The 2014 Men’s Olympic Hockey tournament has already provided fans around the world with plenty of entertainment. (Unless you live in Canada, in which case you’re still mad that your team only managed three goals against Norway. But I digress.)
Sweden has been Swedish-ly dominant so far, Austria’s game against Finland basically became the Michael Grabner show—just like everyone expected—and Latvia managed to look almost-not-out-out-of-place in its first few games against the IIHF giants. Almost.
As for Team USA, a 7-1 opening-game drubbing of a solid Slovakian club has laid the groundwork for a serious medal run. At least, as much as a single-game result can lay groundwork like that. (Narrative, people. Narrative.)
For the U.S., the disappointment of losing to Team Canada in overtime of the gold medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was still fresh in everyone’s minds. And if it wasn’t, NBC Sports Network made sure it would be by the time the puck dropped on this morning’s USA vs. Russia Pool A game at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia.
Because what better way to prove you’re a real American than by re-living the experience of barely missing out on the 2010 gold medal, even though you didn’t actually play in the game? Exactly.
Today’s broadcast opening montage featured clips from that USA vs. Canada game, including Sidney Crosby’s overtime winner and celebration. Point made, NBCSN: the Americans would be ready to play today. And we would be ready to watch.
My plan was to wake up at 7:25 a.m. EST, promptly light off fireworks from my apartment window, and chant U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! until the game started. Oh, and then I’d write about the game as it was happening. Because patriotism deserves to be chronicled. (I’m pretty sure that’s in the U.S. Constitution.)
The plan went well for first three periods or so, until travel plans prevented me from watching overtime and the shootout. (I know, I know.) I had to leave my apartment to get on the subway by 9:45 a.m.—which meant going underground and losing all connection with the hockey-watching world—because I am the worst at planning weekend trips.
Long story short, I didn’t check the calendar three weeks ago when I decided that today would be a good day to visit Boston. And because I didn’t check the calendar three weeks ago, I was forced to choose between watching my country and missing my bus.
I’d like to say that my patriotism won out, but I would be lying. And even though watching the postgame highlights was not my first choice, I still had a way to see our boys finish the fight.
So without further ado, here’s how I watched USA vs. Russia and managed to miss the best shootout—from what I can tell on Twitter—to ever happen in the history of the world…
PREGAME: Apparently, 7:30 a.m. is a real time on a Saturday
7:25 a.m. EST — My alarm goes off and I react like I’m coming out of a coma: what’s happening? What’s that noise? I’m hungry. What year is it? And then it hits me: today’s the day my patriotism is the only thing that matters. Legggo.
7:29 a.m. — I flip on NBC Sports Network and Milbury is saying that this tournament means more to the Russians than the Americans because OK I’ll be honest I already tuned out at this point. I don’t care why Milbury thinks the Russians need this win more than the Americans do mostly because I don’t care what Milbury thinks about anything. (No, I’m still not over his New York Islanders front office tenure. Thanks for asking though.)
7:30 a.m. — Gratuitous shots of American and Russian fans representing their countries by wearing face paint and waving flags. The bro in the homemade USA onesie aggressively chanting “U-S-A” wins the best-fan-who-may-also-be-detained-without-cause-by-Putin’s-private-guard argument. And it’s not even close.
7:32 a.m. — NBCSN commentator and NHL Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick does the patriotic-est of voice overs as clips from the USA vs. USSR 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ game are played on-screen. Of course, the U.S. 2010 silver medal footage makes another appearance because if you want to be ready for this morning’s game you have to feel as sad as Patrick Kane did in Vancouver.
7:33 a.m. — “Some Cold Wars don’t end.” –Emrick, displaying all of the jingoism. Needless to say, I approve. Maybe I was only four years old when the Cold War ended but so what? I’m fully on board with treating today’s game like it’s being played on top of a crumbling Berlin Wall.
7:34 a.m. — The Russian uniforms look kind of dope, aside from the Ed Hardy-esque design on the shoulders. (I swear that’s the last positive thing I’ll say about the Russians because we. Are. At. War. With. Them.) Emrick notes that sometimes the Russian crowd engages in chanting just to make noise. Like, just chanting nonsense. So now I’m picturing all their fans as Russian Brick Tamlands because LOUD NOISES.
FIRST PERIOD: Sticks down, puck down
7:36 a.m. — The game’s first stoppage for a puck out of play and of COURSE the guy in a Team USA jersey wins the battle for the puck deflected into the crowd. I’m already too into this game. I’m telling Russian players to SIT THE #@$% DOWN as Alexander Ovechkin gets checked into the boards. I will not apologize.
7:40 a.m. — Sergei Bobrovsky makes a big glove save on a Ryan Callahan slap shot. Callahan crashes the net and the players mix it up in front of Bobrovsky for the game’s first scrum. NBCSN shows the clip of Ovechkin getting bodied earlier and I cheer a little. (OK, a LOT.)
7:42 a.m. — James Van Riemsdyk gets USA’s first good scoring chance after Cally’s shot and oh god I’m calling him Cally now but there’s no time to question my NHL team loyalty. Country over all.
7:46 a.m. — Cally’s jawing with Ovechkin as both players head off for a line change. I’m starting to like him and I can’t help myself. He’s leading the WE-OUCHEA-WE-AIN’T-SCARED charge for Team USA.
7:47 a.m. — Why are the penalty boxes so far apart? Why is the glass along the back wall tinted? Did Putin design the layout? Where’s the creepy Sochi Olympic mascot? I have so many questions and so few answers.
7:49 a.m. — We get our first Inside The Glass segment and I swear Pierre just told a random Russian player to go have some fun out there but I can’t be sure. I’m just going off past experience here. (He did say something about the USA defensemen reversing the flow of play in their own zone which I’m sure is important but whatever.)
7:52 a.m. — Blake Wheeler takes an ill-advised penalty for a trip on Ilya Kovalchuk and the Internet explodes on Long Island. (Insert Kyle Okposo tweet here.) The U.S. penalty killers do their jobs despite Russia getting several high-quality scoring chances. Jonathan Quick makes a couple big saves, covers pucks quickly, and generally slows down the pace of play. He looks calm and collected out there, which is great because I’m borderline hyperventilating every time Ovechkin receives a pass at the near-side faceoff dot.
7:59 a.m. — Russian premature celly dot gif. Ovechkin does a drive by in front of the Team USA net with his arms half-raised as Malkin gets a chance in front that Quick stops with the help of his defense and the excessive freedom that comes from living in the greatest country in the world. So.
8:02 a.m. – Lots of end-to-end action right now. Both teams are generating chances although Russia has had the better of them. The Russians seem faster and more aggressive which stems from playing in front of their home crowd and possibly playing as if they know what happens to Russian players who lose games. [Cut to shot of Putin staring maniacally]
8:05 a.m. — The U.S. gets a power play at roughly 19:30 of the period. Kane is playing the Alex Ovechkin / John Tavares role: coasting and wheeling on the left wing near boards. All of the U.S. action is going through Kane, which is good because he’s Patrick Kane.
Intermission — The intermission sounds more fun when you imagine that everything Milbury says has a xenophobic subtext. I keep waiting for him to accidentally-on-purpose call Russia “the Soviets.”
SECOND PERIOD: Let the scoring begin
8:22 a.m. — The period opens with USA on the power play for about a minute and a half. Unfortunately, the power play tactics seem a little tentative; USA spends the entire 1:30 trying to dissect Russia’s penalty kill setup and it doesn’t work. Still 0-0 on the scoreboard, but it’s 1-0 USA if we’re keeping score on quality of uniforms.
8:30 a.m. — I learn that the Russia logo on the front of the jersey is the imperial double eagle, once the symbol of the Byzantine Empire (H/T @njalbanese). It was not—as I thought—dueling dragons wearing Pope hats. Alas.
8:32 a.m. — Max Pacioretty to the box for a hold, which means another power play for Team Russia and this isn’t fun for me. Ovechkin hits the post twice and fires another shot over the bar. I’ve been holding my breath this whole time and I don’t even know what’s happening. I swear I’ve seen Quick pick the puck out of his net like eight times but maybe that’s only in my head.
8:35 a.m. — “Ovechkin, he WANTED to shoot.” –Emrick. Doesn’t he always, Doc. Doesn’t he always. Meanwhile, Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Kesler block horrifically powerful shots and somehow don’t die. The fancy stat for grittiness is “blue collar” and right now USA is +11.4% blue collar rel with McDonagh and Kesler on the ice.
8:38 a.m. – Pavel Datsyuk does Pavel Datsyuk things, torching USA D-men John Carlson and Brooks Orpik on a beautiful stretch pass from Andrei Markov and burying a wrist shot past the outstretched glove of Quick. 1-0 Russia. My scouting report on Datsyuk: HE IZ GUD AT HOCKEE.
8:43 a.m. – 4-on-4 hockey for two minutes as USA and Russia get coincidental minor penalties. 4-on-4 on Olympic ice is the equivalent of playing pond hockey on Lake Superior or at least that’s how I picture it. I am not disappointed; it’s beautiful.
8:45 a.m. — I google ‘gulag’ because this is Olympic hockey and I am woefully inept in the historical facts department. In case you’re wondering.
8:48 a.m. – “We have trusted we’ve entertained you during [the ice-scraping break] by showing you a bunch of Canadians.” –Emrick. I am less than enthused, Doc. Less than enthused. Meanwhile, Dustin Brown draws a penalty on Alexander Radulov by being Dustin Brown. (I’m assuming Brown said something to Radulov to make the Russian forward check Brown in the back when the puck was 150 feet away from him.)
8:52 a.m. — If I didn’t wake up my next-door neighbors while yelling at the TV after Van Riemsdyk’s near-goal, I definitely woke them up with my cheering at Cam Fowler’s goal. The puck caromed off his skate as he was stopping but it counts nonetheless and the game is tied 1-1. Somewhere in Sochi, Thomas Vanek is telling a disinterested tourist about the War Room in Toronto and the terrible people the NHL employs there.
8:53 a.m. — No shot of Russian president Vladimir Putin after the Fowler goal which means he’s probably in the process of taking off his shirt and demanding a pair of skates. “I VILL FIX DIS SITUATION NOW. I VILL SHOW USA HOW THE REAL HOCKEY IS PLAYED.”
9:00 a.m. — Kane goes off for hooking; NBCSN announcers pan the Russian player for going down so easily; world keeps on spinning.
THIRD PERIOD: Weathering the storm, or waving it off entirely
9:21 a.m. — Team USA penalty kills are becoming a thing and I am just. Not. Having. It. Sitting through a PK every couple of minutes is one of those behaviors that your doctor tells you to avoid. NBCSN shows a replay of a near-miss by Datsyuk on a shot from the dot that just goes wide; even in slow motion, his shots are still lethal.
9:23 a.m. — WHAT A SAVE. Quick anticipates Malkin’s shot and pushes across the top of the crease to stone him from 15 feet. The Russians are clearly taking over in terms of momentum but then again that tends to happen when you’re playing a man up for 18,364 straight minutes.
9:25 a.m. — Really glad the Washington Capitals air horn guy made the trip to Sochi. Maybe he has family there? It sounds like he has family there.
9:26 a.m. — Vladimir Tarasenko tries the off-the-back-of-the-net move on Fowler twice in a row—which: ooooooh pretty—but it doesn’t work.
9:31 a.m. — my downstairs neighbors hate me because they’re now awake, whether they wanted to be or not. Joe Pavelski rifles home a shot on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Kane on the power play, and USA is up 2-1. The slow motion replay, while gorgeous, still doesn’t make me believe what just happened. The crowd noise from the USA supporters is admirably loud at Bolshoy, which is fantastic because it’s admirably loud in my apartment right now.
9:32 a.m. — On the role of xenophobia in Olympic hockey: if we didn’t have the Cold War, this USA vs. Russia game would be nowhere near as entertaining. I mean are people really excited to watch Latvia and Switzerland? Can you think of two more boring countries? You want excitement in your hockey, and that can only be generated by a nuclear arms race and protracted cultural animosity between two world superpowers. But don’t quote me on that.
9:36 a.m. – Emrick on painkillers, kind of making my point: “There are some [medicines] you cannot take over here. There is such a thing as testing back home.” You go, Doc. YOU HYPE UP THAT FDA.
9:38 a.m. — The moment of truth. I was hoping for a 2-1 score line before I left the apartment—again, I’m dumb because missing USA hockey is grounds for having your U.S. citizenship revoked—but Datsyuk scores on yet another Russian power play to tie the game at two. He fires a low, hard shot through a Radulov screen and beats Quick five-hole. The crowd is loud and I am scared.
9:40 a.m. — I don’t know how to explain what I saw but I’ll try. In between doing some last-minute packing and trying to leave the apartment on time, I see Russia score a goal on what appears to be a sick deflection. But the refs huddle and decide to wave it off because a) they’re not interested in making it out of Sochi alive, or b) THEY FORGOT THAT PUTIN IS IN THE HOUSE. Apparently, they made the right call because the net was slightly off its pegs before the shot was taken, which is great news for Team USA. (Hiding behind the IIHF rulebook probably won’t save the referee though. Still, we Americans thank him for his service.)
9:46 a.m. — “It has been personal on both sides.” Emrick, referring to the animosity between the U.S. and Russia, and also making the greatest understatement in recorded history. <3 U, Doc.
9:47 a.m. — I’m running late for my bus but I don’t care. This game is important and my country needs me; I can’t leave now. I don’t know what the crowd is chanting but I don’t think they know either.
9:51 a.m. — I’ve taken five years off the end of my life by waking up at 7:25 a.m. on a Saturday and by sitting through this game. Good lord. Malkin to the box for making fun of the referee. Or something. USA power play with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. This recap is no longer making sense.
9:52 a.m. — Regulation ends in a 2-2 tie and I have to leave the apartment because I am a bad hockey fan and an even worse American. I can’t believe this is happening. I turn the TV off and shed a single tear.
OVERTIME: What’s happening what’s happening what’s happening what’s happening what’s happening
10:17 a.m. — I have no idea what’s going on. I’m underground on the subway and the ‘No service’ message on my iPhone’s screen is just mocking me at this point. Did we win? Did we lose? Did Putin let loose a dancing bear on the ice? Is that bear wearing a GoPro camera? Literally anything is possible. It’s Russia.
SHOOTOUT: SERIOUSLY WHAT IS HAPPENING I NEED TO KNOW
10:32 a.m. — I am here to tell you that F.O.M.O.H. is a thing and it is terrible. Fear of missing out on hockey used to be a punch line to me, and now it’s happening to me and I’m dying a little inside as each minute passes. My country is behind enemy lines and there’s nothing I can do to help it. Being stuck underground without Wi-Fi or cell service is a nightmare on, say, a Tuesday or whatever, but when the U.S. is currently in the shootout to end all shootouts? Not even the Gulag could be this tortuous. I’m sure of it.
10:35 a.m. — This is the opposite of Stockholm Syndrome because there’s no one on this train to commiserate with me. I assume all 18 people in this car who are voluntarily underground at this moment are Russian spies. Because my world is crumbling around me and they say your mind is the first thing to go.
10:37 a.m. — The kid across from me momentarily gets cell service and answers a call quickly while we’re at the 14th Street station. I frantically try to refresh Twitter, The Score, Google, ANYTHING. Nothing connects before the train moves into the tunnel and I’m still stuck not knowing the final score. This is my nightmare.
10:47 a.m. — I finally make it above ground like a drowning man escaping the waves. Gasping for air Searching for 3G service, I scramble to load the score. When I see USA 3, RUS 2 (SO) on my screen, I react like how people on The Price Is Right react when their names are called to come down to contestant’s row. I’m ecstatic. AND IT’S NOT EVEN A MEDAL GAME. I can’t believe the U.S. pulled off the win, mostly because if they didn’t, I would’ve had to burn my passport and move to Costa Rica or whatever. And even though I couldn’t watch Quick and T.J. Oshie combine to crush the hopes of a nation in real time, I’m happy nonetheless.
Follow me on Twitter (@MichaelWillhoft) so we can trade patriotic memes. It’s what the Internet was invented for.