Sunday, February 28, 2010

US/Canada Hockey As Good As The Super Bowl

Riveting. The Gold Medal match between the United States and Canada’s Men’s Hockey Teams was off the charts. I don’t watch a lot of hockey, but give me one of those match ups every year right along side the Super Bowl please. You have to love the non-stop back and forth action, sans timeouts and commercials every 5 minutes like so many of the other sports. It was 3 ½ hours of hold-onto-your-seats excitement. Canada trotted out its team of NHL All-Stars against our roster of NHL No-Names. It may not have been the underdog battle of the US vs. Russia 1980, but it was close. Here are some of the players on Canada’s roster:
--Joe Thornton—1st overall pick 1997 NHL draft; 6 time NHL All Star
--Jonathan Toews—3rd overall pick 2006; 2009 NHL All Star; Team Captain
Chicago Blackhawks
--Sidney Crosby—Arguably the best player in the NHL, and arguably the best
player since “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky.
--Martin Brodeur—Perhaps the greatest goalie in the history of the NHL. NHL’s all-time wins and shutouts leader. A 10 time All Star.
--Scott Niedermayer—6 time NHL All Star
--Chris Pronger—2nd overall pick 1993 NHL draft; 5 time All Star
--Brendan Morrow—Captain of the Dallas Stars
--Dany Heatley—2nd overall pick 2000 NHL draft; 5 time All Star
--Roberto Luongo—4 time NHL All Star
--Patrick Marleau—2nd overall pick 1997 NHL draft
--Rick Nash—1st overall pick 2002 NHL draft

If you look at the league leaders for the NHL this year, it’s dominated by Canadians. Sidney Crosby is #3 in total points. Joe Thornton is #5 in total points. Patrick Marleau is #3 in goals. Dany Heatley is #6 in the league in goals. Rick Nash is #11 in goals made. Canada was loaded! That the United States was able to take this team to an overtime, sudden death finish in the Gold Medal game after already beating them in an earlier round was just short of miraculous.

One of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever attended was a Minnesota Gophers hockey game on the Gophers home ice in Minneapolis. They have their own ice arena that would be the equivalent to basketball’s Hilton Coliseum. I was attending Bethel College at the time in Minneapolis, and some friends invited me to go along. It was amazing! The atmosphere was every bit as exciting as a big home game at Hilton, and their fans are just as serious about hockey as Cyclone fans are (or used to be) about basketball. If you are a sports fan and have never attended a Gophers hockey game, put it on your bucket list of things you must do in your lifetime.

The hockey world probably gained a few extra fans on Sunday. If you watched this years Super Bowl, you have to admit this game was every bit as exciting. I had forgotten how much fun hockey was to watch since that trip to the Gophers game many years ago. Now I remember.

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