These are the Olympic Winter Games.
And this is men's ice hockey.
In most winter sports—Olympics or otherwise—the difference between a podium finish and a sixth place finish could be as little as a hundredth of a second.
A thousandth of a second.
A single mistake.
Most of the athletes train for four years to make a single appearance.
Despite a tradition that demands such perfection, where world champions like Jennifer Heil can be humbled, where a single slip could ruin or vindicate a decade's worth of determination, Martin Brodeur and Corey Perry showed us how to lose a hockey game. Along with a few others on Team Canada's hockey squad, the effort put forth on the ice was indicative of how coming into a game sometimes you aren't always destined to win games—if your effort shows that you deserve to lose them.
It's not a new theme with Team Canada.
Asleep against Norway in the first period.
Hanging by a thread against the underdog Swiss.
Coming into a match with a hockey rival unprepared.
Can all the individuals on Team Canada proudly say they gave it 110%? Drew Doughty played a great game. Rick Nash was solid. But how many Canadians put forth their best possible performance?
Or was Team Canada's performance well shy of the dedication that other athletes—gold be damned—the silver medalists and bronze medalists in other events that didn't win their sport but walked away proud nonetheless?
For a nation that beholds hockey with such reverence, to let such a game slip away is sacrilege. This is not to take away from Ryan Miller's 42-save performance, or Brian Rafalski's two-goal snipeshow.
Rather, when all the bobsledders, mogul skiiers, snowboarders, and other Canadian events have assembled all the athletes who are already giving their 110% efforts, replays of Perry's last-minute waltz into his own zone will overshadow the work of these other valiant Canadians.
This too could've been a valiant, respectable loss.
When Perry had the game on the line and let Ryan Kesler slip past him to get the empty net goal with a one-handed dive, I could feel nothing but sheer disappointment.
Perhaps "first-to-the-puck" doesn't exist in his hockey lexicon.
Who really knows?
Losing is okay—sometimes. It's not the end goal and the tournament isn't lost quite yet, and sometimes it takes a loss to realize what you need to change to win.
Forget outshooting the Americans.
Forget zone-time domination.
The Canadians tried to do too much too often when a simpler approach was employed by the Americans. A defense-first game centered around blocking shots and shooting lanes, clearing rebounds from the crease and being the first man to the puck—this was the American strategy.
And it worked beautifully.
Furthermore, intensity was an issue, and a matter of too little, too late.
Big Joe Thornton was suspect until late in the game. Brodeur played nothing like the Hall of Famer we expect he will be. And Perry—what else can I say about Perry that hasn't already been said? His effort was suspect in all areas.
Every player on USA (except for maybe Malone, who has been suspect himself) buys into the system and buys into their role.
Entitlement may have led Team Canada to start Martin Brodeur, but perhaps they should start Roberto Luongo, and sit Corey Perry.
This is not an 82-game season.
The Olympic Games are "now or never."
If, like Perry, the others on the team are not ready to stay true to the Olympic spirit—the grind and the sweat that makes the Olympics a celebration of human spirit and the drive for perfection of form, discipline, and dedication, then we can forget about Olympic gold in men's hockey.
If the Olympics Games are "now or never," then we need to see a little more "now" in Team Canada's on-ice work ethic.
With Canada, all the pre-tournament talk was about how good this team was and how they could ice the best team. Perhaps ice a couple best teams, some would say.
But just because Hockey Canada can ice the best players for Team Canada doesn't mean they can ice the best team.
The Americans taught the Canadians an important lesson tonight.