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2010: An Ice Odyssey

“What happened to that dude, what fucking happened?”

The words rang out from my friend Zac Greer’s shiny, bic’d up head. Al Pacino was on television, one of many stars urging Americans to donate to One.com. The actor looked creaky and old, haggard. Zac was not exactly paying attention, but became saddened. What happened to Pacino, the strapping young colt of “The Panic in Needle Park”? What happened to Serpico, to Bobby Deerfield, to Glen Ross? Zac wondered aloud. We laughed, but five years since the ad’s air date, we’re still none of us sure.

I felt the same way Sunday night watching Canadian Olympic hockey team suffer an ignoble 5-3 home loss at American hands. What happened to the Canadian team, made up of All-Stars and Hall of Famers both? Where did our legs go? Why wasn’t there any fire from the point? Where was the development factory of years past, short and tall Quebecers, broad hosers and technically-citizens from British Columbia? What happened?

Goaltending was a big issue. Ryan Miller, of Buffalo, stone-colded Canadian shooters, saving 42 of 45 shots in a game where his offense was badly outmatched. The Canadians spent the better part of the first and third periods in the American zone, but did not score reflective of their chances. In a small sample size — in this case, a single game — a great goalie goes a long way. Canada’s Martin Brodeur isn’t what he was, and coughed up the puck several times, once leading to an American goal when he left the net. Brodeur could be the greatest to ever play the position, but he has Achilles heels: he can’t save anything high stick side. (The Ottawa Senators exploited this in 2007, en route to beating him and the New Jersey Devils like a drum.) Roberto Luongo, an Italian-Canadian with a sick ponytail, and the goalie for Vancouver’s NHL team, should have been in nets. There was no paucity here: The Canadian third-string goalie is the reigning Stanley Cup winner, and has been tested. But Brodeur was creaky, and Canada lost.

There was also the question of lines and rosters. Coach Mike Babcock, who graduated from McGill, gave the Canadians some odd lines. Jarome Iginla was playing with Crosby: Iginla might have been better served on the second line. Dany Heatley, used to playing by power on the Pizza Line, would have provided a fearsome tandem with the playmaking Crosby. (Speaking of playmakers, Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, always a defensive liability, would have only helped the team create shots on the ice.) Ryan Getzlaf, who is huge and rocks a faux-hawk, looked hurt, and his roster spot could have been more effectively filled by Jeff Carter. Or, Anson Carter.

That said, it’s just a game. No taking away from the Americans.1 They played a better discipline of hockey, took fewer penalties and made bigger shots. This was the first sports game I invested myself in emotionally in a while, and it hurt. But Canada is not dead. It plays the Germans on Tuesday, and, if we win, Russia on Wednesday. Tough assignments, to be sure, but extra ice time shouldn’t hurt these All-Stars.

    Footnotes

  1. Especially not from Trumbull man Chris Drury.