Enter city or US Zip
South Boston Online
Contact Us
  Print Edition  
  Sign Up For Email Updates  
South Boston Online
South Boston Online
  Friday, February 27, 2015
South Boston Online
South Boston Online
South Boston Online
Home Page
Event Calendar
Real Estate
Contact Us
Rooney Real Estate
Commonwealth Cooperative Bank
xtra xtra!
Level Ice
By Paul Noonan
     In the past, hockey dominance consisted of only five teams:  USA, Canada and Russia for the men and USA and Canada for the women.  That was it.  Those five teams all but dominated their sport, taking most of the medals and in most cases, the gold. 

     This all changed at Lillehammer in 1994.  Two of the big three saw surprise defeats.  For the Canadians, the Swedes denied them what looked like a definite gold.  For the Russians, Finland knocked them out of medal contention with a win in the bronze medal game.  Suddenly, the tides had changed.  Twelve years later, a new wave is coming in.  And with it should come a new level of parity in Olympic hockey.

     The Swedish women’s team may have changed the face of women’s hockey, just as the men did at Lillehammer.  The Swedes faced what many believed to be a superior U.S. team in the last game before the medal round.  Like the men of years before, this contest (which was also a 2-2 tie going into overtime) went to a shootout.  While one of the Swedish players tried to draw even stronger parallels by mocking Peter Forsberg’s game- winning move at Lillehammer, she missed, though she had the goalie beat.

     Sweden still pulled off the upset with back to back goals in the shootout, finally changing the scenery of the gold medal game.  No more USA and Canada.  Now Sweden wanted a piece of the action.  For the first time ever, a new team won gold or silver.  Meanwhile, the USA Women’s Team skated away with a new element, bronze. 

     For the men, the surprises were equally as great.  It all started when a shaky U.S. team stumbled in the opener, tying in what should have been an easy victory over Latvia. 

That alone could have been talked about for the rest of the tournament, but the Swiss didn’t want their European partners alone in the spotlight.  With a surprising upset of the Czechs, who some, including myself, picked to win gold, the Swiss stole the spotlight from Latvia.  The Swiss were not satisfied quite yet.  In an even more stunning upset, the Swiss, upset an even bigger gold medal favorite:  Canada.  While goaltending may have been a bigger reason than the Swiss outplaying Canada, they still won and now have a shot at a medal. Slovakia, while not as big an underdog, has surprised with big victories over the Russians and the U.S., to start 4-0.

     These games are evidence that the world is catching up to the normal hockey powers.  There are no more easy victories in the Olympics.  Every team must now be respected, in each gender.  This is great not only for Olympic hockey, but hockey in general. 

     Undoubtedly, some Swiss and Latvians will be inspired by their teams’ recent success Interest and competitiveness in the sport should increase.  Should Switzerland medal, which they have a chance to do, the impact will be even greater. 

     The fact the world is catching up is great.  With any luck, most teams will do so by the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  Imagine a game between Russia and Germany where you didn’t feel confident you’d be better off just seeing the results later.  Hockey is becoming a sport whose international competitiveness could move onto a list with soccer and baseball.  To be mentioned in the same breath as those two sports can only be a good thing.

Top Of Page