Why I Soured On Olympic Hockey


Olympics: Ice Hockey-Men

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics were magical. We were in college and people who didn’t know how to spell ‘hockey’ were glued to the TV with the hardcore fans, all of us hoping for a miracle by team USA and almost getting it. The 2010 Olympics brought American fans together. It was a joy to watch, it was a tournament to be remembered. Hell, I spent the next four years telling casual fans that hockey was unique because the championship was second fiddle to the Olympics in terms of being the pinnacle of achievement and competition the sport had to offer.

I was looking forward to Sochi and the 2014 Olympics, hoping to get a similar experience. Now that it’s all over, I can honestly say the whole thing was crap. The conditions that the athletes had to tolerate, the competition that came from it, the absurd broadcasting times, I don’t think I enjoyed a thing about this year’s Olympics. I could keep these things to myself, chalk it up to every olympic tournament being different, and hope that 2018 will be better. Instead, I’m going to whine about everything that bothered me.

Injuries

Yes, the Red Wings fan has a real problem with the injures, considering his favorite team’s captain is gone for what could be the rest of the season. Surprise surprise. But in all seriousness, he’s not the only one. And to be fair, he could have injured himself in a NHL game just as easily. Of course, that would have meant he would have been injured doing his job and working to get the Red Wings a playoff spot rather than some tournament that means nothing in the big picture of the Wings’ season…

Again in all seriousness, I hate that something like this happens to NHL teams. The one bright spot that the Islanders will have for their season after they inevitably trade Tomas Vanek disappeared. The NHL without John Tavares is a lesser NHL. These things are unpredictable, sure, and it could have happened during a NHL game but the fact of the matter is, it didn’t. Player went to the Olympics, the player gets injured, and it’s lame.

Lack of Competitive Spirit from Team USA

I’ve made no bones about my unabashed rooting for team USA. I didn’t necessarily believe they were going to medal (and not to rub it in but when we did predictions I totally nailed it), but that wasn’t going to stop me from rooting and hoping that team USA would show up the world. I think we can all agree that when your country’s team blows it, the Olympics can be less enjoyable. But this was garbage.

To be clear, it’s not the result itself that disappointed me so much as the effort. Team USA sorta got my hopes up by being undefeated before the elimination tournament, sure, but this was to be expected against the hockey powerhouses that are Slovenia and Slovakia. It took a B.S. no goal call followed by a crazy shootout to defeat the Russians, and you can forgive me for not being impressed by the U.S. defeating the Czech Republic, a team essentially made up of Jaromir Jagr and bunch of NHL 3rd and 4th liners (no Jiri Hudler, are you serious?)

So going into the semifinals against Canada, I was hoping for something competitive. Canada is the best team in the world no doubt, but I wanted team USA to put up a fight. I wanted a game. Instead we got an absurd amount of poor-quality shots with zero follow-up and an abysmal power play. There’s no shame in losing to team Canada but there’s plenty of shame to be had when you don’t bother to show up.

Then there was the Bronze Medal game for which there was at least some hope. Finland has played very well during this tournament, but team USA can bounce back, and bronze is at least something right? Some of the fans may have cared for a medal, but the players sure didn’t look like it. 27 shots on Tukka Rask, and another abysmal power play with a lackluster effort. If I have to be bothered to wake up early to watch something like this, the least they can do is act like it matters.

Sure it was easy to be happy about Martin St. Louis getting gold and Teemu Selanne closing out his olympic career with a medal. But man was team USA ever a let down.

Doping

You have to be kidding me. I’ve heard some dumb things in my day. A nurse once told me a newborn baby shouldn’t be exposed to much air for the first few days of life because carbon dioxide is acidic. A student in a chemistry class once told us she though dry ice was dangerous because carbon dioxide is toxic. Last week at work, a woman heard I was colorblind and asked if it ran in my family. (Can you tell I studied a science in college?) This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in my life.

Nicklas Backstrom put in the crosshairs of the IOC for doping. Bringing shame to himself and his country, and proving his grandmother correct. So what was this dastardly illegal substance that would have undoubtedly given him and edge? The chemical concoction that is surely the sole reason Backstrom tore the Olympics up with a whooping four assists and zero goals? Was it the Human Growth Hormone? Deer Antler Spray? Methamphetamine? (the last one was close!) It was goddamn psuedophedrine!

That’s right, a simple allergy medication may cost Backstrom his silver medal. Zyrtec D (the D is for disqualified) contained just enough pseudoephedrine, a stimulant used to help clear nasal passages, for the IOC to declare Backstrom ineligible for competition in Sunday’s game. On the surface the entire thing is ridiculous. I assure you there is zero hyperbole when I tell you Backstrom had to sit because of an allergy medication. Yes the Swedes made it to the gold medal game despite losing Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Sedin prior to the olympics, and their secret weapon of Nicklas Backstrom was taken away from them too and they STILL competed better than team USA.

But once you dig at it a little bit, the whole thing stinks ever more! Was Backstrom tested this morning or last night prior to the game? False. He was tested on Wednesday. Now I’ve had employers perform drug tests that take 24 hours, but I’ve also seen some that take 15 seconds in the military. I don’t know what advanced form of testing the IOC is using but you’d think that if they’re trying to ensure there’s no doping in the tournament, speed would be an important factor. It seems just a little convenient to me that the gold medal game was filled with enough Canadian referees to anger Peter Forsberg and suddenly these drug test results come out right before the game, despite the fact that a KHL player had been busted a few days before hand. But when has the IOC ever been corrupt?

There was plenty to remember about these Olympics, especially a few popular players getting olympic medals. But looking back on this I feel like the negatives are really going to outweigh the positives.

 

Tags: Detroit Red Wings Featured NHL Olympic Hockey Popular

  • Aaron Brandon

    You are incredibly bitter in this article. And it really seems like you are jealous or envious of team Canada, wishing your country had better hockey players or better coaching. Lighten up buddy. The better, more committed to the system team won and face it all the other stuff you are mad about is mindless junk. Did you forget team USA won a silver medal in hockey in sochi? Or are you upset at that too..? don’t be a poor sport.

    • John Evans

      As I said, it’s not the result that bothered me so much as the way they went about obtaining the result. No shame in losing to Canada but it was like they barely bothered to show up the 2nd and 3rd periods, same against Finland. 2010 they at least gave it their all, had a chance to the very end. This wasn’t even close.

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  • Randey Brophy

    The only questionable ref calls in the gold medal men’s hockey game were against Canada. Reffing had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome…This article reveals more about the author than it does about the Olympics

    • John Evans

      If you actually read the article you’d notice the questionable officiating I mentioned spans both the Men’s and Women’s games, and goes far beyond the gold medal game, but thanks for trying.