Hockey's Golden Finish Makes Canadians Proud

Ryan PopilchakCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 28:   Sidney Crosby #87  of Canada waves to the fans after receiving the gold medal following his team's 3-1 overtime victory during the ice hockey men's gold medal game between USA and Canada on day 17 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 28, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Yesterday’s epic gold medal clash between Canada and the USA in men’s hockey had a bigger impact on Canada than most casual fans realize.

This won’t shock you, but Canadians LOVE hockey.  We love it so much that we didn’t exactly celebrate the win yesterday, we let go of our pent up nerves and worries much the same as a father celebrates his first born child, just happy that everyone is healthy. 

When you’re widely considered the favorite, there is everything to lose and very little to gain.  Canadians couldn’t stand the thought of losing.

We want to win at hockey so badly, that we take pride in our “win at all costs” mentality.  What other country would revere someone like Bobby Clarke for his role in purposely breaking Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle in the ’72 Summit Series.

We love that once again Sidney Crosby is the victor over other world talents like Alexander Ovechkin, despite the fact that Ovechkin has more pure talent.  He’s Canadian, so he’s a winner.

More than winning though, we want other countries to realize that hockey is a great game.  We’re proud of the sport, we’re proud of it’s traditions, and of course, we love winning at the game we love.

For the gold medal to be decided in overtime with the whole world watching and against the USA was perfect, but not in the way most of you think. 

Yes, we love beating our neighbor to the south, but we also like showing them what they’re missing. 

In Canada, it hits a collective national nerve that we send our best players to NHL clubs in the United States, lose our franchises to southern cities, and yet hockey appears to be only the 5th most popular sport behind football, basketball, baseball and NASCAR.

Yesterday’s game was the perfect display to kick-start our beloved sport back into North American consciousness. 

The game featured the same two countries that host the NHL.  Gary Bettman couldn’t have asked for a better target audience.

Two-thirds of all Canadian households and one-third of US households watched the game.  Those are astronomical numbers for hockey.

The viewership for the game was better than every World Series game since 2004 and every NBA Finals since 1998, proving that hockey DOES have the ability to appeal to the masses. 

The NFL and NBA are both heading towards labor disputes which could thrust the NHL back into the North American sports spotlight.  That’s terrible news for football and basketball, but hockey needs it badly.

Today we have a certain swagger, knowing that our cherished sport is back on the map.  And just in case you missed it, we’re still the champs.