SOCHI, Russia – It was a one-goal game on Friday night. It was also a one-goal game in Vancouver. Just one goal short of breaking the spell that Canada has cast over the U.S. in Olympic hockey.
“It’s not where we want to be,” captain of the US team Zach Parise summed it up.
Four years ago in Vancouver, Sidney Crosby broke millions of hearts with the overtime winner for Canada. This year it was Jamie Benn. The United States had the most dynamic, the most interesting and, according to multiple experts, the best team in the tournament. The U.S. hockey development program has come a long way from that night in Lake Placid. It is now on par with Canada when it comes to the best team in the world. Yet when the two teams meet, the Big Brother has that little edge.
“We had an awesome opportunity,” said David Backes said after the loss. “I don’t think we quite laid it all on the line the way that we needed to in order to win. A 1-0 game in the semifinal against your rival country is obviously a sad day for sure.”
The US was finally viewed as the favorites coming into this game. And this means something, to finally put that Miracle behind them.
How relevant is the Miracle to these players when none of them were there to see it? Why should any Olympics now have a reference to it when it comes to the US team? The US hockey program is light years ahead from where it was 34 years ago. The finals in Salt Lake and Vancouver were played on NHL size ice. The tournament in Sochi was played on Olympic size ice, with the US finally proving that they can beat any team on any ice now.
Well, almost any.
“We certainly feel disappointment from this game,” Dan Bylsma said after the game. “Mainly the disappointment is it wasn’t for the gold medal. Two great teams in the tournament, the rematch from 2010, and there’s huge disappointment that we didn’t come up with the victory in this game.”
This is not a miracle they are here and disappointed with the loss so early in the tournament for them. And it wouldn’t have been a miracle had they won. The reference to the Miracle is tired and doesn’t apply to this team.
“Thirty-four years ago it was a miracle.” Dan Bylsma said tired of the references. “But circumstances in our team and our program are much, much different. Mike [Babcock] talks about building programs. We’ve done that. We’ve done that with our program, our grassroots. It’s not a miracle for us to think about winning a gold medal. The US and Canada are today two greatest hockey playing teams in the world, playing for a chance to win a gold medal. We missed that opportunity today. We missed it to the team that is the best in the world. Yes, so I guess the reference is old and inapplicable.”
And this is the sentiment shared by all. The US should have won the game. They know it. It was a chance they blew. It’s not that the US played their best and hot beat. The US did not play their best, and that’s why they got beat.
“It stinks,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s tough. I think all of us thought we’d be in a different situation at this time. Obviously this wasn’t good enough to win the game. It’s tough right now.”
The US will now play for bronze against Finland.
“It’s one more time to wear this red, white and blue for our country and bring home some hardware and do all proud.” David Backes said. “That’s really what our sights are at now. It is obviously a sick feeling that we didn’t get the job done tonight. But we get one more chance tomorrow to make this trip worth it.”
It is a sick feeling, because this was their chance to put the Miracle to rest.