Olympic Hockey Thoughts

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Olympic Hockey

The 2010 Winter Olympics kicked over the weekend with a tremendouly boring opening ceremony. The city of Vancouver should have invested more money in making sure that they produces enough artifical snow instead of having some guy dressed up as Thor playing the violin in a canoe, while his “shadow” played 10 seconds ahead of him.

Thankfully, the city and the Olympics themselves can count on the men’s hockey tournament to save the entire event.

Now, I’d have mentioned the women’s version of the hockey tournament but that entire situation comes down to the U.S. and Canada every time that isn’t meant as an insult to the other countries involved but its part of the process of creating a competetive field. This only the 4th time that women’s hockey has been a part of the Winter Olympics (the event’s debut was at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano).

Countries like Sweden, Finland and Switzerland have rich hockey traditions but neither of their women’s national team has the amount of experience or talent that U.S. or Canada does. Once every one of those countries can develop an infrastructure and internal recruiting format then the level of competition will certainly rise. Even so, all of these women (many of whom happen to attend universities throughout North America) will continue to gain valuable knowledge of the game and will be above having Doc Emrick proclaiming this a “moral victory” for them for scoring at least a goal against Canada.

Having mentioned Switzerland, there should be a HUGE amount credit given to goaltender Florence Schelling who has been amazing despite her team’s overall crapiness.

When you look at numbers like these however, it should be no surprise that women’s hockey is still a work in progress.

Number of female registered players per country:

Canada – 85,000

U.S. – 60,000

China – 500

Slovakia – 250

The men’s tournament kicked off today, Tuesday, February 16 and it was a good day for the US team as they came in and beat up on Switzerland for a 3-1 victory.
Although that doesn’t sound like much of a beating, anyone who watched the game saw that the US team was pretty much controlling the temp of the game and scored when they had the opportunity.

Canada had a rather easy time with Norway and that won’t change for anyone who is going up against the Norwegians. Latvia is in the same position throughout the tournament, although it should be noted that their team is STACKED with players who currently play in the very talent laden KHL. Teams like Slovakia and the Czech Republic shouldn’t be counted out but Belarus and Germany should be.

This could be, however, the last time we see some of the elite Finnish players compete for their country and skaters such as Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu enter the later years of their careers.

Finland does remain one of the top 5 teams along with the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Russia.

Medal predictions:

Bronze – Sweden

Silver – Canada

Gold – Russia