Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shades of... 1992

In the legend of the Dream Team (1992 edition), the game that everyone wishes they had seen was a scrimmage that then-coach Chuck Daly organized between players from the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Daly was apparently concerned that too much competition in practice could have an adverse effect on the Dreamers -- but finally, in the lead up to Barcelona, he succumbed and allowed the best in the world to settle things at full speed. It was, it is reported, a game for the ages.

We may have seen another tonight. Thirty years after the Miracle on Ice, the game of the Olympics has changed -- never again will a sports power like the United States send a bunch of amateurs to take on professionals, from the Soviet Union or anywhere else. But the challenge of international competition remains the same.

And tonight, with the pressure on the home team, the US-Canada hockey game was (perhaps) a throw-back to the East/West scrimmage in 1992. For 60 minutes, with end-to-end action, the game was played at the intensity level of a Stanley Cup final -- but with the talent one would see in an All-Star Game. Favored Canada outshot the US 45-22, but US goalie Ryan Miller answered the barrage -- especially in the last few minutes -- and bought his team a bye into the quarterfinals of the medal round. Team Canada will now face tough questions and brutal headlines as it heads in the second week of the competition.

Whether the US can survive to the medal stand (which has happened only once since 1980 (a silver in 2002)), it was the type of game that the NHL can be proud of -- and one that justifies the suspension of the NHL season for two weeks to allow the Olympics to proceed.

Do we believe in miracles?

Perhaps not, anymore.

But we do believe in international sport played at the highest level.

And on national TV, rather than in a closed practice.

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