Sports

Picking Splinters: Olympic Mailbag & Beyond

Mike,

How about that upset by Team USA over Canada in ice hockey? What do you think? The new “Miracle on Ice?” Anything else you’re taking away from the hockey tournament so far?

Gary B.

Gary, you’re smoking large quantities of undiluted narcotics if you think Sunday night’s win is even remotely on par with the events of Feb. 22, 1980.

Fact: Mike Eruzione ended the Cold War. Fact: Herb Brooks led the extraction of the American hostages from the Iranians. Fact: Had Jim Craig been guarding the door to the U.S. embassy in the first place, nothing would have gotten through.

As you’ve probably ascertained, there’s a little hyperbole there. The reason is that so many people regard what those college kids did 30 years ago as the single greatest moment in sports. It was the upsets to end all upsets, and it came at a time when the American ego was getting crushed by oil and hostage crises, and trampled on it Red Square. National pride had never been lower. This gave everyone from Lake Placid to Lake Tahoe a reason to embrace the red, white and blue.

The U.S. win over Canada? That’s small potatoes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great win. But it had no medal implications, the Canadians barely escaped Switzerland a game earlier and this U.S. team features NHL all-stars. Eruzione and several of his teammates never even made it to the NHL.

As for my favorite hockey moment? Easy. That came when Alex Ovechkin freight-trained Jaromir Jagr at center ice, took the puck and set up what would be the game-winning goal for the Russians over the Czechs. Seriously, is there any better metaphor for the turnaround in Washington Capitals hockey? Old, unmotivated star (Jagr) gets drilled by uber-determined young star (Ovechkin) whose team immediately enjoys the fruits of his skill and effort. Gotta love it.

Mike,

It’s Gary again. Forgot to ask: What do you think about the NHL not participating in the next Olympics in Russia?

Gary B.

Watching teams like Norway, Latvia, Belarus et al has shown me that the skill gap between NHL players and non-NHL players is vast. At this point, an NHL-less Olympics would be close to unwatchable to me.

Think about this too. Not only would the NHL stars not go, but the best prospects from the minor leagues would likely be withheld too. I mean, if NHL owners don’t want to risk the players they’re paying, they’re not going to risk any of them, right? Losing a future star to injury is just as bad as losing a current one.

That said, the majority of the players seem to want to play in the Olympics, particularly those Russians who will enjoy the advantage of home ice in Sochi at the 2014 games. In order to keep their stars happy, and from defecting to a rival league, I think the NHL will ultimately concede and we’ll see the game’s best players on the ice in 2014. In return for that permission, I would think the NHL would be able to receive a finalized transfer agreement so that NHL teams could rest easy about the specter of their stars being lured away by the league’s Russian rival, the KHL.

Hume,

What’s your read on the Hoyas for the NCAA championship week?

Craig E.

The win over Louisville on Tuesday was a big one. Not only did it end a two-game slide, but it put to rest all fears that such a skid would slide Georgetown right out of the Tournament field. Now they have some breathing room and with wins against Notre Dame, West Virginia and Cincinnati could secure a double-bye as one of the top four teams in the Big East Tournament. That’s big because the Hoyas could use some extra rest.

I’m not a believer that deep teams are always better. In fact, among the nine teams that used their bench less than 20 percent of the time last season, three of them made their Tournament, with two advancing to the Sweet 16 and one to the Elite 8. However, Georgetown’s biggest problem now is on the defensive end and I can’t help but think it’s tied to effort level and tired legs.

If Georgetown wants any shot at the Big East Tournament crown, I think they’ll have to get that double-bye.

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