We Want U-S-A!
That's what we chanted last night at the Canada vs. Slovakia game and tomorrow we're gonna get it. With the USA's stomping over Finland and Canada's win over Slovakia, the Olympics may have written itself one of the greatest stories the NHL could ask for in a gold medal game: Canada vs. USA rematch
Tomorrow's game has so many great story lines that will culminate in one game that will actually be aired on NBC live. Yes really, it will actually be aired live, so those hockey mad people in California don't have to wait 3 hours for the tape delay of NBC trying to avoid hearing or reading what the score is like they've had to do this past week. NBC is calling this a 'classic rematch' and with it being less than 24 hours away, the anticipation is huge.
Living in Vancouver, I've heard all the chants, from "USA all the way!" to signs saying "It's our game" and lots of trash talking from both sets of fans. I have met USA fans here coming in from Pittsburgh, Portland and New York just to cheer on their team. Team Canada fans have flooded Canada Hockey Place and the streets in their red and white to do the same, so tomorrow's game is a bit of a game about bragging rights for both the players and the fans.
Burke had said that Team USA were 'the underdogs' of the tourney, but coming into the gold medal game, can you really still call them the underdogs? With Ryan Miller shutting the door in net, and the team being able to find scoring from their team, the Americans came farther than most expected.
Team Canada has gone through goalie changes, losing to the Americans and sending the Russians home to get them to tomorrow's game. Expectations are high on Team Canada and their incredibly talented roster tomorrow to win gold. This is the first time Team Canada will play for Olympic gold on home ice, and it may never happen again in my lifetime. From the beginning of this tournament, for many Canadians, it has been gold or nothing. After all, you don't win silver, you lose gold.
In addition, tomorrow's game on NBC will bring something to the NHL that probably has Bettman doing the jumpy claps in his hotel room. Olympic hockey will have two teams in the gold medal match made of up completely of NHL players going head to head representing their country and will be watched by the average sports fan in the USA. I say USA in particular because it's already an assumption that the majority of Canada will watch this game, living and dying by every moment, but the exposure tomorrow that it will have for the NHL to non-hockey fans in the States is what will have Bettman even considering Sochi.
The Olympics are something that the NHL could never achieve, putting together teams stacked with talent competing against each other for country pride. The All-Star game can never achieve what the Olympics does with their East/West game or their N.America/World games because those games lacked passion. Tomorrow's game will not.
So tomorrow, we may not all support the same team, but it will be a great day for hockey. May the best team win.