SOUTH DILDO, CANADA – In keeping with this weekâ€™s themes of alcohol-fueled articles, Iâ€™m taking a crack at my own alcohol-inspired, Olympic-themed piece. Weâ€™ll see how it goes…
Weâ€™re now less than two weeks away from the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And while Bob Costas and NBC will try to convince you that ice dancing, short circuit speed skating, and curling are worth watching the two weeks between the Super Bowl and Pitchers & Catchers, the only important sport in the winter games is ice hockey.
The winner is determined through direct competition between teams, not by judges as it is in figure skating and College Football.The competition starts with a preliminary round of 12 teams divided into three groups. Each team plays the others in the group in a single round-robin with the results of the round-robin determining the seeding for the rest of the tournament. The top four teams automatically enter the quarterfinals. The remaining 8 teams battle in a Thunderdome-ian competition of â€œTwo teams enter, one team leavesâ€ to determine the remaining quarterfinal places. Itâ€™s a knockout competition from then on until the medals are decided. Iâ€™ll break down the Master-Blastersand Pretenders for you.
Canada: The host nation will be looking to impress in the early going. Theyâ€™ll have home ice advantage and for the first time ever, Olympic ice hockey will be played on the narrow NHL ice. The small ice suits the physical nature of Canadian hockey and with NJ Devilsâ€™ Marty Brodeur in net, and Sid the Kid leading the attack, the Canadians should breeze into the quarterfinals. Theyâ€™ve also got Don Cherry on their side which is always a plus. â€œAmericaâ€™s Hatâ€ are my pick to win the gold.
USA: The good olâ€™ U-S of A went with a somewhat youngish team this go-round. Team America will have the Bruinsâ€™ Tim Thomas in net. And there will be some familiar faces in the lineup for folks in this area. Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner of the Devils were selected, as were Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury of the Rangers. Waitâ€¦ Chris Drury?!? How did he make the team? Hasnâ€™t Team USA head coach Ron Wilson been watching hockey? I though we were supposed to put the best team out there. We might as well have The Matts on the team. To make matters worse, Rangersâ€™ manager John Tortorella is one of the assistant coaches for Team USA. The US will be lucky to secure a by into the quarters, but theyâ€™ll make it eventually. We could make the semi finals, but I just donâ€™t think the team is good enough to win a medal. Iâ€™ve been very wrong before though, so take my predictions with a grain of salt.
Switzerland: The Swiss are definitely the minnows of Group A. They arenâ€™t the most talented team, nor are they the most physical. Theyâ€™ve got a decent shot at making the quarterfinals, but wonâ€™t advance beyond there.Norway: Like Sweden, but totally different. They might make the quarterfinals, but probably not.
Russia: Holy Tile! This team is frogging stacked. With a first line of Pavel Datsyuk centering Ovechkin and Malkin, and a second line of Federov, Semin, and Kovalchuk, this team will score plenty of goals. The team has tons of talent, but it remains to be seen how Russia will play on the small ice. Despite the latent toughness of Russian culture outside of hockey, they rely more on skill rather than physicality to win. On the small Vancouver ice, this may make it tough for the Ruskies to get past more physical teams like Finland and Canada. They will have an easy time in the Preliminary Round and I think theyâ€™ll take the Silver Medal. If you donâ€™t believe me about the Russian lack of physicality, listen to Don Cherry.
Czech Republic: Less talented than the Russians, but play a similar style of hockey. Led by the skinniest fat guy on earth, Jaromir Jagr, they could be in contention for a medal at the end, but the small ice is definitely a disadvantage to the Czechs.
Slovakia and Latvia â€“ Also rans.
Sweden: The Swedeâ€™s know bikinis, meatballs, and hockey. New York Ranger, Hendrik Lundqvist will tend goal for this team with plenty of familiar faces, Led by the Sedin brothers (not the Hanson brothers) Zetteberg, Oduya and Peter Forsberg, the Swedes will make plenty of noise in this competition and will be in contention for the bronze.
Finland: The Finns are more familiar with the physical side of hockey than the rest of Europe, save for the Swedes. Theyâ€™ll have Nicklas Backstrom in net. Agitator Jarkko Ruutu, and his marginally less annoying brother, Tuomo Ruutu also made the team. Teamu Selane and the Flamesâ€™ Olli Jokinen round out the well knownâ€™s on this team. The Finns are a very solid, and very physical team. They Should adapt well to the narrow Vancouver Ice. They are my pick to win the Bronze Medal.
Germany & Belarus: bit part players. Half of all Belarusians couldnâ€™t point out Belarus on a map. They did well to qualify, but both teams wont see much action past the preliminary round. Germany is probably the better of these two teams and have a shot to make the quarters, but theyâ€™ll need some luck.
There you have it. The bar is calling me, wondering why Iâ€™m not there. They are demanding proof of life and the Budweiser is telling me to wrap this up. I predict Canada will take the gold on home ice, Russia and Finland are my picks to win the silver and bronze medals. Team America will make a lot of noise, but will need to get lucky if they are to stand on the awkward over-sized podium at the end of the competition. Weâ€™ll know more in a couple of weeks.
Different Matt is our cunning Cornell grad/rugby player. "Diff" joined us just after the switch from being "Mets only" to an all-sports stop. He's a Yankee fan; thus he was "different." Aside from the Yanks, he's a diehard NY Giants, NY Rangers and NY Knicks fan. He also likes long walks on the beach and cappuccinos and nearly died in Las Vegas.