2,880 minutes of Ice Hockey action done and there can only be one winner. That Team is Canada.
Way back when in February time, a Facebook post stumbled across my timeline that was sponsored by the NHL. A post advertising the return of the World Cup of Hockey and immediately my eyes lit up. After becoming a University student late last year, I became extra careful with the money I spent, in the event something came up that I wanted badly. This something turned out to be a once in a lifetime (I say that, but if this tournament happens again in four years time, you can put my name down to come back) With an ever growing interest in Ice Hockey, the collection of the World’s greatest players was simply a temptation too big to resist.
On a journey back up to Leeds one weekend, I pitched the idea to my parents, explaining that I would save up my student finance or what was left of it, and search high and low for a job to tie me over through the summer. In response my Mum said if that’s what I wanted to do then she wouldn’t be stopping me, my Dad however joking said i’ll come carry your bags then. Low and behold, eight months later here I am sat in Toronto and my Dad is carrying my bags, who’d have funk it.
As a trainee Sports Journalist it’s a dandy thing to like a somewhat niche sport. Ice Hockey within the UK fits the bill and so it made perfect sense skipping the first week of my second year at University to be here taking in such a fantastic event.
From The Killers opening night performance to tonight’s final winning moment. The Fan Village was more than I could imagine, over the pond Ice Hockey fans really do exceed all expectations and certainly make the match day experience so much more than just the game. Hockey fans are a passionate but gentle breed. Unlike ‘soccer’ fans, you don’t have segregated seating, hooligans, violence, abuse thrown left right and center. Fans appreciate the sport for what it is, and don’t take out their anger on the players or other teams fans, but instead just down another pint of Bud and get on with life. It’s heaven.
I’ve always been amazed at how skilled the players in the Elite Leage in the UK are, but these NHL and KHL stars exceeded all I could imagine. The speed, skill, grit, agility, finesse, pace, tactics, officiating, goaltending, shot speed, vision, accuracy, balance, any attribute you could name was just 10 times and more better than what I had witnessed up until now.
So with today marking the final game of the tournament, as many predicted it would only take two games. We still went about our morning business like we had done every other day.
An eight o’clcock start. Some breakfast and a coffee was followed by the trip down to the hotel lobby so I could upload yesterdays writing. What was unlike the other days today though, was me trying to apply for a job back home but not being able to so having to get my sister to do a job for me. And she did just that, how lovely.
All things sorted and with Toronto being drenched with rain and gusty winds, it was time for another indoor activity, so to the Hockey Hall of Fame we went. A-list names surrounded one another and if you are a Hockey fan, this certainly has to be a must visit when in Toronto. Jerseys dating back to the origins of the original six franchises. Exhibitions showcasing the greats of the game from Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky to Martin Brodeur and Mats Sundin. Millions worth of historical equipment and memorabilia lined hundreds of cases, as the timeline of hockey was labelled out throughout the musuem. In depth analysis of all 30 NHL clubs and their AHL and ECHL affiliates, the relevant trophies for each of the major American leagues. The Grand Hall featuring the NHL major awards and of course the centrepiece. Lord Stanleys Cup.
Made in Sheffield, yes that’s Sheffield in Yorkshire, England. The Stanley cup, standing at 89.54 centimetres and weighing 15.5 kilograms is a mastery of a trophy and remains one of the most unique throughout the sporting world.
Well over two hours spent marauding through the rich history of Hockey and having left via the gift shop (maybe I spent a little money….) the rain had stopped, leading to a quick tea pick up before heading back to the hotel to get changed. Tea devoured and Canada Jersey on, I stuck to my superstitions I picked up all week, closing the blind that was opened every morning, pressing both elevator lights, wearing the same socks, the little things in life. We arrived outside an expectant Air Canada Centre.
Part of me wanted Europe to win. Obviously through being in Europe and also a third game on Saturday night would have been quite fun. But then I wanted my adopted nation to win, simply because it’s Canada.
Ralph Kruger’s Team Europe, led by the new L.A Kings Captain, Anze Kopitar, were determined to improve on a good game one performance and hopefully upset the odds. With so many comparisons being made of this curren Canada roster and those of yester year, some are seeing the success and domination of this side to be the best ever. A packed out arena awaited as the puck dropped to start the game.
Period one was surprisingly all Europe it seemed. Out shooting and out working the hosts to every loose puck. It feels weird righting about Canada’s sloppy play, but it happened and it didn’t seem to end in period two either. Hold on a second though. Europe went into the first period break leading by a goal to nil. The six foot eight giant Zdeno Chara, found space at the back post to fire the puck high past an unsighted Carey Price wo again was incredible for Team Canada. As previously stated period two was pretty much the same with Europe coming out on top. Price made vital saves for Canada and some special stops along the way, as Canada’s only real chance fell to Tavares who hit the post.
Before tonight, Canada had only been behind for a little over two minutes, now Canada had been behind for over 30, in a game everyone wanted to win. Crosby’s top line had been shut down magnificently well. Kruger had installed his game plan and Europe were doing themselves proud. Until with less than two minutes on the clock, a silly penalty from Europe captain Kopitar put Canada on the powerplay. Having struggled to set up their special team all night, finally some good offensive play. A shot from the point was tipped in expert fashion by Patrice Bergeron, putting Canada on the board and setting the crow alight. Canada had their groove back…
All be it until a high sticking penalty against defenceman Drew Doughty, instantly put them on the back foot, or maybe not. Despite Roman Josi ringing a point shot off the bar, Canada regained the puck and looked to keep hold of it. With Johnathon Toews weaving his magic, Brad Marchand jumped over the boards to join on the short handed attack. Toews found his way into the Europe zone, drawing two players towards him leaving Marchand with a clear straight down the middle of the ice. Marchand took a touch and lazered a wrist shot high over the blocker of Halak and that was all she wrote. Jaroslav Halak was tremendous. Not just tonight, but all tournament long. A solid goalie for Europe, gave them every chance of winning on any night and it would be wrong to not feel a little injustice on his behalf.
Sidney Crosby, was chosen as the tournaments Most Valuable Player and by doing so joined an elite list. Only Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold, World Cup, Conn Smythe trophy, Hart Trophy and the World Cup MVP. Sid the Kid will now sit alongside these two greats as being one of the best to ever play the game.
If I manage to calm down from earlier excitement and joy, tomorrow will be a trip to Niagara Falls or Toronto Zoo. This is all in Deano’s hand so come back tomorrow to find out what I get up to.