You can only create parity in sports by putting some kind of limit on the players a team can assemble. In the NHL, they use their play money of cap space, and the real money via a form a limited revenue sharing. The result, which you think you hate, is close games that can go either way. In some ways, it allows randomness to seem to rule, but in other ways it spreads out the joy in of winning to everyone.
The Olympics have more parity in the women’s game than they have shown in my memory (which covers all of it). All the teams have to work to win, and yes, I do expect the gold medal game to be us vs them, but did you think Switzerland would contest seriously for bronze?
The Men’s game, which has been tilted so heavily to the Soviets/Russia in my memory created accidental parity by virtue of world where the NHL really couldn’t send their players. Creative solutions were sought by USA and Canada, who both have limited number of European-based players, and with the unwelcome news that NHL-contracted players in the NHL couldn’t play, they did the best they could.
The Americans created a team of college boys and former AHLers of some note (and Mr. Helsinki) and no one should make miracle comparisons about this team. They aren’t scrappy underdogs who win against Canada in a surprise outcome; rather, they’re a very good team and their coach understands what it takes to play 19 year olds, even in net. They deserve their finish atop their group, and no one should call it miraculous, only expected.
Canada had to struggle a little to find players, and enter Josh Ho-Sang, victim of the Leafs cap machinations on an AHL deal. He has an outside chance of a medal from his willingness to prove himself on the team where he seems to fit. Claude Julien, coach of Team Canada, can’t quite decide if Ho-Sang is a top line winger or a fourth-line extra, and well. So it has ever been. I didn’t think Eric Staal knew how to make any hay out of the sun that shines when Ho-Sang has the puck, he seemed to need a simpler game. And so Ho-Sang found himself creating goals with depth grinders in his final group game against China.
This is all very traditional. So is the Russian dominance of the Olympics, but they have challengers.
The group stage didn’t eliminate any teams, but it sent four right to the quarterfinals, the three group winners and the best second-place team. Those four are:
To determine who meets them, the tournament has four single elimination games that winnow the remaining eight teams to four. Those games are:
- Slovakia vs Germany on Monday, February 14 at 11 pm — winner plays USA in the quarters
- Denmark vs Latvia on Monday, February 14 at 11 pm — winner plays Russia
- Czechia vs Switzerland on Tuesday, February 15 at 3:30 am — winner plays Finland
- Canada vs China on Tuesday, February 15 at 8 am — winner plays Sweden
The men’s tournament is compressed because they were accommodating the KHL and the NHL , so the quarterfinals come hard on these qualification games, making the bye mean something.
Canada rolled over China like they were practice dummies in their group stage game, winning it 5-0. They also rolled Germany in the opening game, but fell to the USA. The Americans had to work to beat Germany.
Sweden made Finland work for their group stage win. Finland is the better team on paper, and my number one team here at the Olympics, so while Canada has an effective bye into the quarters, Sweden (with Pontus Holmberg) is tough opponent. In theory, Sweden should take them easily, but hockey isn’t played on paper — don’t know if you’ve ever heard that one.
USA has been a delight to watch, with Matt Knies and Nick Abruzzese playing excellent hockey. They are likely to meet Martin Marincin and the Slovaks, which will be a bit of a test.
Russia will crush whoever they play, but lovers of growth in the game (me!) are thrilled with how well Denmark has played this year.
Finland should also take their quarter, no matter who they face, but the smart money is on Czechia.
Draft Kings are promoting the men’s tournament at SBNation.
All games are on the CBC on air, online and on CBC GEM.