December 15th, 2017

Reason to get excited about the Olympics

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on December 7, 2017.

It’s time Canadians and Medicine Hatters, in particular, got excited about the coming Olympic men’s hockey tournament.

In the five events since professional players were first admitted to the Olympic Games the quadrennial tournament has become bigger north of the border than the Super Bowl..

With NHL and International Olympic Committee failing to come to terms ahead of the rapidly approaching games in South Korea, its become a non-event for many Canadian sport fans.

This is bandwagoneering at its best and at its worst exposes a shallow, conceited, shameful, fake patriotism.

There are good reasons to believe the 2018 tournament may not be as good as previous events, but when has good sense ever got in the way of love or passion.

In a bare analysis, Canadian hockey fans aren’t dreaming up line combinations or furiously debating the make-up of round robin pools.

The Canadian contingent will be made up of minor leaguers playing outside the National Hockey League’s farm system, mainly in Europe.

And the coach, in a very rough analysis, just got fired from his real job.

That man is former Tigers coach Willie Desjardins, who Hatters may also know from the grocery store.

It’s hard not to think that he could be just the man for the job considering a reputation for getting the most out of players, especially underachievers, earning their trust and best effort.

Desjardins, recently dismissed from guiding the Vancouver Canucks, also takes over the job title of his coaching mentor Dave King, who was behind the bench for the national team in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Anyone who knows the man knows well that his patriotism and determination are boundless. That should be reason enough for Hatters to take notice and perhaps even believe something great is possible in South Korea.

The Olympics themselves get underway in South Korea in just over two months on Feb. 9, without top professionals from any country.

It’s ironic, it must be noted, that Canadians once argued that the former Soviet Union unfairly paid players while explaining away why Canada hadn’t topped the podium since a senior men’s league team from Edmonton did it in 1952.

When NHL players were eventually allowed to compete, in 1998, it was a hardly spectacular, fourth-place finish.

There’s been magic since, including gold in Salt Lake, Sochi and on home ice in Vancouver, but also an inglorious seventh-place exit in Turin, Italy.

The Americans won gold with a rag-tag group of college players in 1980 — the so-called Miracle on Ice — and they haven’t stopped talking about it since.

No editorial can convince its readers to truly take something to heart, to believe.

People will be more or less excited about the coming tournament as they see fit.

But we think that they team will surprise and maybe even impress.

Count us as being on the bandwagon early.

(Collin Gallant is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

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