First and foremost, I’m a proud Canadian. Secondly, I absolutely love the team Steve Yzerman and co. have put together for the Vancouver Olympics.
But one thing bothers me about Canada’s search for Olympic gold in Ice Hockey. I think many Canadians and media seem to both expect a Gold medal win and think anything less is a failure. Before going any further, someone will probably say “Well Burgundy, the Olympics are on home soil”. I guess. However, I doubt most people’s expectations would change if the 2010 Olympics were held anywhere else around the world. Perhaps the pressure would reduce a bit, but not that much.
I want Canada to win. They have as good of a shot to win as any other team. But frankly, there’s at least 5 teams who could win this tournament. 5 teams, 3 medals. Obviously, that’s 2 very good team’s who won’t even get medals. And 2 other teams who don’t achieve the primary goal of Gold. (forgive the pun).
People seem to be saying all the right things with regards to the level of competition. Most admit the Russians are scary and people give Countries like Sweden and Finland benefit of doubt. Some Canadians actually think Team USA won’t be bad either (for the record, I don’t have them in my top 3, but I like their team a lot – they will surprise many). Despite this, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest many Canadians aren’t prepared for Canada to lose.
I think back to the 2010 World Junior Championships earlier this year. Team Canada played pretty well, but were beaten by an even better US team. These kids came back home with 2nd place medals in their pockets. They weren’t proud. Yes, losing is difficult, but that’s still a hell of a team. I truly believe Canada as a nation had difficultly accepting that loss to the US, as well as two losses to Russia at the World Championships in 2008 and 2009. And let’s not kid ourselves, that loss to the US won’t be the last at the World Junior level or at bigger stages like the World Championships or… the Olympics. No, I’m not saying US will be Canada for gold in Vancouver, but the day will come where other Nations (US, Russia, Sweden, etc…) will be better than Canada at hockey.
For too long, Canada has looked at hockey as “our sport”. In case you still think that, it’s not. Many other Countries around the world have gotten better at hockey, hockey development and understanding the game. For the sake of hockey, I think it’s great that the sport is growing. And the way Countries are pumping out young talented players only makes for better hockey for fans.
But for all Canadians, a few simple questions. If Canada doesn’t win Gold, can you handle it? Will you still celebrate a Silver/Bronze medal (if they win a Silver or Bronze)? You should. That’s a terrific achievement in what might be the toughest hockey tournament ever. It certainly shouldn’t be considered a failure. Will you call for Yzerman’s head and declare he should never assemble international hockey teams again? And finally, are you willing to accept that Canada’s absolute best may not be enough? (If that’s the case, we are in for some amazing hockey over the next few weeks).
It’s OK if Canada loses. As long as they play hard and represent our Country with passion. It’s a very real possibility – one I don’t think many are ready for.
Stay classy, Team Canada.