Hockey superpower showdown: How great was that?
Fans were out in full force to watch a battle of hockey superpowers.
February 15th, 2014
05:19 PM ET

Hockey superpower showdown: How great was that?

Let's wind this back a bit. In the 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, the United States of America and the Soviet Union took the world to the brink of nuclear war over 13 long days of missile mayhem in Cuba.

How nice then, that in 2014, not only are we all still alive and breathing but that relations have improved to such an extent that when the mother country of the USSR, Russia, now hosts an Olympics, America turns up to participate.

Better still, all of the historical grievances, cultural differences and national posturing can live on, peacefully, through the prism of a sport both nations are completely united in their passion over.

Ice hockey: It's the game that always takes top billing at the Winter Olympics, the men's final has a box-office appeal that no other event can match. And it's easy to see why.

The crowd is vociferous, partisan and passionate. The athletes put in shift after shift of lung-busting grind across the ice, the tackles are violent and plentiful, the play is slick and speedy, the goals are often spectacular and the organ music, emcee and Jumbotron combine to get you rocking in your seat.

When the arena is the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi the effect has the atavistic hairs on your neck standing to attention before you've even sat down. As a first-time spectator experience, ice hockey had got off to a good start.

Rivalries in sport are so much greater when there is a symbolism to the result that reaches beyond the game. In a time when Russia is reasserting itself on the world stage, playing host to such events as the Olympics and World Cup, while America anxiously looks to a growing China as the second biggest global economy, there is much to ponder.

Not that such deliberations were in the minds of Alexander Ovechkin or Zac Parise as they took to the ice to help produce an enthralling game. It was the navy blue of the Americans that started the stronger, dominating the play and battering the white defensive wall of the Russians with wave after wave of attack.

But the home side regrouped, remembered the grudge and with renewed purpose moved into the lead in the second period through a goal by Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk.

If the crowd had been febrile up to this point, the goal delivered a collective release of decibels so large it served to test the resolve of the newly installed roof. The ceiling survived by the skin of its teeth.

Like a pugilist dazed by a hook to the jaw but still with enough guts to resist the downward pull of the canvas, the U.S. steadied, shook themselves down and worked on the counter.

It paid off as Cam Fowler drew them level late in the second. The hot war between these two superpowers of the ice would now become attritional. The third was a gruelling battle that would test the energy of each of the side's NHL superstars.

The nature of the game played into America's hands, they dug in, kept hold of the puck and started to own possession once again. They plundered the Russian goal when Joe Pavelski hit home. It was a blow to the expectant home support and their volume dulled.

But their side produced a second wind. When Dustin Brown was sent to the box for kneeing, Datsyuk benefitted from a screen set by Alexander Radulov to slam home his second and draw the scores level. Then Fedor Tyutin thought he'd put his side in front before his goal was ruled out due to the net being nudged from its moorings.

The drama was so refined it would have made Leo Tolstoy proud. And all this was before the nail-biting, finger-chewing and hand-swallowing sudden-death overtime. America prevailed 3-2 after too many up and downs to mention and a goal to end the matter from T.J. Oshie.

For these great nations it was another chapter to add to their hockey history. For an ice-hockey novice it was a baptism of exquisite fire. Personally speaking, quite simply one of the most fantastic matches, of any sport, witnessed. Are all the games like this? If so, how marvelous would it be to have a rematch for the final.

So, where can I buy a stick?

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Boris

    Ohhhh, that's obvious! Admit frankly, gentlemen.Goalkeeper chickened out ...

    February 16, 2014 at 1:03 am | Reply
  2. Bert974

    "Oops, dropped the dam stick. OK, grab the left post with the glove so I don't fall
    down. Dam thing came loose. Lousy Russian equipment. To hell with it. I'm not the
    referee, let them fix their own goddam equipment. At least, that way if I miss it don't
    count. Hey, it's their own dam fault. Haha, f*** you, Russia." Too bad they weren't too
    "quick" getting the goal post back secured to where it was supposed to be. Hit, cheat
    and lie 24/7.

    February 17, 2014 at 8:33 am | Reply
    • Sergey

      Over the hill is well able to move the gate. It's a dirty victory

      February 18, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  3. Bert974

    " . . . to the net being nudged from its moorings." "being nudged" according to Mr Wyatt. How long has Wyatt been in the propaganda business? So that's what's wrong with the CNN sports section.

    February 17, 2014 at 9:00 am | Reply
  4. John

    Yes sir. We admit it. Goalkeeper kind of a cheater!

    February 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  5. foreheadkicker

    pure cheater! :)

    http://www.foreheadkicker.wordpress.com

    February 17, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  6. Sergey

    Over the hill is well able to move the gate. It's a dirty victory

    February 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  7. Marco Borg

    Ultimately having an American ref for their matches and "moving the goalposts" didn't help much. Saw them being trounced by Finland. And in spite of the all-American Crusade against Russia, Russians and Putin, the Games were the best ever. Enjoyable, in a great setting, and full of camaraderie.

    February 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Reply

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