Golden Effort, Bronze Finish
In Canada when it comes to hockey we have the gold standard. It’s either gold or failure in any hockey tournament for the Canadian men or women. Going into the tournament this should be the ideology. On paper Canada is always a gold medal favourite whenever they play(minus the Spengler cup). Canada should go into any tournament with the mentality that it’s gold or nothing. It’s why we play the game. If we aren’t playing the game to win everything then why play the game? It’s after the the final buzzer we can reflect on the tournament and say “well maybe bronze isn’t that bad.” I hate the statement that Canada will settle for bronze. Wrong! We won the bronze in a very tough tournament.
This tournament is becoming closer every year. Perennial contender United States finished 7th which is a disappointment but speaks volumes to Finland, and the Czech Republic’s hockey programs. We have had four different champions in the last four years which speaks levels to the parody in this tournament. Canada isn’t becoming less of a hockey powerhouse rather other countries are getting better because they have more room to grow. Make no mistake that going into this tournament it’s very impressive and no fluke that the Canadians were involved in 10 consecutive gold medal games and have finished with 14 straight medals. No other country is even close to those numbers. Many countries are mimicking parts of Hockey Canada’s extremely successful program of excellence and implementing them into their own hockey programs. They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Canada is still the class of the world but we just have more challengers. Even the Valedictorian doesn’t always receive top marks but always finishes near the top of the class.
Like many, this tournament is a coming out party for many players. I really doubt the Tampa Bay Lighting are regretting sending Brett Connelly to this tournament. His confidence has to be soaring after his performance. He may have entered the tournament with a reputation of being lazy but he certainly proved his doubters wrong. I believe he was Canada’s best players in their semi-final loss to the Russians and the entire tournament with his power around the net and his physical play. We also were greeted with a small but tenacious Brendan “Pinball” Gallagher (always smiling he reminds me of Mike “pinball” Clemens). This kid was relentless on the fore-check and always involved in play. We also saw the supreme puck distribution skills of Jonathan Huberdeau and the goal scoring skills of Mark Stone.
I could go on and on about these kids but the thing that impressed me the most was their resiliency in the semi-final vs. Russia. Down 6-1 in the third it would have been easy for Canada to roll over and say, it just isn’t our day. It may not have ended up being their day but they pushed through all they the adversity they faced against the Russians and fell one goal short of something Eberleish (dibs on that word). Sure they put themselves in that 6-1 hole but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Canada couldn’t beat star goaltender Andrei Vasilevski early and the Russian offense capitalized on turnovers and was very opportunistic with their chances. When Canada instrumented that comeback it made the tournament for me. I could not have been more proud of our boys win or lose. They exemplified what it means to be a Canadian hockey player.
Now that Sweden has been crowned the champions for the first time in 31 years (which was another great show of resiliency; not getting frustrated after firing 58 shots at the Russians and not scoring until the overtime) we can start looking forward to next year’s Canadian squad. Canada can return as many as seven players to Ufa, Russia next winter, although all seven of these kids have a shot of playing in the NHL next season. There will be new faces that push themselves into the limelight, capturing the eyes of our nation. Barring the Mayans being right, Canada will enter next year’s tournament with their country’s and their own gold medal aspirations and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Next year, after three years of heartbreak, it’s time for our golden efforts to equal a gold medal.