Canada-Russia hockey matchup promises a historic duel
Just how badly do Canadian hockey fans want a victory in today’s game between Team Canada and the Russian Federation? The anxiety is as thick as cement.
Late in the third period of Canada’s 8-2 blowout against Germany yesterday, a couple of rows of German fans in one of the corners stood and began chanting for their embattled side. They were salvaging some fun from a game their team had been a long way out of for a long time. Within seconds, though, Canadian fans reacted, drowning them out with a bellowing round of “Go Canada go”.
A pair of Boston journalists next to me thought this showed a mean streak in the Canadian fan base. I explained to them that you had to take into account not only the utterly central place that the men’s hockey tournament holds for Canada at these Winter Olympics, but also a few decades’ worth of local frustration with the Vancouver Canucks. It’s a potent mix, and it leaves a lot—maybe too much—riding on every last turn in the play of a Team Canada game.
And if the home fans here in Canada Hockey Place were a little unhinged yesterday, just wait till the puck drops on the game today, which starts in a couple of hours. Crosby versus Ovechkin, Canuck captain Roberto Luongo in net, and all that history between the two international sides—could you write a better script?
Oddly enough, Canada and Russia have run into each other just once in Olympic competition: at the 2006 Games in Turin, where the Russians won 2-0. (To be clear, that doesn't include games against the Soviet Union, or the "Unified" team that came after the Soviet Union broke up.)
You get the sense that, no matter what Team Canada’s ultimate fate in this tournament, a win here against the high-flying Russians would stick in the nation’s memory for a long, long time.
Photo gallery: Men's ice hockey - Canada vs. Russia.