Now the real Olympics Hockey Games begin. Yes, you may have thought they were already in progress but the real games are just beginning.
You know the ones; the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, yes those games.
In the hockey universe the matchups between Canada and Russia have been worth the price of admission since 1972 when the Soviets pushed Team Canada to the very brink of collapse before Hall of Famer Phil Esposito addressed the nation (Canada) passionately telling them his team was doing everything they could to win and that he needed their support not ridicule. Here is a excerpt of what Esposito said:
“I'm really, really... I'm really disappointed. I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps, we know, we're trying like hell. I mean, we're doing the best we can, and they got a good team, and let's face facts. But it doesn't mean that we're not giving it our 150 percent, because we certainly are.
I mean the more—every one of us guys, 35 guys that came out and played for Team Canada. We did it because we love our country, and not for any other reason, no other reason. They can throw the money, uh, for the pension fund out the window. They can throw anything they want out the window. We came because we love Canada.”
Fans and the team responded coming back to win decisive games to capture the series in front of impassioned Canadian fans.
Make no mistake those games had everything; drama, sacrifice, passion, blood, sweat, and tears. During the days of the cold war international competition was close to fighting a military battle on the ice.
Off the ice Canadian officials like then Player Association head Alan Eagleson, almost resorted to fisticuffs with Soviet officials over finer nuances surrounding the games. The games were that intense and the stakes were that high.
Since then Canada has played the Russians several times and the games never disappointed hockey fans.
The teams have been a fine portrait of the best hockey players in the world. Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Gil Perreault, Guy Lafluer, Denis Potvin, Mario Lemieux, and a host of others.
Ignore the standings and the loss to Team USA. Both Canada and Russia will be up for this matchup and viewers can expect an exciting contest of skating, passing, shooting, and hitting.
Sergei Fedorov, Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Pavel Datsyuk and company all have something to prove to their country and to themselves so expect both teams to come out of the gate flying.
The beauty of these games has always been the pride and not the money. There is the rich rivalry between Canada and Russia dating back to 1972 and even in the past few springs when the Russians beat the Canadians in the world championships.
And for real hockey fans there is that Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin matchup that creates high drama every time the two superstars face each other for the unofficial “Who is the best in the world title.”
The politics may have changed a bit but the rivalry remains as intense as ever. This is a game not to miss.