Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.
That much was evident today as the IOC handed out silver medals to Team USA. Joe Pavelski looked as if someone had just told his mother to buzz off; Zach Parise's eyes indicated a desire to use his medal for skeet shooting on Monday morning. The pain was palpable. It was everything.
And yet, as a hockey fan, it is hard to imagine the 23 players composing Team USA's roster will feel the same way in two months time. What they did these past two weeks was extraordinary-- undefeated up until the Gold Medal game, a team that wasn't ever supposed to be here to begin with. Heart. Youth. Physicality. Speed. Goaltending.
The kids will be alright.
Despite the loss, United States Hockey is on the up and up. A victory over Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey set the sphere in motion, the WJC's two months ago kept it rolling, and today's gritty comeback against the Canadians solidified it's trajectory. The youngest team in this year's Olympic Games has a lot to be proud of, and for a country that has always played second fiddle to it's northern brother on the ice, it is refreshing to see. All the country needs now is continued support of youth programs across the United States and a decent television deal to garner further support. Grow the game at the grassroots level. Hockey will never reach the level of love it receives in Canada, but there will be a day when it enters into the same ballpark. Today has done a lot in that regard. This was important.
Congratulations to Team Canada, all of the fans who flooded Vancouver for the game, and most importantly, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton, and Dany Heatley. Your pleasure may be my pain today, but there will be a moment when that dissipates and I look back on this fondly.
And thank you, Team USA. From Ryan Miller to Joe Pavelski, you showed heart and courage in the face of unrelenting odds. I am proud to be an American today, proud to be an American hockey fan, and proud that my country has a bright future ahead of it in the international arena.
Winning is everything. But maybe, just maybe, it's not the only thing.