for sports teams.
The Penguins, the Raiders, the Yankees, the Celtics, for example.
Yes, we usually root for our hometown team and for what our city stands for.
But our favorite sports teams just wouldn't be the same without that added flavor of the nickname.
So what should the nicknames be for the 12 teams in the Olympic Men's Hockey Tournament?
Follow these slides to see some of my ideas... Feel free to post your own!
Well, as of now, each team has played two games, and...
The Canadians have 11 goals.
The Finns have 10 goals.
The Americans and Russians each have 9 goals.
The Germans have... no goals. Zero, zilch, null, nicht.
Even the Norwegians, the hockey powerhouse that they are, managed to get one past American NHL star Ryan Miller.
If Germany fails to score in their final preliminary match against Belarus, they might actually reach Absolute Zero. With their renowned science education system, I trust most Germans know what that means.
Belarus Better Luck Next Times
Belarus came into this tournament with historically high expectations, ranked ahead of traditional hockey powerhouse Slovakia in the World Rankings, and behind only the Big 6 and Switzerland.
But unlike the Swiss and the Slovaks, the Belorussians have failed to put a Swiss-like scare into the the higher-ranked teams they've played thus far.
A 5-1 loss to Finland wasn't a great start.
They followed that up by going down 3-0 to Sweden. The Swedes took their foot off the pedal and coasted as Belarus drew within one. But it was too little too late as Sweden won 4-2 despite a less-than-stellar performance by young goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who allowed two goals on just 18 shots.
Where is that Belorussian fighting spirit that shocked the Swedes home early from Salt Lake in 2002?
Peter Forsberg carried the Swedish flag, but make no mistake, the Sedin twins have been handed the torch of the defending Olympic champions.
Captain Mats Sudin is gone, Markus Naslund is gone, the stitched-together Peter Forsberg is mostly here for leadership and inspiration.
Sure, the Swedes still have some great veterans in Daniel Alfredsson, Mattias Ohlund, and Nick Lidstrom.
But the torch has been passed to a new generation of younger Swedish players.
And in front of their hometown Vancouver fans, the Sedins will have to consistently come up big if the Swedes are to retain the gold.
Does that sound like the beginnings of the kind of team you're "expected" to beat?
They've already upset the Russians and gave their old fellow countrymen, the Czechs, everything they could handle.
I certainly wouldn't want to come up against this dangerous low-seeded "sleeper" team in the preliminary round or the quarterfinals.
Look out below! The Slovaks are lurking...
Well, they've got cool uniforms, I'll give them that.
But the Latvians don't have a lot else working in their favor here in Vancouver.
There's no question they drew the short-straw of the preliminary round, being lumped in with three traditional hockey powerhouses: Russia, the Czechs, and Slovakia.
With a draw like that, it's hard to see the Latvians leaving this Olympics with any wins.
At least they have those cool uniforms as a consolation.
Well, the Swiss have figured out the name of the game in elite hockey today.
It's called The Trap.
And true to form in the red, white, and black of the New Jersey Devils who invented it, the Swiss have perfected it, and are bedeviling higher-ranked foes.
Team USA was lucky to sneak by them unscathed, but they took a precious point from tournament favorites Canada, and were one shootout shot away from another.
They're at their best playing against teams with the most skilled players— players that don't want to dump the puck in, faced with their neutral-zone trap.
In their zone, they keep everything to the outside. And their last line of defense is their best of all: stellar goaltender Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks.
Ready for them or not, this is the kind of team nobody likes to play. And come the elimination rounds, the favorites will certainly be wary of them.
Finland's Teemu Selanne is now the all-time leader in Olympic points.
Finland has blitzed its first two opponents out of the rink.
Now they play arch-rival Sweden.
One thing's for sure, like their elder statesman Selanne, the Finns have plenty of speed, dazzle, and offensive firepower.
They also have their fair share of everything else.
Runners-up in the last Olympics and the last World Cup of Hockey, it could be the Finns turn to flash some gold.
Nor-Way Over Their Heads
Credit the Norwegians for beating out teams like Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Austria, and Italy to even get in this tournament.
But, I would have to say a win is asking too much.
8-2 and 6-1 losses to Canada and the U.S. respectively sounds about right, considering the Canadian and American teams have never before played together.
This is a great experience for Norway, a country whose young people have fallen in love with hockey, and have the temperament and the climate to suit the sport.
But, yes, at this stage, they are still way over their head going up against the big boys of hockey.
Look out: Jaromir Jagr's got the flow going.
Yes, the hair is long again, and the swagger is back.
He's got one heck of a team with him, too.
The Czechs have it up front, they have it on defense, they have it in goal with a hot Tomas Vokoun. And they have it on special teams with players like Jagr, Kaberle and Zidlicky certain to make opponents pay for any penalties.
This is going to be a tough team to beat. A less-than-great game by any of the top seeds, and they will find themselves down Czech-mate to this squad.
USA Saving Private Ryans
Why on Earth did I pick this name for Team USA?
There are seven, yes, seven players on the team named Ryan: Ryan Kesler, Ryan Whitney, Ryan Malone, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Suter, Ryan Miller, and Bobby Ryan.
Add one letter, and there's also two Brians: Brian Rafalski, and GM Brian Burke.
Maybe Burke's Irish ancestry had something to do with picking seven Ryans, who knows. In any event, by the time the quarterfinals roll around, there's going to be eight players in the locker room with whiplash.
Let's hope Ryan Miller gets over his on time for the round after that. He'll be relied upon to save this team and all the other Ryans if they hope to upset teams like Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland etc. and win the gold.
Everyone knows the Russian hockey team have their eyes set on gold here in Vancouver.
But there is some interesting subtexts to that obvious aim.
First of all, led by megastar Alexander Ovechkin, they're prepared to play a more physical style of play on the smaller North American ice surface than opponents have been accustomed to seeing from past Russian squads that disappointed.
Second of all, they overlooked a number of well-known NHLers to bring a large contingent of players from the upstart Russian-based KHL, which hopes to challenge the hegemony of the NHL over professional hockey in the years to come.
At the front of the pack of KHL stars is Alexei Morozov, a Pittsburgh Penguin castoff who has thrived back home in Russia, and has produced as his Russian coaches have expected in the Olympics thus far.
If the Russians win the gold, it will include two not-so-subtle messages to the pro hockey powers that be here in North America: (1) We beat you at your own game, and (2) We did it with players from our league over players from yours.
If you've ever driven across the Canadian border, you know what it feels like to be an American trying to get through Canada Customs.
Best-case scenario is a rough ride.
I imagine that's what it will feel like to be an opposing forward trying to get by Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, and company.
Or how about a defenseman trying to break the puck out against Jarome Iginla, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton, Mike Richards, and Brendan Morrow.
If anyone wants to beat Canada, they're in for a rough ride. They've got the players, they've got the coaches, they've got the desire.
For Canada, hockey is a custom. Heck, winning is an expected custom when it comes to hockey contests. Their fans are accustomed to winning at hockey and anything else is unacceptable.
And coming off a quarterfinal-loss disaster in 2006, you can bet they'd rather disappear into a subarctic bog than lose on the Olympic stage on home ice this time around.