Monday, January 3, 2011

I think I cursed hockey this weekend

The game: Canada vs. USA (World Juniors).

It's the all-Ryan Johansen and Team Canada show: Canada led by 3 going into the third period, courtesy of a third goal on the power play by Johansen. His linemae Zach Kassian put them ahead even further with a fourth goal with 15 minutes to go in the third.

Well, they are teenage boys after all: Ryan and Nino Niederreiter got a taste of NHL things to come when they faced off in a quarterfinal game yesterday, complete with chirping and shoving and little digs at each other. Get your ya-yas out now, boys. Because back in Portland, it's back to business as teammates and linemates.

Revenge is best served cold. Really cold.: Canada 4, USA 1. Canada faces Russia in the gold medal game, after cake walking right over the US.

What a difference a year makes: Last year at this time, Ryan was on deck for the CHL prospects game and still learning the finer points of WHL hockey. On his first try at the World Juniors, he heads to the gold medal game. So the story ends a little differently for Nino than he had hoped, but Switzerland still has the chance to at least finish 5th or 6th before returning home. Perhaps it was a loss for Team Switzerland, but for Portland it is always a win when our players compete on a world stage. And let's not forget Sven Bartschi, who has already delivered on early promise and he's just getting started. It's a good day for Canada, and a better one for Portland Winterhawks fans. You. Go. Boys.

Way to be cool, dudes: All the US players skated over to Jack Campbell to offer what looked like some encouraging words for a job well done. The IIHF agreed. Both goaltenders were named player of the game.

But back on the WHL, NHL, whatever-HL front: I might have to stop watching so as not to curse any more players or teams. To refresh, in the past four days, the Winterhawks lost a huge New Year's Eve game, the Pens lost the Winter Classic on their own ice, Switzerland lost to Canada in the World Juniors and Nino spent the final minutes of the game in the box, and now my favorite rookie Jordan Eberle is day-to-day with an ankle injury. I blame myself. I cursed it all. In case you were it wasn't the rain in Pittsburgh, it wasn't the officiating in Portland. I did it. And I promise not to watch hockey for 24 hours as penance. AFTER I'm done watching the Canada vs. USA game. And maybe the Boston vs. Toronto replay. Then I'll repent.

The only thing more pissed off than me right now: Team USA's bench. They looked so sad as that clock wound down. What a difference a year makes, indeed.

I was going to recap the top hockey moments of 2010, but Down Goes Brown did it better than I ever could: If you're not reading this blog, you should be.

Parting shots: You could tell by Nino's post-game comments and the Team USA bench how much the sport means to the players, and how much it stings when they lose. But lost in the unfortunate penalties and the blockbuster games that didn't quite go as I had planned, is the fact that precious few players get the privilege to even play in the World Juniors, Winter Classic, Olympics, whatever. Sidney Crosby has done all three, plus the Memorial Cup and times two for the Classic. Shiny things are pretty, but making it that far at all and playing honorably to the very last buzzer is prettier. This weekend, Portland welcomes home our conquering heroes, medal or no. Because for now, they are ours. All ours. Because they did us proud. If you live here, join us if you can. It's Saturday at the Rose Garden, what's not to like?

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