At 7 am est on Sunday morning, a select group of Canadian hockey players will meet their international equals, as the two best hockey playing nations will face off for the 2014 men’s Olympic Gold medal when Canada battles Sweden.
During a time when most of the western world is busy attending religious services, weekend warriors nursing their moral/literal hangovers, and productive business men watching Meet the Press and reading their favorite periodical, 35 million people from Halifax to Vancouver, in addition to more than nine million from Gothenburg to Stockholm, will be awake, ready and waiting in front of their television screens to see which country can bring home their second Gold medal in the last three Winter Olympics.
Besides the Swedish and Canadian interest, there is regional and municipal pride at stake in the domestic American market early Sunday morning. There will be six cities, spread out across all four time zones, that will be internally conflicted as teammates of their NHL clubs will do battle in hopes of securing a victory with an accomplishment landing them on a list with some names like Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Bruce Jenner.
Okay, maybe that last name is one that you wouldn’t want to be associated with, but being an Olympic Gold medalist is something that transcends time and culture, as millions of people on earth have never heard of, and will never hear of, the Stanley Cup, the NHL or the sport of hockey all together, but they understand the significance and accomplishment that is associated with winning Gold in an Olympic competition. It means during those four years, you were the best individual or team in your event in the Universe.
Starting in Beantown, Bruins’ linemates Loui Eriksson of Sweden and Patrice Bergeron of Canada will go head to head as starting wingers for their country’s top offensive line. This is will be a key matchup for the Canadian defensive system that should be renamed New Age Iron Curtain, as Sidney Crosby and Bergeron have found a certain chemistry in controlling the pace of a shift. And don’t be shocked when you see a young Swedish defenseman, d-zone softy Erik Karlsson, doing some watching with the superb stickhandling and puck control ability of Sid, Beregon and Chris Kunitz. But Eriksson has found his scoring touch in this tournament, and with guys like Alex Steen and Niklas Backstrom feeding him the puck, Canada needs to be weary of #21 in yellow and Blues colors around their crease.
In the City of Manhattan, Rangers fans will anxiously await the Gold medal matchup between their star forward, Red n White’s Rick Nash, and their goaltending star, also the franchise backbone and foundation, in The Krona King- Henrik Lundqvist. In 2006 in Italy, (Hank) Lundqvist won his first Gold medal with the Swedish team loaded with legends like Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom and Peter Forsberg. No question it will be more difficult this time around for the Swedes, especially facing a guy like Nash on the big ice as he has some of the best 1-on-1 skill in the world, but there is not a doubt that Hank and fellow Ranger-man Carl Hagelin will exert every ounce of Russian-fueled energy to shutdown Nash & Co. on Sunday.
In Chicago, starting at 6 am Lakeshore Drive time, there will be two, or three, Blackhawks that bring the Gold medal back to the windy city. Canada’s pride, Johnathon Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp have a chance to cement their legacy and try to deny Hawks mates in Swede D-man, Johnny Oduya, and forward Marcus Kruger that same cementation opportunity.
And in St Louis, Missouri, there will a surplus of divided emotions from North-to-South-to-West County, as the Blues’ top scorer, Alex Steen, and Patrik Berglund will battle in the corners and in front of the net against their top defenseman in Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. It will be a struggle at points to watch these guys throw their weight around and block each other’s shots, but there will definitely be something important about mentality and winning attitude of the golden pair that is carried back with them to the Blues locker room.
In mile-high Denver, things may get a little rocky in the trenches of the Pepsi Center when top Colorado forwards, Canada’s Matt Duchene and his younger captain, Gabriel Landeskog, face each other in close quarters all game long. I wonder who Avalanche coach, former team Canada goal tender, Patrick Roy will be pulling for?
And Anaheim Ducks fans all over Orange County will most likely just be pulling an all-nighter, as their captain, Ryan Getzlaf, and former Hart Trophy winning line mate, Corey Perry, will prove to their forward friend in Sweden’s Jakob Silfverberg who’s boss on the pond, starting at 4 am local time.
This has been an emotional roller coaster of a tournament for almost every nation competing in hockey. From the Canadian women’s Gold medal stunner, to TJ Oshie’s epic shoutout heroics, the ups and downs felt by all innocent fan bystanders has reached an emotional level that will not soon be forgotten, or likely felt again. This is the best sport on earth, played by the best guys on earth, and on Sunday morning, the world will watch as the men of Canada play Sweden in hopes of eternal golden slumbers.