US ay? The whole purpose of this trip was to watch the world’s best Ice Hockey players compete for the remastered World Cup. So, with the sport of Ice Hockey commonly known as ‘Canada’s game’, and after previously visiting this fine country twice before, the Maple Leaf has become my adopted nation for anything and everything Ice Hockey. Now i’m sure you can imagine how excited I was to find out I’d get the chance to watch the fierce rivalry that is Canada vs USA. Two NHL all-star teams as it could also be called. To make the occasion even better, with a Team Canada win, USA could be heading back south early, as this would mean it was now impossible to qualify.
Toronto was buzzing, from my alarm at eight o’clock, to the arena opening at half past six. There was a buzz around the place as the two heavyweight Ice Hockey nations prepared to lock horns. No better way to start today than with a walk to the fan village to do some proper ‘touristy’ things. A free scarf, key chain and my own personal trading card to complete a very successful morning. Again, and apologies for making you all jealous but the weather was glorious. No clouds, plenty of sun and lots of fluids being taken on board.
Compared to the previous few mornings, this one was a little reserved. What was a tad more out the norm was my persistent search for some Canadian beer. A) I have been somewhat craving an alcoholic beverage at times but B) They are doing some good giveaways with certain brands.
Well today’s beer search failed so I’ll be conducting an intensive search into finding what I want. When I decided enough was enough we managed to discover another supermarket. Dinner was purchased, a few sandwiches for myself and well biscuits for my Dad!
The heat drove us back to the hotel to freshen up before Sweden took on local enemies Finland. A game that would see Finland almost definitely knocked out of the tournament. An even game through all three periods, with just the one solitary goal the difference. Courtesy of Anton Stralman after some impressive creativity from the Sedin twins. Henrik Lundqvist returned in goal for Sweden and showed just why they call him ‘the king’, comfortable and well worthy of his shutout. There wasn’t much physicality in the game, but for me Finland deserved more than they got. The better of the sides despite the score line but in the end not good enough to find a way past Hank. The game ended with an empty net goal to give Sweden the 2-0 win.
As the National Hockey League spreads over both the United States and Canada, when comparing the recent successes of both national sides, domestic triumphs don’t necessarily reflect what the true talent of this humble nation. Only seven of the NHL’s 30 teams are Canadian. The Flames (Calgary), Canadiens (Montreal), Oilers (Edmonton), Canucks (Vancouver), Jets (Winnipeg) Leafs (Toronto) and the Senators (Ottawa). Not one of these teams qualified for this gone seasons play-offs. So spark media discussions about where do Canada go next, what Canadian teams need to do to compete, and what Team USA have up over the Canadians when it comes to the international stage. However what Canada do have is a current roster of winners, not with Canadian sides but still they are winners. It has a pool of youngsters who have also won, be it World Championships or domestic based titles. So for now, the near future and long past that Team Canada have what it takes to just keep on winning, it’s just that the NHL sides are a little less successful, although with McDavid the new face of the Oilers and Auston Matthews drafted by Toronto, things are looking promising for a few of the Canadian ‘minnows’
The time had come. Tensions were brewing throughout the city, as all eyes were focused firmly on the Air Canada Centre for what could be the end for Team USA.
When Carey Price led out Canada onto the ice, the place erupted. Huge amounts of expectation were resting on the shoulders of both sides, with Canada hoping to qualify and USA looking to avoid an embarrassing exit, the game began at a lightning pace. The opening stages were controlled by the USA. A contrasting start to their first game against Europe, and the different in starts paid dividends when a loose puck in front of Price was flipped home by Ryan McDonagh. The goal seemed to inject new life into Canada and from here on out it was their game. A clever shot from the point by Marc-Eduardo Vlasic, rebounded off the boards and right onto the stick of Matt Duchene who backhanded into the empty goal. Seconds later it was 2-1 Canada. A shot from the right of Jonathon Quick could only be redirected onto the body of Corey Perry and past the helpless Quick. The tides had turned and Canada weren’t stopping there.
Long passages of play in the US zone allowed Mike Babcock’s men to create some good offensive chances, and a poor turnover in their own zone led to Canada’s thirds and game winning goal. The line of Joe Thornton, O’Reily and Duchene were impressive all night and Duchene had a second when he capitalised on the turnover to slot the puck between the wickets of Quick to send Canada into ecstasy.
Head Coach of the USA, John Tortorella’s first period break team talk seemed breeze by the US players as Canada still had both hands on the game. A solid blue line restricted chances for the Americans and the offensive play by all lines was keeping the pressure on. Birthday boy John Tavares would unleash a very celebratory dangle to set up Patrice Bergeron for Canada’s fourth and that was the game.
Period three was a little more in Americas favour, a few rings of the iron and a late goal meant the game wasn’t all one way, close enough anyway! The physical approach didn’t seem to do too many favours either s Shea Weber, Brent Burn and Brad Marchand patrolled the ice with effective prowess.
Final score. The good guys 4 – 2 Team USA
A day to remember and a game of hockey that lived up to all expectations. What about tomorrow I hear you ask? Well we go again. This time its North America v Sweden, followed by Canada v Europe.