I could spend my time talking about all of the negative stories of this year’s Olympics. I could talk about having to suffer through an over-hyped Bode Miller who leaves the games with zero medals, an irrelevant dispute between American speed-skaters, and an early exit by Michelle Kwan (who found her way onto the team without performing in US qualifying). Instead, I am going to talk about an exciting men’s hockey tournament that I am sure few American’s watched.
Yes, I was able to watch Olympic hockey, despite NBC’s best efforts, and saw the best hockey I will see all year. On Saturday, Russia was shutout for the second game in a row. The Czech Republic won the bronze and showed that it is a serious international hockey team even without Dominik Hasek.
With big-name teams like Russia, Canada, and USA not in the gold-medal game, it could be expected that the game might not be exciting or close. In this case though, Finland and Sweden showed that they were the two best teams in the tournament and gave us one of the most exciting hockey games I have seen in years (despite being aired at 8:00 Sunday morning). There was never more than a one goal difference between the teams, but it was Nicklas Lidstrom’s goal ten seconds into the third period that was the deciding factor. Thus, Sweden won its second gold medal in 12 years. This was a crossroads year for Sweden. Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg and Nicklas Lidstrom have probably played their last game together, but goalie Henrik Lundqvist appears to be the future for Swedish hockey (and the NY Rangers).
Maybe one of these years the NHL will realize how exciting international hockey is and increase the width of its hockey rinks. Until then, I will wake up at 8:00 AM any weekend morning to watch this kind of hockey.