After twenty years…

First off, a gold medal game between two elite, evenly matched teams should not be decided by a shootout. Shootouts don’t reflect most on-ice play, and depend on too many variables. So, they aren’t a true display of a squad’s skill. (The Stanley Cup playoffs use multiple sudden death rounds, which, while exhausting for athletes and viewers alike, would be fairer.)

That said, this one was pretty mesmerizing.

I doff my cap to silver medal-winning Team Canada, the measuring stick
against which all hockey teams are judged. Your play throughout the whole
tournament was amazing, and this game was no exception.

Congratulations, Team USA. At a time when no one’s felt like cheering, your camaraderie makes the gold medal all the more deserved and inspiring. I’m pretty sure a lot of little girls want to be Maddie Rooney and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson when they grow up. (Hey, I do, too.)

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Team USA wins the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship!

The victory was even more hard-won off the ice. The US women had confronted USA Hockey about its unequal treatment of the men’s and women’s teams, threatening to boycott the event unless the contracts were renegotiated. The men’s team had been receiving better pay and benefits, even though many members already get much bigger salaries from their NHL teams. Also, the women’s team had received much less publicity and media support. (I’m a diehard hockey viewer who tries to follow several leagues. Even I didn’t know that the US women’s team had won four IIHF gold medals over the past five years, and reached the medal podium in all five Olympic appearances. I’d imagine that casual sports fans might not know the US women’s hockey team exists.) The team successfully negotiated a new four-year contract, then had to jump into the tournament with little to no practice. A 5-3 win over Finland and an 11-0 win over Germany led to the championship game Friday night against Team Canada. The game featured what may be the most intense overtime period I’ve seen in hockey, boasting terrifyingly fast end-to-end rushes and brilliant saves from Canada’s Shannon Szabados and the US’s Nicole Hensley. Then came the Americans’ Hilary Knight…

“That is real hockey,” my mother said after the game. I can’t put it any better than that. Fierce stick taps to the Canadians for being more-than-worthy opponents, and heartfelt congratulations to the very cool Team USA women!

Congratulations to Team USA, IIHF World Junior Champions!

During most international hockey tournaments, I have a hard time getting enthused for the hastily-assembled teams filled with NHL pros. The IIHF World Junior hockey championship (featuring college and major junior league players below the age of 20), on the other hand, is always riveting viewing. Last night’s gold medal game in Montreal was no exception. Team USA rallied from two separate two-goal deficits to emerge victorious against Team Canada in the shootout. (The United States’ defensive play was impressive throughout the series, but I have to give last night’s first star to goaltender Tyler Parsons. His brilliance during a tense overtime and shootout made me forget that he’ll stonewall my Sharks frequently once he joins the Calgary Flames.) I give full props to an excellent Team Canada (once things get to a shootout, it’s anyone’s game), and congratulate them on winning silver. (I also want to give a shout-out to Team Denmark, which went further in this year’s tournament than ever before. While they ran into a tough opponent in Team Russia, I absolutely expect great showings from the Danes in the future!) Here are some highlights: