There was an astonishing array of negative backlash hurled towards our two Olympic hockey teams that they somehow let our nation down by returning with only a Women’s Silver Medal (gasp) and a Men’s Bronze Medal (egad) instead of the coveted gold. Some strong sentiment decreed that these athletes had somehow tainted our hockey programs and sent us skating backwards into on-ice oblivion. Instead of celebrating two more medals in an historic showing for Canada, we saw far more negative coverage than positive. And that’s a shame.
First, the guys. What we had in Pyong-Chang was a bucket brigade of hard-working hockey lifers that would never normally attend the Olympics without purchasing a ticket. All the best players in the world, save maybe Ilya Kovalchuk, are playing in North America. It was going to be a coin-flip that Canada was even going to make the semi-finals, let alone bring home the gold.
They did their best and they lost to the Germans; big deal. Germany was a minute away from knocking off Russia too, so make no mistake about it: winning the bronze was a major accomplishment. No way, no how, in no universe did our Men’s Olympic Hockey Team let us down and we are still the dominant hockey power on the planet. In my opinion, coming third at the Olympics only solidifies that.
Now, the women didn’t take the pounding for losing to the USA that the men took for falling to the Germans, but they took their share. They dominated the Gold Medal game and lost in a shoot-out. The previous game, the USA was the better team and came out on the losing end. That’s hockey, especially in a one-game final. But the women, and specifically defense player Jocelyne Larocque, were slammed for a lack of sportsmanship following their loss; their very difficult and devastating loss.
As everyone probably knows by now, a visibly upset Larocque removed her silver medal during the ceremony and stood on the blue-line while her opponents celebrated the greatest achievement of their young lives. And so what? She was a sore loser in the moment, and she apologized to everybody and their dog in the aftermath. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win rather than lose and showing that she cared, even on that gigantic stage, was simply a spontaneous show of emotion. Move on; nothing to see here.
Some of hockey’s greatest players didn’t shake hands at the end of a hard fought series. Stan Mikita and Gerry Cheevers come to mind. Trains had to be segregated when the Canadiens and Leafs travelled between cities or fist fights would break out between cars. There’s nothing wrong with hating to lose or hating to see your opponent win. So give them all a break, or a pass, or just a positive word or two the next time you find yourself by the water cooler talking hockey.
Guys! Girls! You did great!