Watched the Winter Classic (Sorry, I mean the Bridgestone Winter Classic 2010) this afternoon. The game was all right, but the event was pretty awesome, as always.
Side note: Did you know that, apparently, they always sing "Sweet Caroline" at Red Sox games? Odd...
After the thrilling 2-1 OT finish (home team won) came the announcement of the US men's Olympic hockey team. I figured they'd just make the announcement on the broadcast, but USA hockey had something else in mind. Instead, they announced the team at the game in front of the 38,000+ cheering fans who had packed out Fenway for the spectacle. Which was cool.
A pack of kids in Team USA jerseys lined up on the ice. As the first played (David Backes) was named, the camera zoomed in on the first little boy in the line. The announcer called out the players' birthplace, then their NHL team, and finally the name. Then, the kid on camera whirled around, and he was wearing a Team USA jersey with Backes' name on the back. Then they moved down the line to the next kid, and each kid had the next Team USA Olympian's jersey on. It was a little hokey, but mostly cute/awesome.
The nicest touch, I thought, came at the very end of the ceremony. They named the team forwards first, then defense, and then goalies, each in alphabetical order. Well, there was really no question that Boston Bruins goalie and reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas (WBW flashback!) was going to be on the team, and it happened that "Thomas" came alphabetically after all the other candidates, so the hometown hero was going to be the last guy named and get a huge cheer. The cool twist, however, came when Thomas emerged from the players' tunnel when his name was called, his Bruins' sweater crumpled up in the laundry bin and Tim the Tank stepped onto the ice in the middle of the baseball diamond sporting his very own navy blue USA jersey. Thomas then skated along the line of children, and there were many high-fives and fist pumps to be had.
Click here for pics of the event.
As for the team itself? About what I expected. Very, very young (20 of 23 have no Olympic experience, and the average age is 26.5). Not a lot of true marquee names. But a squad of really solid, two-way hockey players. A ton of grit. Hard-working. Skill-wise, nowhere near the Canadians, Russians, Swedes, or Czechs. Could also lose to the Finns, Swiss, or Slovaks if they're not careful. But, with some lucky bounces, a ton of hard work, and some fantastic goaltending, this team could win a medal of some sort. They will hit a lot, that's for certain, and the way you beat teams that are more skilled than you are is to smother 'em with tight checking and good defense. We'll have that. I just don't know if we'll have the puck control ability to win against this crowd.
Four years from now, though, watch out! This is a solid young group that should be able to play together internationally for years to come! (Assuming, of course, the NHL lets its players continue to play in the Olympics after this year)
Oh, right, the roster: Backes, Brown, Callahan, Drury, Kane, Kesler, Kessel, Langenbrunner, Malone, Parise, Pavelski, Ryan, Stastny, Johnson, other Johnson, Komisarek, Martin, Orpik, Rafalski, Suter, Miller, Quick, and Thomas.