People who know me, will by now see that I don’t like spending money. Well today I spent over $200 on one single shirt. *Cue mini heart attack*
Monday began with yet another early morning start in the hotel gym. An eight mile bike ride, a few lengths of the pool and a quick rest in the spa. Not a bad way to start the week, the sun was yet again beating down in Toronto and there was plenty of buzz in and around the city.
Game number one of the day began again at three o’clock, so it was time to find something to do. A walk into downtown Toronto was the first order of the day. For a city that keeps on growing, Toronto is certainly a prime example of a structural heaven, mixing traditional skyscrapers with the more modern ‘all glass’ faced building. Since arriving in this fine city, it was essential that we revisited the same site in which we, I’ll say attempted to ice skate in because to be quite frank it was a failure, eight years ago. The spot was found and it certainly looked a wee bit different…
With the temperature on the rise, reaching well over 25 degrees, we sought shelter in ‘the path’, the world’s largest underground shopping complex, stretching over 30 kilometres.
After a bite to eat at one of the fine chinese establishments on offer, we made our way back to the Air Canada Centre for some retail therapy, or in my case borderline heart surgery. I hate many things in life but none more than spending money, however as this was such a special occasion and after some very encouraging words from flatmate Melanie Hill (name drop) I proceeded to grab a jersey and shut my eyes as it went through the checkout!
The games today would be interesting for numerous reasons. A) how many fans would show up with it being a work day? B) How much did Teams Czech Republic and Russia want to win and C) Would North America keep on rolling?
Game one saw the Czech Republic take on Team Europe, who had upset tournament big names, Team USA, in their opening game. The Czech’s had to win to keep fate in their own hands after falling 6-0 in their opener to the hosts, Team Canada. Pete Mrazek would replace Michal Neuvirth in the Czech goal, as they looked to change their fortune from game one. Team Europe went with the same side that performed so well to cause the upset against USA which came as no surprise at all.
The opening period was pretty conservative from both teams, with the score 0-0 at the end of 20 minutes. It would be down to Europe’s alternate captain, big Zdeno Chara, to open the scoring in the game with a finesse shot that crept past Mrazek. It was a game for leaders to, if you pardon the pun, lead from the front, as Jakub Voracek tied the game at 1-1. After a potential save of the tournament from Petr Mrazek, it didn’t take long for a potential blunder of the tournament from the afore mentioned Mrazek, as a quick snapshot from Mats Zuccarello was snatched at before dropping over the line. Tied at two a piece, this would be the first game of the tournament to head to 3-on-3 overtime. It didn’t take long before a long stretch pass, from the ever present Zuccarello, found the stick of Leon Draisaitl who made no mistake slotting the puck low past Mrazek to win the game for Europe.
A result that now heaps more and more pressure on the titanic game tomorrow night, Canada vs USA. A game that is a must win by USA if they are to keep their tournament hopes alive.
As eight o’clock came, so did game number two. This time it was Russia’s turn to try and amend opening day troubles, but the task couldn’t have been more difficult. Standing in their way were the new kids in town, North America. After winning over many people’s hearts last night after a convincing 4-1 victory over Finland, Todd McLellan’s young side would be out to send the Russians packing early. With an almost sold out arena, North America came out flying once again. It certainly hasn’t taken 2016 number one draft pick Auston Matthews long to win over his hometown crowd and after a quick breakaway from captain McDavid, Matthews tucked a precision feed from the Oilers forward to put North America one nil up.
However period two was all Russia. Four unanswered goals in six minutes, revealed just what was in the Russian locker and definitely what had been missing from game one. A spark was needed if this young side were to get back into the game and it came from another hometown kid. Morgan Rielly was able to jumpstart a comeback and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added a third as the ice had turned once again. With time ticking down North America through everything but the kitchen sink at Sergei Bobrovsky in the Russian goal. Two minutes remained and McLellan pulled John Gibson, who had replaced Matt Murray after the fourth Russian goal went in. The extra attacker was proving too much for the Russians as shots rained down on their goal. Under a minute left when a tripping penalty was awarded against Russia to give a two man advantage to the kids. Seconds remained when finally the kitchen sink arrived, and in a flash the puck was past Bobrovsky. BUT!! With the Air Canada crown on its feet, the ping of the iron meant the score stayed 4-3 as the puck deflected off the post and away from danger.
In terms of pure excitement and entertainment this was by far the best game yet. So much drama and end to end action meant the players left the ice to a standing ovation. Games like this demonstrate just why International tournaments are the key to growing the size of Ice Hockey.
Tomorrow it will only get better. The biggest rivalry in any sport. Its Canada vs USA. Kane vs Crosby. An expected Sell out and guaranteed millions watching live on Television, with USA needing to win it could prove to be one hell of a game.