Dec 8, 2001
The day of selection for the Canadian Olympic Men's hockey team is approaching faster than Paul Kariya in full stride, and it is time for me to make my plea. Canadian hockey fans are starving for an international triumph. It seems we have gone a surprising amount of time without having claim to international hockey supremacy. The reasons have been debated, discussed and rehashed over and over since the World Cup loss to the United States, and the medal zero in Nagano. The debate will rage on until we take back our place in hockey's penthouse, a place currently occupied by the Czechs. It seems we have lost our international confidence, our swagger, and our "attitude" if you will. It is time to get it back. It is time to get the great Red Maple Leaf Machine going and we as fans and media can take the lead.
My plea to Canadian fans and media is this; once the Team Canada roster is picked, possibly on December 15th or definitely by the 22nd, let's get 100% behind our guys. Actually, to take a favorite hockey player cliché, let's get 110% behind them. Save the second-guessing. Save the debates. Save the politics and negativity for the House of Commons. If we cannot support and trust a team picked by a staff built by the greatest hockey player that has ever laced 'em up, then we have truly lost focus. We have from December to February to regain the "attitude" going in to Salt Lake. Let us sing the praise of the players chosen, not fuss and whine about the one or two who weren't. The fans and media in our country can make an impact. We can be an asset or a distraction. We can be a positive or a negative, and far too often these days we choose to be the latter. Right now, Team Canada doesn't need the cancer of negativity. Do the Czechs have to deal with the questions, doubts and distractions every single day? Do the Russians? Does Team U.S.A? They can spend their energy, knowledge and time focusing on what truly matters. We as fans and media can actually hurt our team's chances by drumming up stories and controversy. Who should be there that isn't and who is there that shouldn't be, these are the things that are a distraction to the players if they must speak on it constantly. Do we really need to second-guess that Joe Thornton should or shouldn't be there over Mike Peca? Either one can be a center on my team any day. Should we debate Ed Jovanovski over Eric Brewer? Both players can do the job well in any given game. Canada has the advantage of options and depth, let's not off set that advantage by distracting the psyche of the players who were chosen. They were chosen. Let's support them.
It is all about confidence and attitude. We should get back to boasting "Jarome Iginla or Ryan Smyth, either one will punish the opposing D", or "Curtis Joseph or Martin Broduer, either one will stone the opposing forwards." That is what we did heading in to the '84 Canada Cup, '87 Canada Cup and '91 Canada Cup, all Canadian victories. The distractions were minimal. The goal was common. The support was unconditional. We have gotten away from supporting and turned to doubting. We have become our own worst enemy. Let's not make the same mistakes we made in Nagano. Sure, it is our right to debate, but do we really think we know better than Team Great One? Come on. No one and I repeat no one in the world knows more about the game and winning than Wayne Gretzky. Let's let him be our leader, and give him the support and confidence he deserves. Wayne Gretzky stated recently that he really doesn't understand the sideshow and all the "crap" that comes with his task. He was referring to the wrestling with the federation, the player's union, and the outcry about ice-time allowed to prepare. He was also referring to the distractions and doubt that the media and fans obsess about. We spend our time and energy debating each other and focusing on the controversy of who is not going, (Patrick Roy anyone?) rather than focus on the brilliance and the talents of the guys who are. Meanwhile, the Czechs, Russians and Swedes smirk and lick their chops.
There is a commercial on the Canadian airwaves right now promoting Team Canada and the Olympics where a coach bus pulls up to the border, packed with red and white wearing, Maple Leaf waving, face painted fanatics, all on their way to Salt Lake. A customs agent looks in at all the fans as they sit in their seats politely and silent. The agent asks the bus driver if anyone has brought any items to declare across the border. The bus driver answers: "oh, just a few Team Canada T-shirts," then pauses in silence. Just then a fan in the middle of the bus bursts out of his seat and screams "And one giant can of whoop ass!" which ignites a huge, sustained roar from every other fan on the bus. That commercial is a perfect illustration of how we should be. Let's get in the spirit. Throw all of our support behind our team heading into the tournament. Give them the confidence needed to actually open that "can of whoop ass" on every other country that thinks they can beat us on the ice.
That is my plea to Canadian fans and media. That is what we are missing right now. A hockey great once said "winning is an attitude." Let's get that attitude rolling full steam ahead going in to Salt Lake City. What better place to reaffirm our hockey supremacy than U.S. soil.
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