“If you were mine, I wouldn’t share you with anybody or anything. It’d be just you and me. We’d be the center of it all.” – Jack Nicholson, REDS
Does anyone else out there realize that Canada and Russia are the exact same hockey team?
Living in Vancouver, we always talk here about how it’s our game, how our team is too talented to lose, and that we hate (HATE) the Russians.
None of those are incorrect, but all are shared with our rival that sits West of Yukon.
Listen, they don’t like us either. Their team is bubbling with talent; most analysts, however, would agree that Canada has more players at a higher level. Nevertheless, in one-game elimination tournaments, the Russian team provides the biggest challenge to any team it faces, and that includes Canada.
We think that Canada will erupt if there’s a loss. Well, much is the same in Russia, where they are already calling for their Minister of Sport to be fired after a poor start to their overall Olympic experience (sounds familiar here, doesn’t it?)
Similarly, we know it will erupt in a different fashion if Canada wins the gold medal. People will pile into Robson and Granville like never before. I am confident when I say that the Red Square will look much the same.
Canada’s 7th place finish in Turin in 2006 was significant. It gave us a very low bar to pass this time, and it put even more pressure (can you believe it?) on the hockey team winning gold on home soil.
If Russia loses today, they will finish 7th and Canada will move on. It will put barrels of pressure on that team to perform at the next Olympics, and you can just guess where that’s being held (Sochi, Russia).
The similarities are almost eery, but in a real way.
This history goes back almost 100 years, when Russian scouts first adopted the style played by the West Coast league’s Trail Smoke Eaters as their brand of hockey. Yup, you got it. That means that the “European” game had its roots in Western Canada. Go figure.
That being said, 1972 was as big a series for Russia as it was for Canada. We often say that we don’t know what would have happened to the Canadian team had they lost that series.
Well, the Russians do know. Many of them, not including bonafide superstars such as Valery Kharlamov and Vladislav Tretiak, were seldom heard from again – banished into the frozen wilderness that befit anyone outside of the Soviet Union’s privileged inner circle.
That loss was humiliating to them going forward, and we should feel for those “forgotten players”.
While the United States claims Russia is a huge rival, their counterpoints are almost all political. The Cold War and the political upheaval around Communism vs. Capitalism was relevant to ice hockey for 1 day in 1980. Russia and Canada’s ice battles go back almost a century.
The U.S.A. and Russia were rivals because they were different. Today’s game is not about that at all.
If anything, we are Russia and they are us. We even wear the same colours! The only way you can tell who’s who in highlights of the 1972 series is by spotting Espo’s haircut.
We’re not fighting them today, we’re fighting ourselves. Perhaps that’s why this rivalry is so great.