Saturday, February 27, 2010
10:30 PM by Problemfixer · 0 comments
Latest Update from Vancouver 2010: Canada men's hockey coach Mike Babcock jokingly says he knows of the movie Miracle, about the USA's 1980 gold-medal performance.
"My kids watch it and think it's great and I don't think it's that great," he said. Babcock's quip about the USA-Canada rivalry is an insightful glimpse at why Sunday's gold-medal game (3:15 p.m., ET, NBC) between those countries has the potential to be one of the memorable games in international hockey history.
"Hockey is not a sport in Canada — it's a cult. It's a religion," said U.S. general manager Brian Burke. "The Canadians view this as their game and they view this game as planting the flag on the peak."The fact that the Americans beat Canada 5-3 in the preliminary round adds revenge into the mix.
In the third period of Canada's 3-2 win against Slovakia in the semifinals, fans were chanting, "We want USA. We want USA."The Canadians have been expected to win the gold medal in hockey since it was announced in 2003 that Vancouver was going to be the host.
"How important is hockey in Canada? It's like you took football, baseball, and basketball and rolled them all up into one," said fan Robbie Bursey, 56, of Tide Head, New Brunswick. "Maybe that's the best way for Americans to understand what hockey is to Canadians. Throw in NASCAR too. And it's really key to our national identity."
Canada won the Olympic gold medal in 2002 by defeating the Americans 5-2 in Salt Lake City, but the buzz about this game is far greater because it is being played in Canada, where one of every 66 people plays on a registered hockey team. There are 500,000 registered players in a country of 33 million people.
"We've been building up to this game for years," said Canada forward Jarome Iginla. "We've talked about it as Canadians and hockey players wanting to be a part of this team."
Asked what he thought the arena will be like for the game, U.S. forward Phil Kessel said, "I think it is going to be nuts." As crazy as the arena will be, U.S. forward David Backes said he can't imagine what the streets around the arena will be like. Fans were carrying Canadian flags all over the city hours after Canada defeated Slovakia in the semifinals.
"The fans here are so passionate about Canada and the Olympics in general," Backes said. "But when you get to hockey, there's a whole other level above passionate. They almost live and die from it." Although the Americans probably don't face as much pressure as the Canadians, the game isn't any less important.
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