Olympic classic, but uncertain future
When it was over, Patrick Kane lamented the loss, then the wait.
"It sucks we have to wait another four years for an opportunity like this," said the young American star, after a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Canada in the gold-medal game on Sunday.
Truth is, no one knows for sure how long the wait will be for any of the NHL players to participate in the Winter Olympics. The agreement to participate is officially over and will ultimately become a bargaining chip in the next collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the Players’ Association.
It is quite clear how the players feel about participating in a fifth Olympics, which would be held in Sochi, Russia four years from now. They want to go. The NHL won’t say, though the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee want the NHL back.
If you give a vote to Team USA coach Ron Wilson, he would happily go.
"I hope the players, especially my group gets to go to Sochi," he said. "I think it is great for hockey. I think, myself, that we have to give back to all fans everywhere. We do a pretty good job of stealing players from every country and I think we owe it to their fans to witness a tournament like this."
Wilson added, though, that he believes the game should be played on NHL size ice, not the wider international size.
"If they do go to Sochi, I would urge the NHL to give the players a couple of extra days. That’s a hell of a long way to travel. I would hope they play the games on this ice surface because the games are so much better.
"The game tonight had so much intensity. Canada and the United States play the game the way it should be – not sitting back and playing on your heels and waiting for something bad to happen and counter-punching, but actually going on the attack.
"I know Mike’s [Babcock] teams play that way and I try to play that way, not very successfully right now with my team in Toronto."
That, of course, was met with a hearty laugh in the media room.
"It’s nothing to laugh at," continued Wilson. "I’m teaching them to play the right way; not the Slovakian, Czech or Russian way where you sit back and wait and wait and wait. We are on the attack.
"This was a classic hockey game, just as our game was a week ago with the Canadians and to me it is exactly the way the game should be played. To me, the game was invented in Canada and I think we in the United States have morphed into the same style of play and it is fun to play that way."
As for the loss, well, there was obvious and understand disappointment, but Wilson was also quite impressed by his team.
"It’s tough to lose a game that way," he said. "I couldn’t have asked anything more of our players. They did us proud. It’s a shame that both teams couldn’t have received a gold medal today. Sometimes, the best team in the tournament doesn’t win a gold medal. I thought our team played as well as any team I have ever coached."