But no. It couldn’t. One-nothing, them. The U.S. remains Canada’s little brother.
If Canada has a hockey rival, it’s probably the 20 Canadian Olympic players against the next 20 who got snubbed.
For now, however, the Canadians will play a legitimate international hockey power for the gold medal when it faces Sweden on Sunday, while the U.S. gets Finland in a game nobody cares about because it’s the wrong color.
It always seems to be the wrong color for the U.S., especially on international ice away from North America. America’s only golds have come on American ice, and sometimes home-ciuntry advantage doesn’t help. There was a silver in Salt Lake City and another in Vancouver while Canada skated off with the gold both times.
Before and during Friday’s semifinal, Canada showed respect for the U.S. The Canadians said the right thing and played with an aggressive respect at both ends of the ice.
But that aggressiveness also showed a confidence about talent and team and country. With Canada, it’s always about who’s game hockey is. Canada always answers Canada.
Sadly, the U.S. would have to agree. Again.
A Canadian team that had been the best defensively so far was dominant offensively. The Canadians had the puck more and did more with it. They willingly skated at the U.S.’s desired fast pace and were beating the Yanks at it.
What’s more, Canada was as patient and disciplined as it was talented. The Americans had trouble mounting a forecheck because the Canadians were back and well-positioned to defend and break out.
It was hard to believe a U.S. team that entered the game leading this shinny tournament in scoring could be shut out. It also was another sign of how much better the bigger brother is.
Right down to the end, Canada’s pedigree showed. In the last two minutes, the U.S. took a full minute to get into Canada’s zone, and when the Americans finally gained the blue line, they got one chance before Canada cleared the puck.
The U.S. produced another entry. One-and-done there, too. One last entry, and one last frustration: A Canadian player on his knees stifled three Americans trying to get the puck off the back boards.
Game over. Same old story.
You could argue that the U.S. can play with Canada, but it means nothing until the Americans can beat the Canadians in a game that matters. A medal game. A championship game. It’s been a long time since the 1996 Canada Cup.
Then again, a Canadian-based team hasn’t won the Stanley Sup since 1993, which might not be much consolation or even a fair comparison, but it does bring us back to the hockey that really matters.