It was a given that casual observers would be a tad perplexed at what exactly they were watching when the men’s Olympic hockey tournament started in Pyeongchang, South Korea without NHL players.
“Who are these guys?”
"Why didn’t the NHL go to the Olympics?”
“Is it because of Bettman?”
Those questions have already been asked across the country’s homes and bars countless times, and that will continue until the tourney ends.
A little less expected was that almost every official, professional and so-called expert would have no idea what he was doing when amateurs took the Olympic stage for men’s hockey for the first time since 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.
Here’s how some of the tournament’s main players have fared so far.
The refs come from the international circuit, and every game features a balance of officials from different countries, ensuring no favoritism.
But the game that’s being played isn’t the international hockey norm, and the referees seem utterly confused by that.
There’s little to no fighting and hardly any rough stuff between the whistles in international hockey. And those rules have traditionally been abided by star NHL players who want to win desperately, but also don’t want to get hurt and ruin their seasons.
However, with no NHLers, you get grinders like former Vancouver Canucks Maxim Lapierre. ‘Lappy and many of his teammates only know how to play the game one way, and that’s with heart, grit and determination. That also means annoying and antagonizing your opponents.
So far, the refs seem intent on breaking up every single scrum immediately, as all four of them quickly rush to the scene of every incident. They’re going to have to realize that this group of players isn’t changing the way they play just because they’re on the international stage.
During the shootout last night featuring Team Canada and the Czech Republic (insert Wayne Gretzky joke here), the broadcasters announced the game was over when the Czechs had scored two and Canada one after three shots apiece.
Play-by-play announcer Chris Cuthbert and colour commentator Ray Ferraro proclaimed a win for the Czechs, forgetting or not knowing that, in international play, shootouts are a best-of-five shots, not three.
It was embarrassing, and so was the broadcast completely missing a Czech shootout attempt after extensive viewing of a Canadian goal.
The U.S. lost 4-0 to the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) this morning, a game in which the Americans were dominated by a skilled, clearly superior team.
It looked even worse than it had to though, as U.S. coach Tony Granato accused the Russians of running up the score when the team iced their top powerplay unit with two minutes left in the game.
Yo, Tony, goal differential is a tiebreaker in this tournament. C’mon man.
Even though the Russians were technically safe and didn’t need the tiebreaker, why wouldn’t they try to score in hopes that the Americans didn’t advance to the next round?
The Olympic Athletes from Russia were the favourites coming into the tourney and while they’ve mostly lived up to the hype, they did lose to Slovakia, confounding bettors around the globe.
Since the Games are televised on CBC, Don Cherry has retained his usual Coach’s Corner role, but because the teams don’t feature NHLers, the 84-year-old doesn’t know the players’ names!
Actually, that’s more or less par for the course. Carry on.
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