U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Upsets Canada, 5-3
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Well, if you're Canadian, the good news today is that your country's beloved national hockey team is still in contention in the Olympic tournament at the Vancouver Winter Games. The bad news, of course, is that Canada lost last night to the United States, which beat Canada 5-3.
NPR's Tom Goldman has the story from Vancouver.
TOM GOLDMAN: Before last night's game at Canada Hockey Place in downtown Vancouver, it was really a matter of choice in terms of finding a loopy Canadian hockey lover to talk to. I chose Dave Ash(ph) amidst the sea of red-shirted, face-painted, maple-leaf-flag-draped fans. The 55-year-old tour director from Saskatchewan was wearing what he described as a Captain Canada outfit.
Mr. DAVE ASH (Tour Director): We have the team Canada jersey with a hockey -white hockey helmet and a red, flashing light on top that usually is used when someone scores a goal. So when Canada scores a goal, the light goes on.
GOLDMAN: All of Canada hoped that Dave Ash would be busy activating that battery-operated light. Canadians consider hockey their game, and this one against the U.S. was for bragging rights, especially in an Olympics that so far hasn't given Canadians much reason to brag. I tried to ask Ash about that before he cut me off.
Canadian athletes in other sports haven't been doing as well as we've been expecting. Do you want to (unintelligible)...
Mr. ASH: The Canadian curling team is undefeated. Individuals may not do well, but our teams kick (bleep).
GOLDMAN: And wouldn't you know it, a Canadian sheds the nice label, talks a little American-style trash, and gets spanked for it.
(Soundbite of buzzer)
GOLDMAN: A mere 41 seconds into the game, Brian Rafalski of the U.S. fired a slap shot that found its way past Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur. It set the scoring tone for the entire game - the Americans would never trail, although Canada tied twice.
It was a high-octane game throughout. Each team pounded the other into the boards. Sticks went flying out of players' hands. Canadian head coach Mike Babcock acknowledged this game had extra juice.
Mr. MIKE BABCOCK (Head Coach, Canadian Olympic Hockey Team): There's no question, we know we share a border and we all play against each other all the time. You know, we're all proud of where we're from, but the reality is there's a rivalry there and you want to be the best.
(Soundbite of cheering)
GOLDMAN: In the game's final minutes, the intensity grew. Canada cut the lead to one after superstar Sidney Crosby scored a goal. The Canadians desperately tried to break through and score again, but couldn't against the tenacious U.S. defense and a wall named Ryan Miller. The U.S. goalkeeper was brilliant all night, stopping 42 of the 45 shots that came at him.
He completely out-played his Canadian counterpart Brodeur, who's considered a lock for the hall of fame, but may end up seeing the bench in these Olympics. Coach Babcock says he'll make a decision about Brodeur without emotion. Everything else around the game was filled with it, from the players, like U.S. forward Paul Stastny.
Mr. PAUL STASTNY (U.S. Olympic Hockey Team): It was awesome. Yeah, it was awesome. You can't beat that.
GOLDMAN: To a teen Canada fan named Sean Grant(ph) from Surrey, British Columbia. After watching the game in a friend's apartment, Grant walked home through downtown Vancouver. The tip of his rolled-up Canadian flag drabbed along the street. So did he.
Mr. SEAN GRANT: Just pissed off right now, to be honest. I really have to say, I was pissed.
GOLDMAN: Take heart, Sean, and all of Canada. The glorious hockey team will live to see another game, but no more do-overs, as the tournament enters its lose-and-go-home phase. For the U.S., the youngest team in the tournament, it's on to the quarter finals, with hopes that history repeats. Last night's win was America's first win over Canada at the Winter Olympics since 1960, the year the U.S. won its first-ever ice hockey gold medal.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Vancouver.