December 29, 2011
EDMONTON — It is fine for Canada to school opponents on the ice, but maybe the crash course in hockey etiquette should be dropped from the curriculum.
The debate over whether Czech Republic goalie Petr Mrazek was in the wrong when he did a fist pump after stopping a penalty shot vs. Canada in the first period didn't break strictly along cultural lines. The same went for Sweden's Max Friberg riding his stick after scoring in the shootout vs. Switzerland earlier on Wednesday, which might have been closer to beyond the pale.
As Canada's Brendan Gallagher put it to Sportsnet:
"He was excited he made a big save, but our side didn't like that. Obviously it's showing us up a little bit."
Whatever. That's fine for Gallagher, who as a player was in a position to do something about it. It's also understandable why much of the 16,000-plus crowd booed; they're focused on Canada winning and the result didn't square with their hopes.
Still, one wonders why Mrazek had to defend his celebration afterward. It wasn't that over the top.
"It's not my style, but I thought it was a cool," Team USA goalie Jack Campbell said on Thursday. "He just trying to get his teammates going. If you haven't played in that atmosphere, it's tough. He was just trying to give his teammates some momentum."
It's been heavily chronicled that Mrazek was kept out the tournament last year due to hockey politics. If anyone had the right to show some emotion against the heavily favoured Canadians, it was him.
Perhaps people calling Mrazek the "cocky Czech goalie" on Twitter did not know that. It is worth noting not everyone in Rexall Place booed the 19-year-old goalie. Not even every Canadian player who was asked about it had a pithy response. Centre Freddie Hamilton pointed out to Vicki Hall, "I'm fine with it. If anybody is emotional for their country, it's fine with me."
Coincidentally, a story this morning about Canada's Brett Connolly, who has a very laid-back persona, scoring on Mrazek played up how he "celebrated with a major fist pump, then he smacked the glass in the corner, just for emphasis." Do you see the irony there? It wasn't cool to see Mrazek show emotion, but we needed to see Brett Connolly show emotion in a game Canada was 95 per cent likely to win more than we needed to see Brett Connolly score. Figure that out.
How is that just? With regard to the world junior, Canada has, as Stephen Brunt put it so eloquently, " ...more players. We have far more money in the system. We put far more thought and effort and expertise into coming out on top than anyone else." One would think with such great privilege comes a little bit of grace.
Admittedly, this has focused more on Mrazek than Max Friberg. That was cheeky of him to ride his stick in front of the Swiss bench, but you know something? Most people who wouldn't do that probably couldn't perform the feat he thought entitled him to show off a little. Plus it was funny, like the time then-Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss mock-mooned Green Bay Packers fans after catching a touchdown in a NFL playoff game in 2005.
Point being, stop imposing a standard on athletes who aren't obliged to live by it. You'll live longer. The Stuff Canadian Hockey Fans Like statements are a bit much. Some European and American athletes don't mind calling attention to themselves when they do something awesome. Most Canadian hockey players know that's taboo. Leave it there.
Hey, I think you should act like you've been there before, too.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).