It’s finally here…

I love hockey. This isn’t a surprise to many of you who know me, but hey, I just love hockey. I love local hockey. I love interhouse hockey at university. I love CHL hockey. I love NHL hockey. Men’s hockey, women’s hockey, sledge hockey. But above all I love Olympic hockey.

For those of you who aren’t quite sure why I love hockey, it’s probably because I have an ingrained sense of being Canadian, and there’s something about hockey that speaks to the soul of a Canadian. Lord Stanley gave us the Cup which is now named after him that is adored by 34 million people while he was Governor-General. The names of Canadian hockey heroes, both on and off the ice, are enshrined in the list of greatest Canadians ever – Don Cherry, Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Cassie Campbell, and Hayley Wickenheiser are all household names in this country.

Canada counts its greatest moments carefully. Most Canadians remember where they were in 1972 when Bobby Henderson scored with a minute left in the Summit Series. Almost every Canadian has seen the famous back-pass from Gretzky to Lemieux in the 1987 Canada Cup. The Rocket was cheered for fifteen minutes when last he stood on the ice at the Montreal Forum. And we all remember when Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux, Jarome Iginla and Marty Brodeur brought us gold in 2002.

It’s eight years later. There was terrible disappointment from a lackluster team in Italy in 2006. But now the best names in the world are together for international hockey. Seven competitive teams have been fielded – Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, the United States, Russia, and Canada all have great players. There’s always an outside chance for Switzerland and Germany. But we’ll find out soon, because the puck drops for Team Canada…tonight.

A wealth of talent made it so hard for Steve Yzerman, himself one of the all time greatest players, to pick the team upon which Canada’s hopes and dreams will rise and fall, but I think Steve did a great job. He’s given us a core of solid veterans, promising youngsters, great players in their prime, and one or two of the best hockey players of all time.

In goal, we have the trio of Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, and Martin Brodeur. Fleury has won a silver medal in the World Juniors and a Stanley Cup; Luongo has posted several great years statistically, but everyone knows the job belongs to Martin Brodeur (though Luongo will get the start tonight, to give Marty a break). When you mention the best goaltenders of all time, Marty not only deserves a mention, but he deserves to be mentioned in the top three. He owns every regular season record – wins, minutes, shutouts, games – four Vezina Trophies, four Jennings Trophys, the Calder Trophy, 3 Stanley Cups, 2 World Championships silvers, a World Cup…and Olympic Gold. And he’s still on top of his game.

Out back we have great young defensemen in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Drew Doughty & Shea Weber. Doughty is only 20, but he’s the real deal, definitely in Norris contention this year. Dan Boyle’s won a Stanley Cup, and Chris Pronger has won a Cup, a Hart, and a Norris. But the real story is Scott Niedermayer, second in his generation of defensemen only to Nicklas Lidstrom. Scott’s won Olympic, World Championship, and World Junior Championship Gold; he’s won a Memorial Cup, a World Cup, and four Stanley Cups; he’s won a Norris Trophy and he’s won the Conn Smythe Trophy. And now he gets to add one more distinction to that: Captain of Team Canada at the Olympics, a job he’s shared with professional players Eric Lindros, Mario Lemieux, and Joe Sakic.

And up front we bring but one man over the age of 30: Canadian superhero Jarome Iginla. Everyone else is 30 or younger, and primarily younger. Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews give Canada some great young strength down the middle, with Joe Thornton’s veteran savvy and Ryan Getzlaf’s pure skill. It’s basically impossible to pick…but our 13 forwards have, between them, 4 Memorial Cups, 2 Hart Trophies, 3 Rocket Richard Trophies, 3 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Pearson Awards, 1 Calder Trophy, 4 World Cups, 6 World Junior Golds, 8 World Championship Golds, 2 Stanley Cups, and 1 Olympic Gold.

Puck drops in 9 minutes, so I’m going to go watch…but just so you know. I’m excited.

Go, Canada, go!

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