Skip to content

U.S. past ‘miracle’ stage in Olympic hockey (except vs. Canada)

Feb 21, 2014, 9:50 PM EST

source: AP

Photo credit: AP

SOCHI, Russia – This seems to be the Olympics when everyone around United States hockey officially got sick of the Miracle on Ice. Well, it was inevitable. With the Olympics being in Russia, with famed Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak (who was pulled in the Miracle) lighting the torch, with my generation reaching the age of cloying nostalgia and with the U.S. men’s team looking for its first Olympics hockey gold since that 1980 team, everything pointed to overkill.*

*Which I happily participated in.

Thing is, hockey in America is nothing like it was in 1980. This was the point the U.S. hockey team kept hammering. Everything has changed. Now, professional hockey players are at the Olympic. Now, the U.S. team has some of the best players in the world. Now, the U.S. team has speed and size and depth that is the envy of almost every hockey-playing country in the world. When the U.S. team played Russia this time around, it was the Americans who were favored, and the Americans who played the villains when they got a favorable call and won in a gritty shootout.

So, yes, everybody was ready to move on from the constant reminders about a bunch of college hockey players who won a gold medal 34 years ago.

Trouble is, to get people to stop talking about the Miracle on Ice, you have to stop losing one-goal games to Canada when it matters most.

VIDEO: Highlights from Canada’s 1-0 win

The U.S. did lose another one-goal game to Canada in an Olympic semifinal Friday … this after the U.S. women one day earlier lost a crushing one-goal game to Canada in the gold medal game … this after the U.S. men lost a crushing one-goal game to Canada in the gold medal game in Vancouver, one of the most famous hockey games ever played.

To be fair, the United States’ 1-0 loss to Canada was different from the others. It felt cleaner and did not leave much room for regret. That’s because the Canadians pretty thoroughly outplayed the Americans. Was it not for some head-stand saves from Jonathan Quick – “our best player tonight,”  U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said – the score easily could have been 3-0 or 4-0.

Meanwhile the “0” on the American end of the score was more or less locked in. It is hard to imagine a team playing more suffocating defense than Canada played Friday. The U.S. power play was rendered all but useless. And other than a couple of moderate chances early and Paul Stansny’s point-blank shots in front in the second period, the U.S. rarely even threatened to score.

VIDEO: U.S. can’t find an empty net in final minute

The game was played at a high level—the speed on the ice was mesmerizing — and it was entertaining in its own way. But it really was quite a let-down from the famous gold medal game of four years ago. Well, for one thing that was a gold-medal match, while this was a semifinal just to see who would play Sweden for gold. That was a quirk in the seeding, and it definitely altered some of the emotion.*

source:

Photo credit: AP

*Though back home, the “Loser Keeps Bieber” campaign – featured on a Chicago billboard and trending on Twitter – certainly created some fire.

Then there was the quiet. Here you had the two best hockey teams on earth – two of the most talented hockey teams ever put together – and it was so eerily quiet in the Bolshoy Ice Palace. Every now and again, a hearty soul would try to start up a U-S-A chant or beg the Canadians to finish one of their numerous goal-scoring chances and then it would dissolve into stillness.

Much of the time, the arena was quiet enough to read bedtime stories aloud.

So strange … but then maybe not. No event at these Olympics brought so much pain to the host country as hockey. The Russian hockey team lost to the U.S. in the aforementioned shootout that was, for many Americans, the emotional peak of these Olympics and was for Russian fans the very symbol of fraud. A goal-ahead goal by the Russians was nullified because the cage of the net was slightly off its mooring. Russians who even conceded the point that the net WAS off still believed that U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick had been the one to knock it off. Angry fans demonstrated in Moscow. Television networks replayed the disallowed goal again and again.

Then, more disconcerting, the Russian team disappeared in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland that featured no controversy and also no life from a gifted collection of Russian players who never quite came together.

So, it is logical that there simply wasn’t much enthusiasm left for the sport. Tack on the Russians’ famous reticence – something that various non-Russian figure skaters noticed during their soundless programs – and what you had was a striking lack of energy and volume. We grow so used to the biggest sporting events being loud and the tension being almost tangible.

But Friday, early in the second period, Canada’s Jay Bouwmeester – a tough defenseman not necessarily known for his playmaking abilities – slapped a pass that Jamie Benn deflected over Quick to give Canada that 1-0 lead. And then the rest of the game just kind of melted away almost unnoticed. Those sounds you associate with a close and important hockey game – the roars for developing chances, the groans when shots slip wide, the gasps when the winning team narrowly escapes – were largely nonexistent. It was a bit like being in a Vegas casino with no clocks. Time just gushes away.

VIDEO: Jamie Benn’s shot the only goal

In any case, the U.S. never came especially close to tying the game, and Canada came very close to extending the lead and it was clear, on this day anyway, that there’s still a gap between Canadian and American hockey. Maybe this is as it should be considering how intently Canadian life revolves around the sport (some 80 percent of Canada watched at least part of the 2010 gold medal game).

But it is a blow for a United States still trying to move past the Miracle on Ice. Bylsma made the point after the game that U.S. hockey is at a place now where it hardly needs a miracle to win a gold medal. He’s right, of course. All the U.S. really needs is a couple more goals against Canada. Thing is, that’s the proving to be about as elusive as miracles.

Latest Posts
  1. Ronda Rousey defends UFC title in 14 seconds

    Mar 1, 2015, 12:05 AM EST

    Ronda Rousey AP

    Rousey is undefeated in 11 pro fights since winning Olympic judo bronze in 2008.

  2. Elana Meyers Taylor wins historic bobsled World Championship (video)

    Feb 28, 2015, 10:03 AM EST

    Elana Meyers Taylor Getty Images

    Meyers Taylor improved from silver medals at the 2013 Worlds and 2014 Olympics.

  3. Watch Rio Olympic Park transformation, timelapse videos

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:55 PM EST

    Rio Olympic Park

    Rio government organization published two videos looking at the construction of Olympic Park.

  4. Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali’s team may lose license

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EST

    AP AP

    Nibali might not be able to defend his Tour de France title as an Astana rider.

  5. World’s most athletic couple takes the next leap

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:52 PM EST

    Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen Eaton AP

    Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton are taking different paths to potential gold in Rio.

  6. IOC executive board proposes rule change for athletes, sponsors during Olympics

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    “Athletes have wanted this changed for a very long time. It’s been a very long discussion.”

  7. Is Simone Biles unbeatable?

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:48 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    U.S. Olympic legend said yes. Top U.S. gymnast says no.

  8. Elana Meyers Taylor in line for history at bobsled World Championships

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:48 AM EST

    Elana Meyers Taylor Getty Images

    Meanwhile, the Olympic champion is well back in Winterberg.

  9. Bernard Lagat cancels farewell tour with Rio in mind

    Feb 25, 2015, 3:34 PM EST

    AP AP

    “Would I really slow down that much that I wouldn’t make the (Olympic) team? I don’t think so.”

  10. Duel in the Pool returns to U.S.

    Feb 25, 2015, 12:17 PM EST

    Duel in the Pool Getty Images

    The U.S. is undefeated in six editions of the Ryder Cup-style event.

  11. Rio Olympics could have multiple cauldrons

    Feb 25, 2015, 10:37 AM EST

    Pan American Games cauldron Getty Images

    The Opening and Closing ceremonies will be held at a venue separate from the Olympic Stadium for track and field.

  12. Former WNBA No. 1 draft pick switches from U.S. to Belarus

    Feb 24, 2015, 11:08 AM EST

    Lindsey Harding Getty Images

    The only NCAA Player of the Year winner since 1997 not to play for the U.S. at a Worlds or Olympics.

  13. U.S. cross-country skiers share historic podium at World Championships (video)

    Feb 24, 2015, 10:35 AM EST

    Jessie Diggins, Caitlin Gregg Getty Images

    Olympians nearly double the previous U.S. tally for World Championships medals.

  14. Behind the scenes of Miracle on Ice reunion

    Feb 24, 2015, 10:30 AM EST

    AP AP

    Inside the locker room with the players and more.

  15. Nastia Liukin adds to history of Olympians on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

    Feb 24, 2015, 9:32 AM EST

    Nastia Liukin Getty Images

    Liukin is the third U.S. Olympic champion gymnast to go on the show.

  16. Mikaela Shiffrin wins Maribor slalom, snags World Cup lead in teenage finale (video)

    Feb 22, 2015, 8:51 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Shiffrin won her 13th World Cup race as a teen, bettered by only one woman in history.

  17. Kyla Ross commits to UCLA

    Feb 22, 2015, 8:19 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Ross joins a long line of Olympic women’s gymnasts to choose UCLA.

  18. Michael Phelps gets engaged (photos)

    Feb 22, 2015, 8:06 AM EST

    Michael Phelps

    Phelps is expected to return to competition following his suspension in April.

  19. ‘Relive the Miracle’ reunion emotional for 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team

    Feb 21, 2015, 11:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    All living members joked and reminisced in the “Relive the Miracle” ceremony at Herb Brooks Arena.