Washington Times: Winter Olympics: U.S. Hockey Downs Canada

Washington Times: Winter Olympics: U.S. Hockey Downs Canada

Monday, February 22, 2010 – Excerpted from the article by Karla Bruning

The sky is falling. The U.S. men have beaten Canada at their own game—for now. And after all the hype and hoopla surrounding these Olympics games, Canada may need hockey gold now more than ever.

“To beat Canada on their own soil is special,” said U.S. forward Ryan Kessler of the cross-border showdown, which ended in the biggest U.S. v. Canada upset since the epic figure skating Battle of the Brians at the 1988 Calgary games.

While NBC’s primetime coverage went to ice dancing, the U.S. v. Canada game was relegated to MSNBC. But in Canada, the national obsession is primetime. Which meant all of Canada was watching the stinging national defeat.

Much has been made of Canada’s “Own the Podium” program, which pumped $110 million into helping those winter athletes with the most medal potential. Hockey, of course, was a top priority.

But trash talking, Canadians? Really?

“We’re still going to be nice and win,” said Michael Chambers, president of the COC.

That seemed more like it—like running television ads that outlined the quest for gold and money spent, as if to apologize.

“This is so Canadian,” said Catherine Warren, president of FanTrust Entertainment Strategies, a Vancouver-based management consulting company focused on building fan relationships. “You’d never see in the states any sort of justifications or explanation for supporting the athletes. I felt that they were trying to appeal to the average Canadian by saying look we had to do this but we’re almost sorry.”

Warren said winning gold “absolutely” matters to Canadian fans.

“I think we have extremely high hopes specifically around hockey,” she said. “If we can win the biggest competition in sport, that’s going to really affect our sense of identity. We’re just known as somewhat self-effacing and modest or self deprecating and humble.”

Judging by the outpouring of Canadiana on Facebook and Twitter, the fans will let their voices be heard.

Facebook groups like “Canada for Gold,” and “Gold Canada Gold,” have popped up all over Facebook.  “First Gold For Canada,” self-described as “a group of hockey fans lending their support to the biggest achievement of any athlete in Canada’s history! First Gold On Canadian Soil!” has over 10,000 members in their regional Facebook groups.

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