In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Monday, March 1, 2010

Team USA vs Team Canada for gold

They couldn't have written this story any better if they'd tried.

It was the perfect matchup. Team USA, underdogs written off early in the tournament because they were too young. They had only three guys on the roster who had been in the Olympics before. Sure, they were NHLers, but most of them were under 25 years of age. What did they know about Olympic hockey?

Against Team Canada, the host team, the fathers of hockey. A roster packed with talent, NHL captains, winners of Olympics past. Not to mention, this was a team that had been completely embarrassed in their loss to Team USA during the preliminaries. They were angry, seeking revenge, hungry for the young Americans.

Yours truly was sadly at work during this game, but my phone buzzed constantly with texts from hockey friends and non-hockey friends alike. Even people not ordinarily fans of the sport during the NHL season had fallen in love with the hopes and dreams of these Olympic players.

They wanted to know how this one would turn out.

I was able to watch a good portion of the game with divided attention as I worked. The forechecking and backchecking pressure of the Americans was evident. The hunger and physicality of the Canadians was relentless. Each of these boys played the game of his life, and delivered some of the finest hockey I've ever seen.

Corey Perry would net one goal out of four SOG in this monumental game. Ryan Getzlaf would take an assist.

Despite falling behind for the first time in their Olympic run, the Americans didn't fall apart. They kept their focus, kept their composure, and kept coming. They closed the gap to one goal, and then a miracle.

With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, Zach Parise would deliver a simple strike in the crease that left a puck in the net behind Roberto Luongo.

Yours truly couldn't help but scream. My phone erupted in delight as well. The Americans had pushed the game into overtime! The gold would take more than 60 minutes to be won. How could anyone deny the drive and heart of Team USA?

Seven minutes of sudden death overtime would finally award the gold medal to Team Canada.

I can never stand to see the dejected faces of the losing team, and especially not when they're MY team. Sure, I was elated for our Canadian Ducks, but Team USA represented my country. I watched the medal ceremony with mixed emotions. Not being able to be completely happy for the beaming faces of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Captain Scott Niedermayer, I was distracted by the misery of the loss etched onto the faces of my boy Bobby Ryan, Captain Jamie Langenbrunner, and especially MVP Ryan Miller.

To them, I want to say that I am so very proud of their effort. Nobody, hockey experts and casualists alike, would have ever guessed that Team USA would compete for gold, that these young boys would slaughter Team Finland in a 6-1 landslide, that they would completely humiliate these very Canadians with a 5-3 trouncing. Team USA has absolutely nothing to be sorry for. They went above and beyond all expectations. They captured the hearts of a nation and the attention of the world.

What you've done for the sport of hockey, is beyond words. There will be so many new fans watching as you return to your respective NHL teams to complete your season. And for all of us old fans, including yours truly, you gave us the opportunity time and time again to say, "This, this is why I LOVE hockey!"

Celebratory congratulations to Getzy, Pears, Scotty, and Team Canada! But heartfelt thank yous to Bobby, Ryan Whitney, and Team USA! Along with the pride felt for the valiant efforts of Jonas Hiller and Luca Sbisa with Team Switzerland, and Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu with Team Finland, I am so very proud of all of our Olympic Ducks.

Seven Ducks will return home with Olympic medals, that's the most of any NHL team (San Jose comes in second with five). There's no way a team with such talented individuals can't put together a successful playoff run.

So how about it, boys? Let's go get Stanley!


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