the real legacy of olympic hockey

It seems like we're stuck in an eternal paradox.  Professionalism versus passion, home versus country, what's accessible versus what is buried.

Last Olympics didn't feel nearly this close in talent, didn't feel so precariously balanced on a pin's head.  Close games, surprising performances, and deeper heartbreak than we knew we could experience over sports that we're not even playing.  It's not like this hurts more, per se, than the US losses of 2010 in Vancouver, or other US losses down the line.  It may have been that we believed more this year.  No one worldwide can stomach the fact that we have to wait four more years to believe this much again.  We wanna break down the real things that we learned in the #dawnsearlylight. . . . .

  1. The gold medal game between the US and Canadian women was probably one of the best hockey games ever played by anyone.  Our bias and heartbreak aside, this was an amazing hockey game, with one of the best paces we've ever seen, unbelievable goaltending at both ends of the ice, and unbelievable drama and meaning.  This one hurt.  This one burned.  This one was difficult, and made all the better by the incredible talent that both teams were able to put on the ice, and how truly evenly matched they were.  Still tearing up when we think about it.  That was one for the legends.  If you didn't see it, you missed something special, and we pity you.  As many have said, these women make negative money in many cases to pursue their dreams.  The fact that they don't have lucrative careers to go home to makes their joy and emotion all the more visceral.
  2. The NHL is a trash product.  We don't mean to say that we don't love NHL teams/players (because we do) and we certainly don't expect Olympic pace/passion to be replicated somehow over the pace of a pro league season.  But watching the Olympics really wakes you up to how shitty the NHL really is, and how awful it is that their main motivation is that of maximizing their profit over the course of the regular season.  There's still a little magic in the playoffs, a little bit of lightning in a bottle, a little bit of childhood dreams and heady visions.  But come on–82 games, 30 teams, an endemic problem with violence and fighting, everyone makes millions of dollars per year in a fundamentally sick global economy, some teams set records every year for profits and sellouts while other teams struggle to sell tickets or even find a home.  The NHL vocally said that they don't like the Olympics because it takes money out of their pockets.  How un-self-aware can you be to say that publicly?  It's kind of like a hockey version of Phi Beta Kappa.  Their injury concerns are equally bullshit–it's okay for you to play a fast-paced contact sport and more or less risk your health every night and break your bones as long as you do it on the NHL's dime.  It's a brutal industry and the on-ice product suffers from hypocrisy.  You probably knew this already.  But watching the Olympics, which has its own, different, more global brand of hypocrisy, makes it all the more apparent that the game we love has a complicated set of politics.  And the game on the ice this winter has been glorious, beautiful, and surprising.  So much great talent.  We are sorry to see it go into its four-year sundown.  We have no idea what Pyeongchang is going to be like.  It could be very different.  If the NHL somehow doesn't go, it could be comprised mostly of college kids.  And it might be better for it.  Who knows.
  3. Regardless of your rooting interest, the USA vs. Canada men's semifinal was one of the most boring games ever.  Canada's strategy of smothering defense was extremely effective against a USA team that didn't make adjustments to combat it.  Looked lost, outcoached, anemic.  Classic Mike Babcock, and to be honest, classic Dan Bylsma.  No explanation for the players though.  They looked like they were in a death trance.  I didn't eat anything all day until after the game was over and they basically looked like they had the same nutritional intake as me.  This game was not one for the legends.  Canadians are glad that it happened, and Benn's goal came from a hell of a play, but probably everyone else wants to forget those three hours of being alive.  Dammit, boys, why you gotta do us like that?

as we gear up for the rest of the third period bronze medal game against Finland, we are checking our tears and putting them in the tiniest bottle.

goodbye, friends. it's been real.  see you on the other side.


About Zoë

from Fayette County, living in Boston, chronically fussy. Writing about the Penguins, the CWHL/women's hockey, and hockey/sports media criticism.