The 2014 Olympic hockey tournament is in the books. And after four years of anticipation, we wound up right back where we were in Vancouver in 2010: Canada wins gold in the men’s tournament, and Canada wins gold in the women’s tournament.
And that’s pretty much it. But should it be? After all, as we’ve already discussed, it seems unfair that every other sport seems to award dozens of medals while hockey gets just two events. For a sport that’s arguably the most popular in the Winter Olympics, it feels like we should have more hardware to hand out.
So let’s do that. As we bid good-bye to Sochi with one last look back at all the hockey action, let’s take the opportunity to hand out medals in 10 more Olympic hockey events.
The “Breakout Star of the Games” Event
Bronze: Mikael Granlund
Long considered one of the league’s top prospects, the 21-year-old’s talents have always been well-appreciated by Minnesota Wild fans. But Sochi may have served as his coming-out party as a top star leaguewide thanks to a strong performance that saw him named to the tournament all-star team.
Silver: Carey Price
Price has been a very good goalie over the course of his career, but he has always seemed to hover just outside of the “very best in the league” discussion. But after a dominating Games that ended with a 164-minute shutout streak, he may have finally ascended to that top tier. WHAAAT?
Gold: Phil Kessel
Sochi will be remembered as the moment that the world learned to love Phil Kessel. When he and his sister Amanda weren’t racking up points, he emerged as the most GIFable, memeable, Vineable, and just downright lovable athlete at the Olympics. It is Phil Kessel’s world now. The rest of us just live in it.
The “Most Ridiculously Contrived Script That Actually Happened” Event
Bronze: The T.J. Oshie Show
Sure, in the end it didn’t really matter, since neither team won a medal. And yes, we only got to see it because of a lucky no-goal call on a technicality. Still, Oshie’s solo effort in a shootout against Russia was great theater. Now let’s all agree to never say anything nice about the shootout ever again.
Silver: Teemu Selanne
The Olympics’ all-time leading scorer added two more goals in the final game of his Olympic career, helping Finland pound the U.S. to secure his fourth medal. Oh, and he got named tournament MVP at the age of 43. I’m assuming he didn’t also stop to perform CPR on a puppy because he’s saving that for his final NHL game in a few months.
Gold: The entire U.S.-Canada women’s final
The “Making Sad Faces” Event
Bronze: Patrick Kane
He was very sad after the USA’s semifinal loss to Canada.
Gold: Patrick Kane
He followed that up by getting two penalty shots in the bronze-medal game and missing on both of them, which somehow made him even sadder.
The “Best Performance (Non-Player Category)” Event
Bronze: Steve Yzerman
Being GM of Team Canada is a tough gig; you either come home with gold, or you’re an idiot. Yzerman has done the job twice, and he’s won twice. There won’t be a third time, he announced Sunday, after which he presumably dropped the mic.
Silver: Ted Nolan
Before being hired by the Buffalo Sabres in November, Nolan was working as the coach of Latvia’s national team. Months later, many fans were probably surprised to realize that he’d kept that job. But he guided the tiny nation to its best finish ever, including a playoff win over favored Switzerland and a near-upset of Canada in the quarterfinals. If he can do this much with a roster that only had one NHL player, imagine what he can do in Buffalo, where he has like three.
Gold: The Canada post
Red metal = gold medal. You are well and truly a national hero, my friend.
The “Who Can Sustain a Season-Altering Injury?” Event
Bronze: Matt Zuccarello
The Rangers’ leading scorer, who was also the only NHLer representing Norway, broke his hand and will probably miss up to a month. That could turn out to be a critical factor as New York tries to decide how active it should be leading up to next week’s trade deadline.
Silver: Henrik Zetterberg
The Red Wings captain had been dealing with a bad back heading into the Olympics, but had hoped to play through it. He only lasted one game before returning to North America and undergoing back surgery that will likely keep him out of the Wings’ lineup for two months. The good news: He could return in time for the playoffs.
Gold: John Tavares
The Islanders’ franchise player blew out his MCL during Canada’s win over Latvia. That not only ended his season, but caused New York GM Garth Snow to have this entertaining meltdown that we could all make fun of.
The “Team Stats That Make No Sense” Event
Bronze: Switzerland finished second in its group despite scoring twice in three games
The Swiss have been a notoriously defense-first team, but this was ridiculous. They earned two round-robin victories thanks to a pair of 1-0 wins. Their only loss, of course, was by a score of … 1-0. Swiss hockey. Feel the excitement.
Silver: Nobody could score more than twice against Finland … except Austria
The Finns played four of the world’s superpowers. They shut out the U.S., gave up just one goal to Russia, and two each to Canada and Sweden. But Austria lit them up for four. Granted, they gave up eight in the process, but still.
Gold: Only one team could score on Canada in the playoffs … and it was Latvia
Nobody from the United States could do it. Nobody from Sweden could do it. But Lauris Darzins of Latvia? He got it done.
The “Narratives That Can Now Mercifully Die” Event
Bronze: “Women’s hockey is boring”
OK, maybe you’re not interested in seeing another lopsided prelim game featuring a North American power stomping a European weakling. That’s fine. But at this point, can we all agree that Team Canada vs. Team USA is pretty much mandatory viewing?
Silver: “The big ice increases offense!”
For years, hockey fans have been told that moving the NHL rink to the wider international dimensions would increase scoring. Give players more space to work with, the theory went, and they’ll use it to create more offense. But here’s the thing about that extra ice: All of it is inconveniently located really far away from the net, so it doesn’t help much at all in the offensive zone. And in the neutral zone, it just makes trapping even more important. Even in a tournament with the most skilled players in the world, all that big ice in Sochi often led to dull, uninspiring hockey.
Gold: “Canada may not be the best in the world anymore!”
This shouldn’t even have been a question — Canada supplies more than half the NHL’s players and has won the majority of history’s best-on-best tournaments — but if you somehow needed more evidence, it was provided in Sochi. Canada dominated, becoming the first team in 30 years to go undefeated while not trailing for a single second. Five or six nations are now good enough to win a short tournament, and the divide between Canada and the rest of the world continues to shrink. But as we saw over the last two weeks, there’s clearly still a gap, and anyone who pretends otherwise is foolish.
The “Narratives That Sadly Won’t Die” Event
Bronze: “1-0 games can be entertaining!”
Despite the lack of offense, that U.S.-Canada semifinal was edge-of-your-seat stuff from the moment the puck dropped, right? Hope you thought so, because from now on you’re going to be hearing about it from league apologists every time you point out how dull the latest mid-November Devils-Sabres trap-fest was.
Silver: “There are different rules for fighting in the Olympics and the NHL”
Enjoy the 8,000 identical sarcastic tweets that will flood your timeline the first time two guys drop the gloves tomorrow night.
Gold: “Why can’t the USA beat Canada?”
Do the Americans play the wrong style? Do they have some sort of mental block? Do they just not care? Here’s a thought: Maybe Canada just has better players. Team Canada has won back-to-back gold medals, but the U.S. has been one goal away from eliminating it both times. That somehow makes them a national program in crisis? Other countries probably wish they had that sort of problem.
The “Most Disappointing Performance by a Country” Event
Bronze: Czech Republic
Suddenly, 1998 feels like a very long time ago. The Nagano gold medalists were supposed to be a threat to get back to the podium, but they never seemed remotely dangerous. They were upset by the Swiss in the preliminary round and were absolutely no match for the U.S. in the quarterfinals.
While it’s not in the Big Six, it has emerged over the years as the consensus seventh hockey power. But it was a disaster in Sochi, going winless in the round-robin while scoring just twice in three games, and then bowing out to the Czechs in the playoffs.
It was always going to be gold-or-bust for Russia on home ice. Let’s just say it didn’t come close to gold.
The “Sympathetic Figure” Event
Bronze: Pavel Datsyuk
There’s plenty of criticism to go around for Russian stars who struggled to produce, like Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. But not for Datsyuk, the veteran center who battled through injuries to suit up for a tournament he said he’d been waiting for “all my life.” In what will probably be his last Olympics, he tied for the team lead in scoring, but couldn’t drag his teammates to a medal.
Silver: Nicklas Backstrom
The Swedish star was pulled from the lineup just hours before the gold-medal game after failing a drug test, apparently for using allergy medication he’d been taking for years. We reserve the right to rescind this pick if there turns out to be more to the story — it wouldn’t be the first time an athlete’s innocent explanation for a failed test turned out to be a little too convenient — but right now, it sure looks like he got screwed.
Gold: Patrick Kane
Seriously, I’m worried about him, you guys. This is the sort of trauma that makes young men transform into superheroes. Somebody find him and give him a hug before he oh god no we’re too late.