Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 2nd, 2010

Wow. What an Olympics. A fantastic 17 days that went far, far too quickly for my tastes. The Olympics always go too quickly, but that's part of their charm. Every two years we have a taste of Summer/Winter for two weeks and then they leave. They leave us wanting more and more, making the build up and pay off that much better.

See you in London, my friend.

The Winter Olympics always have my heart, though. The half pipe is cool, luge is fun to watch, I do love me some curling but once again we're back to where we've been since literally day one of this blog:
I love hockey, and I encourage you to try to do the same.

A fantastic and unexpected run by the US national team has captured the sports and national audience for the first time since 1980 it can be argued. While the ending wasn't fair to us United States fans, in the true sports picture it was as poetic as any story that could be written in Hollywood.

Disney said no way to this script
You probably knew the name Sidney Crosby before this happened, had heard his name but didn't know his story.
Ever since Sid was in his single digits (he had his first newspaper interview at age 7) he was groomed to be something special in the world of hockey. He was touted as the next great thing as early at age 14. He had the pressure of Canada on his back ever since then.

On draft day in 2005
He was told he needed to save the NHL, which he always blew off (to the press). He was told he had the be the face of the NHL. He was in GQ and on The Tonight Show before he played his first game with the Penguins. He was the center piece of the "New NHL" coming out of the lock out along with Alex Ovechkin.

First of many meetings
He was the straight faced savior to Ovechkin's goofy foil. You chose sides without realizing it as an NHL fan.
Like the old school, hard working, low key, gifted player? You were a fan of Crosby. Are you a fan of flashy, new school, fast paced, hard hitting, goal scoring brilliance? Ovechkin was your man.
He was born to play hockey was the praise from day one and in his first season he became the youngest player ever to score 100 points at just 18 years old. His second year he became the youngest player to win a scoring title and MVP of the league all while leading his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2000-2001.

MVP, scoring title, Players MVP from left to right.
The next year he was once again leading the league in scoring before succuming to an ankle injury, which caused him to miss 31 games of an 82 game season. Despite the absence the Penguins once again reached the playoffs. In his first extended playoff apperance Sid scored 6 goals and assisted on 21 others in only 26 games as the Penguins routed their way through the Eastern Conference, only to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in the Finals.

Destiny denied
You had to figure he was hungry and he came out last year proving it. Though still hampered by injury, a 103 point tear after a very disappointing start to the year had Crosby getting hot at just the right time, as well as the rest of the Penguins.
They managed to gut out a fantastic run through the Eastern Conference, including an epic seven game series against Alex Ovechkin's Capitals in their first post season meeting that had both players trading hat tricks in Game 2 and ended the series with Crosby stealing a puck off of Ovechkin's stick and scoring a break away goal on Capitals goalie Jose Theodore.

Take one
From there the Penguins, behind Crosby, swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals to play, once again, the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
An epic seven game series made for great television. The playoffs ended. Crosby tore through them, scoring 15 goals and assist on 16 others. While not winning Finals MVP, which went to team mate Evgeni Malkin, he got what mattered.

The youngest Captain ever is the youngest Captain to ever win the Stanley Cup. At only 22 years old he wins his first Stanley Cup. The only real award he has yet to attain in the Lady Byng for most gentlemanly player, Selke to best defensive forward, Masterson to whomever shows most perseverance to hockey, and the Maurice Richard for goal scoring.
At 22 he'd accomplished everything you could in hockey. Save for one thing. He had never played in an Olympics. Last time around, in his rookie year, he was left off the roster. This time he was the face of the team according to all the other leaders on the squad.
While he may not have had the best tournament of all players, coming up very short the first time the Canadians played the United States, he chugged along with his line mates of Jarome Iginla and Eric Staal, creating chances all game and playing as well as you can without it showing on the score sheet.
Finally, the big game came. He was silent again. A few chances, including a break away late in the third that could put away the game and would have if not for the solid back checking of US forward Patrick Kane.
The game goes into overtime shockingly. Four on Four hockey, lots of open space. Iginla and Crosby and cycling the puck in the corner with seven minutes gone.
Sid is open in the slot.
Iginla throws him the puck.
He reacts.

At 22, he's fulfilled his destiny. From here it's all legacy building. The One who was raised to save hockey ended the Olympics, on his home ice, with a goal in over time. If we wrote it, it'd be laughed at. When it's a movie, it'll be known as fact.
Why did I tell you all this? This is part of the reason I love hockey. You may hate Crosby, you may not care about Crosby. I just want you to find your own Crosby. He became "my Crosby" as soon as the lottery ball hit for the Penguins. Find that player that is your reason to watch. Find that team that is your reason to enjoy. Use your geography, family ties, what ever method.

Find your team
Just find your Crosby and you'll love the game as much as I do.
And yes, I was going for the US. It was a bitter sweet goal.

The Hours- Ali in the Jungle

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