Wednesday, February 22, 2006

State O' the Game

Obviously a very disappointing day for the Canadian men's hockey team. Watching the loss to Russia and the US loss to Finland (and other games during the tournament), the evidence is pretty overwhelming that very few of the most skilled offensive players in the world are from North America (names like Jagr, Ovechkin, Alfredsson, Kovalchuk, Hossa, and Forsberg come to mind). Despite the huge talent on the Canadian team on paper, they did not find their stride at all in this tournament and lacked the flow and intensity of their European opponents. As they say, "paper teams don't win championships" (Hat tip: Lyle Sanderson).

I must say I'm glad not to have to hear all the hand-wringing about the "state of hockey in Canada" and over-analysis of the team selection that will no doubt overtake the country over the next few days. We might just have to face the fact that there is extreme parity in the world hockey talent pool, and it is extremely difficult to win a world championship with at least 7 elite teams (Canada, Russia, Czech Rep., Sweden, Finland, USA, and increasingly, Slovakia). Hockey is becoming more like soccer, with lots and lots of really good countries (and it's still nowhere near as hard as winning the World Cup). It will be interesting to see if the professional leagues in Europe ever, in the long run, come to be seen as near-equals with the NHL (much like the soccer leagues in England, Italy, and Spain are all top-tier), creating the opportunity for world club championships like the Champions League in European soccer.

Besides the hockey loss, a very successful day for Canada in the Games with 2 golds and 2 silvers coming from speed skating (Cindy Klassen, Kristina Groves), x-c skiing (Chandra Crawford), and short track speed skating (women's relay). This put the country at 18 total medals, topping the previous best from Salt Lake City of 17. So there is A LOT to be positive about despite the failure of the men's hockey team to repeat their performance from 2002. And still a few more days to go (especially the much-anticipated four-man bobsled!). So buck up you crazy Canucks and stay positive!

UPDATE, Thursday morning: Allan Maki echoes my sentiments here.


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