Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Today begins the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games men's ice hockey tournament.
The opening game will be the United States and Swizterland at 12:00 PM Pacific Time, followed by hosts Canada taking on Norway at 4:30 PM in Group A, while play in Group B kicks off with Russia taking on Latvia at 9:00 PM, which is getting quite late for viewers East of Vancouver.
We personally find it highly annoying that the NHL is concerned about participating in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia because of the perceived value of participating in an Olympics not in North America and how "the benefits we get tend to be greater when the Olympics are in North America than when they're in distant time zones", yet even with the games being held in North America, the Russians, with the incredibly dynamic trio of Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin, three players who the NHL could base their entire marketing of the NHL during the games, find their opening game of the tournament scheduled for 9 PM Pacific time, meaning it won't even be on TV in the largest media market in the world, New York City, but also in all three players NHL home cities of Pittsburgh, Newark and Washington D. C., until midnight local time!
This isn't a one time quirk in the schedule either, as the second Russian game on the 18th is also at 9 PM Pacific time. One would think that they would be able to compress the schedule enough to allow the games to being 3 1/2 hours apart, rather than 4 1/2, in order to allow the late game to begin at 7 PM Pacific time, giving viewers on the east coast a 10 PM faceoff time. Even four hours between games would have the puck drop in the east at 11 PM.
Also, speaking of perceived value and greater benefits of the games being held in North America, did you realize that the key Canada vs. the United States game on February 21st to close out the preliminary round, the one game the league could use to introduce the stars of the NHL to viewers in the United States who don't normally watch hockey, is being shown on that sports hotbed of MSNBC while the main network NBC carries Ice Dancing? Not the highly watched Women's Figure Skating or even the Men's Figure Skating, but Ice Dancing?
And this from a network that the NHL already has a broadcast partnership with! One would think that NBC would be tripping over themselves to put Sydney Crosby on TV (yet again) in order to promote their weekly NHL games. Afterall, doesn't "NBC" stand for "Nothing But Crosby" when it comes to their NHL schedule?
The first key date in the 2010 tournament is "rivalry day" on February 21st when the top two seeded teams in each group all play each other to likely determine who will win each group and receive the important byes directly into the Quarterfinals. The day starts with Russia taking on the Czech Republic at 12:00 PM, the United States plays Canada at 4:45 PM and concludes with Sweden against Finland at 9:00 PM in the late night game New Yorkers Will Only Read About™. While the matchups are stellar, the games will lack a slight edge, as the losers know in the back of their minds that their tournament will continue two days later.
Following the Preliminary Round, things get serious on February 23rd, as the teams ranked 5th through 12th, who have not earned byes in the Preliminary Round, are all paired off in a one day series of knockout games, called the Secondary Round, to determine who advances to the Quarterfinals. This one day hockey orgy begins at 12:00 PM with games following at 4:30 PM, 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM and is a day primed for upsets, with the lower ranked teams fighting for their lives with everything to gain and nothing to lose. A goalie on his day can eliminate a genuine medal contender in a format such as this and is a day of hockey not to be missed!
The process is repeated the very next day on February 24th, when the Quarterfinals occur, another one day game of drama as the surviving teams from the day before take on the top four clubs, who will have been resting up for two days prior. Any of the major teams who slip into the Secondary Round will be looking to correct any earlier slip-ups and keep their tournament alive in another day of elimination games. The matchups on this day will feature winners of each group in the Preliminary Round and all the stars will be out to play, assuming none of them have fallen by the wayside the day prior.
The Semifinals occur on February 26th when the four surviving teams meet to determine which two will play for the gold medal on February 28th.
The highest seeded team in Group A at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Tournament are the hosts Canada.
The Canada National Ice Hockey Team is currently ranked 2nd in the IIHF World Rankings.
Based on their status as one of the top nine ranked countries, the Canada was automatically entered in the 2010 Olympic tournament, allowing them avoid the qualification process for teams outside the top nine.
Canada has participated in the Olympics in ice hockey 19 times since 1920, with their best results being gold medals seven times, most recently in 2002 after a span of 50 years since their previous gold in 1952. Canada won the first Olympic gold in 1920 and proceeded to dominate the early events, winning gold in 1924, 1928, 1932, 1948 and 1952. They have also won silver on four occasions, 1936, 1960, 1992 and 1994. A pair of bronze medals rounds out their tally, having been won in 1956 and 1968. Canada withdrew from Olympic competition in a dispute over the rules for amateur players and did not compete in the Olympics in 1972 and 1976.
Canada are regular participants in the World Championships, having first participated in 1920, where they won the gold medal, the first of 11 they would win up through 1939 out of 13 possible. Following World War II, the Canadians would pick up where they left off with eight more golds between 1948 and 1961. Each of the 26 times they would participate in the World Championships from 1920 to 1962 they would capture a medal of some sort, with 19 gold, four silver and a bronze.
Three consecutive fourth place finishes from 1963 to 1965 would end the streak as the Canadian program would enter a doldrums. From 1963 to 1993, which included their withdrawl from international hockey from 1970 to 1976, Canada would earn seven bronze and three silver medals, as well as 11 placings outside the medals and no golds.
1994 to 1997 would see a return to the top, with gold in 1994 and 1997, silver in 1996 and bronze in 1995. A five year medal absence from 1998 to 2002 would be forgotten with back to back golds in 2003 & 2004 and silver in 2005. A fourth place in 2006 was followed by another gold in 2007, the 18th gold in their history, and silver in 2008 and 2009.
As one of the hockey world's top teams, Canada have also hosted the six team Canada Cup five times, winning four, and the eight team World Cup of Hockey twice, winning the championship in 2002.
Canada enters the 2010 Olympics with all 23 players on it's roster from the NHL. It's popular to say that Canada is strong enough and deep enough that they have enough players to field two teams in the Olympics.
Much of the success Canada can attain will depend on the experienced and future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur and his partner in net Roberto Luongo. The defense is rock solid, with Chris Pronger and Scott Nidermayer leading the group.
The Canadian forwards are a terrifying collection of talent that should carry this team into the gold medal game, highlighted by Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau. Fifteen of the players have not participated in the Olympics before, and about the only thing that looks to be capable of sidelining the Canadians is pressure from the home media and fans, as the talent is beyond reproach.
With the format for this year's Olympics calling for the top four teams after the Preliminary Round to receive byes into the quarterfinals, the key for Canada will be defeating the United States in their game on February 21st to earn an extra day of rest with a bye into the Quarterfinals. Canada must also avoid a repeat of their upset 2-0 loss to Switzerland in 2006, something we are certain will not be happening again.
Canada will likely earn one of the four byes and draw one of the lower ranked teams remaining in the Quarterfinals. The challenge for Canada looks as if it will really begin with the semi-finals and dealing with the increasing pressure as the tournament progresses and expectations rise, but with several players on the team having captured Stanley Cups and loads of veteran leadership (nine members of the Canadian roster are captains of their NHL teams), expect the Canadians to deal with the pressure just fine and reach the gold medal game on February 28th in front of a frenzied home crowd.
Today's featured jersey is a Nike 2002 Team Canada Mario Lemieux jersey as worn during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City when Canada captured their first Olympic gold medal in 50 years.
Canada started out the tournament slowly, losing their opening game to Sweden 5-2, squeaked by Germany 3-2 and then tied with the Czech Republic 3-3, finishing a lowly third in their group.
They rallied to defeat Finland 2-1 in the Quarterfinals and then had the easy draw of facing Belarus, who shocked Sweden in their Quarterfinal matchup. Canada thumped Belarus 7-2 to reach the gold medal game against the United States, who had a much tougher game in overcoming the Russians 3-2.
The United States broke out on top with the first goal before Paul Kariya tied it and Iginla put Canada ahead after one period.
The score was tied at 2-2 after another goal by the United States before Joe Sakic put Canada ahead to stay with less than two minutes left in the second period.
Through 16 minutes of the third, the score remained the same, but Iginla and Sakic each scored again to put the game out of reach, giving Canada an emotional triumph.
His time at the Olympics took it's toll on Lemeiux, who would play just one NHL game after the games due to a hip injury, which required several pain-killing injections for him to make it through the Olympic tournament.
Here is a look at the jerseys that Canada will be wearing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The familiar Hockey Canada logo is gone due to the International Olympic Committee rigorously enforcing it's rules forbidding sports federations from using logos used for marketing on jerseys of Olympic teams. This caused quite a bit of strife at Hockey Canada for fears of the loss of revenue generated by the sales of jerseys with the traditional logo by the hockey mad jersey buying public in Canada.
The new jersey features a classic maple leaf shape adorned with a similar tribal tattoo style pattern in the leaf which features aboriginal imagery of the thunderbird, eagle, killer whales, moose, beaver and maple leaves representing past gold medals.
The basic jersey has simple twin stripes around the arms and waist, while the white jersey adds the contrasting red shoulders. The jerseys have a very timeless feel to them and the incorporation of the Canadian imagery in just the main crest is a much more effective use of the technique than that used on the Russian or American jerseys and they should be very popular sellers for the host Canadians with an incredible lineup of star players for customizing options.
Bonus Link: Click here for some desktop wallpapers of historic Canadian Olympic hockey jerseys from 1920, 1932, 1948 and 1964.
Our video selection today is the gold medal game from the 2002 Olympics when Canada defeated the United States to win their first Olympic gold medal in 50 years.
Dasherboard: With the Olympic Games starting today, it's not too late to get your hockey name with our Third String Goalie Hockey Name Generator! Choose from Canadian, Finnish, French-Canadian, Russian or Swedish.