For two weeks the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team took our nation on a magic journey. Led by the magnificent play of goaltender Ryan Miller, forward Zach Parise and defenseman Brian Rafalski they came within one win of capturing the gold medal.
Although the NHL season resumed last night with one game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche, the full schedule of games resumes this evening. Before their accomplishments fade too far into the rear view mirror, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how special their achievements were in capturing the silver medal.
Coming into the Olympics, many people picked the U.S. to finish in the neighborhood of fourth or fifth. While there were many talented players that comprised the roster, not many felt that talent compared with the likes of Canada, Russia or Sweden.
Although the U.S. did not play Russia or Sweden, they fought with the heart of a champion and defeated every team they played along the way to earning a spot in the gold medal game, including Canada in the preliminary rounds. For those who watched the Americans 5-3 win over their Canadian rivals a little over a week ago, the U.S. was outplayed in just about every aspect of the game besides on the scoreboard. It was at that moment I truly believed the Americans could capture gold. They showed the character of champions which was to find a way to win a game they probably shouldn’t have.
With every Miller save or a big goal, the U.S. made us believe more and more that anything was possible including a gold medal. This team refused to listen to the critics who didn’t give them much of a chance and never stopped showing the heart of a champion.
That was never more evident when amidst a frenzied largely pro-Canadian crowd that could taste victory, Parise scored with 24 seconds remaining in the game to tie the score 2-2, send the game into overtime and send a shock wave throughout Vancouver and all of Canada. Although Sidney Crosby became a Canadian hero with the overtime goal that gave Canada the gold medal, the U.S. and its fans could hang their head up high and be proud of the heart their team showed on the way to earning the silver medal.
As my beloved L.A. Kings resume their NHL schedule tonight in Dallas against the Stars, I’ll go back to dreaming of a moment that will one day be filled with Stanley Cup glory. The American hockey fan will once again be divided amongst the allegiances for their respective teams. As we watch our teams fight to become champions, let us not forget that for two weeks, we were all fans of one team. A team that had character, heart and a belief in itself to win gold. Thank you for the ride U.S. Men’s hockey and for showing all of us what a beautiful sport hockey can be.