Monday, March 1, 2010

A Day Later (Updated)

It's the day after the Olympics concluded with one of the greatest hockey games ever played. A shame that our heroes didn't pull it out. But they sure left an impression.

The future of USA Hockey is in great shape thanks to emerging stars Ryan Miller, Zach Parise and Patrick Kane with Bobby Ryan, Erik Johnson and Ryan Kesler not far behind. Along with Paul Stastny, captain Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Suter and Brian Rafalski, all had outstanding tournaments. If only they'd gotten more from Phil Kessel, who just never got untracked. Both Kess and Joe Pavelski struggled while role players such as Ryan Malone, Dustin Brown, David Backes, Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan were effective.

Blueliners Jack Johnson and Tim Gleason also impressed with both playing steady. Gleason with his usual gritty self, sacrificing for the good of the team while Johnson showed off some of that speed and chippiness which makes him a staple on the Kings' back end along with Norris hopeful Drew Doughty, who impressed for Canada. Brooks Orpik also had a good two weeks in Vancouver using his rugged physical style to make life difficult on opposing forwards. Former Pens' teammate Ryan Whitney was serviceable.

Much credit must go to USA architecht Brian Burke, who had a heavy heart following the tragic loss of son Brendan. The proud man who's very tough, did an excellent job putting together a roster that could best take advantage of the North American surface. Perhaps that more than anything explained European disappointments Russia and Sweden. Even bronze medallist Finland never seemed comfortable, lucking out against an undisciplined Slovakia, who blew a 3-1 lead falling 4-3. Olli Jokinen was the hero. Our guess is he won't score for a while when the Rangers return.

Just how big was the gold medal game with the dramatic Sidney Crosby conclusion? Battle originator and close pal Steve Lepore reports that it drew an overnight rating of 17.6 million, which is 46 percent better than the USA/Canada Salt Lake match-up.

Sunday’s game is on pace to finish as the highest rated hockey telecast in the United States since 1980.
To put the numbers in perspective, Sunday’s game drew a higher overnight rating than every World Series game since 2004 (including every game of Yankees/Phillies last year), every NBA Finals telecast since 1998, and every NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four game since at least ‘98.

More remarkable is that over 27 million tuned in, topping Salt Lake by 10.5 million. A script which probably couldn't have been written any better unless Parise scored the winner left NBC's Bob Costas and Al Michaels at a loss for words.

Bob Costas:

That’s one of the greatest sports events I have ever seen.

A script so classic that if it were a movie, they would send it back because it was unrealistic.

With all due respect, this can never be repeated. On home soil, for Canada, in the sport that matters most, against the Americans – this can never be repeated. This can never be approached, let alone equaled.

Al Michaels:

You could not have written a better script for this country. The goal that will resonate throughout history in Canada.

Non-hockey markets like Milwaukee, West Palm Beach, Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland and Baltimore all made the top 25 yesterday. Not surprisingly, Buffalo led everyone with 32.6 with upcoming opponent Pittsburgh a close second at 31.9. New York finished 16th drawing 19.0 while Hartford was 17th at 18.5. Why don't they have a team again? The Wolf Pack don't count.

How newsworthy was it? Even hockey hater Mike Francesa discussed it just now with Zach Attack in an insightful interview in which he pushed the Crosby envelope. Parise's answer was interesting, referencing how the two were close earlier in their careers. When the audio becomes available, we'll add it to this post. So, how hard was it for Parise and heartbroken USA 'mates to lose in that fashion?

"This is a group of guys I'll never forget. We battled right to the bitter end."-Bobby Ryan

It’s devastating. It was the biggest game any of us have played in. ... You win a gold. You win a bronze. You lose a silver."-Jack Johnson

It stings right now. ... It feels like ***."-Tournament MVP Ryan Miller

It sucks. It sucks being that close and then losing in overtime.”-Zach Parise

No one knew our names. People know our names now.”-Chris Drury

 Per Globe and Mail's James Mirtle:

From USA Hockey: "Miller ended the tournament with a U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team record for best goals-against average (1.35)."

Good Tweep HockeyJoeGM contributes a solid piece in a letter to Gary Bettman about the opportunity he has.

The fans put up with a ton of garbage and while there’s been a host of new fans that have come to the game, it’s time to do something to pull it all together and become the overlord of the sportsman’s winter. Carpe diem Gary because this is your golden opportunity to pull it all together. Don’t sit around and wait and hope that the NFL and NBA all blow each other to hell with labor problems next year. Grab the reigns and ride this sucker for all it’s worth. By my count there were 40 superstars who put everything they had into this Olympic tournament fighting over what amounts to be a symbolic prize for a pack of millionaires. 
 Hey. He referenced one of our favorite movie quotes from Dead Poet's Society and the memorable Robin Williams' Mr. Keating character.

"Carpe Diem. Seize the day!"

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