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Hockey Hodge Podge
Olympics wowed the hockey world
3/10/10 - By Steve Flores -

As the regular season heads towards the home stretch I thought I would take some time to look at a few issues other than whether or not the Sharks will be 'more ready' and 'more raring to go' than they usually are come the post-season. Taking a step back in time I wanted to give some kudos to the USA Olympic Men's hockey team.

Call me a jingoist if you like but I didn't exactly feel the love for the efforts of the American men. The USA side was expected 'at best' by most 'experts' to have a chance at reaching the medal round. Some pundits did select them to win the Bronze medal but overall they were given less than a snowball's chance of getting to the Gold medal game.

On the other hand Canada's 'Dream Team' - a team absolutely loaded with the world's best individual talent - did achieve the ultimate goal and won the Gold on home soil. The difference between these two teams lies in issues of team concept. The Canadians were expected to win and with the talent they had should have dominated - they did not dominate folks.

The American team was not - on paper - nearly as talented but jelled together quickly and played as a team should.

Overachievers? I think not. A lack of respect from both the Canadian and American hockey media, both pre and post Olympic Games is that which continues to bother me. The American team did not overachieve. They came to play and play they did. They downed the Canadians in round robin play and lost by one shot in overtime of the Gold Medal game. They lost to a team reminiscent of the USA 's old basketball 'Dream Team" of the 90's.

Based on the 'experts' opinions Canada 's team of super stars should have trounced everyone in dominant 'Dream Team-like' fashion. They did not. In fact they struggled at times. They did win and they deserve credit for that win, BUT they did not dominate in most of their games and, in fact, they looked very mortal in the two games against the 'inferior' American side.

The USA has a wealth of young talent - both in the NHL and at the junior levels. In fact there is so much talent at these two levels that you shouldn't be surprised to see the USA achieve one or more major hockey title(s) in the next 8-10 years of international play. Hats off to Brian Burke and his staff and advisors. The efforts of this staff built a USA team that very nearly brought home the Gold in what was one of the best hockey tournaments in the history of the game.

The NHL held another of its G.M. meetings this week in the hockey hot bed of Boca Raton , Florida . The biggest issue on the agenda was the matter of head injuries. As a result of meetings with a group of 8 GM's (including the Sharks Doug Wilson) the league has agreed in principal to put forward a recommendation for a rule to change that will address the issues of hits to the head during games.

According to the NHL Dean of Discipline NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell "A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

In a nutshell NHL players are presently allowed to levy headshots as long as they are delivered via the shoulder. The new recommendation needs to be approved by the NHL and the NHLPA as well as the NHL Board of Governor's before it can be adopted as law for next season.

Yes, NEXT SEASON.

It never ceases to amaze me that administrators - in most sports - fail to enact an issue that can be health affecting immediately! So what if it's ¾ of the way through the current season. Players react to changes made so enact the rule immediately and hopefully protect a player from major damage. But, of course that would make way too much sense.

Moving back to the Olympic subject. I had the great joy of attending the Vancouver games for a week. I actually attended the USA vs. Norway and Canada vs. Switzerland games during round robin play. The games were actually more like events rather than the run of the mill early round contests. The air in both GM Place and the city itself was electric. The entire city was abuzz with an amazing atmosphere.

It is difficult to parlay the event and the feel that came along with it. I have visited Vancouver many times but never has it had the persona and ambiance that it radiated during the games. For those of you lucky enough to have attended I am sure you know of that of which I speak. The games, the city, the athletes and the people made Vancouver the center of the universe for two weeks and it was truly a special time.

Ok enough blather let's get our minds back on the prize as the San Jose Sharks begin yet another quest for that always elusive Cup of Lord Stanley.


Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com

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