Well, the last couple of weeks have been tightly contested indeed, with multiple players making a case for themselves as potential champs, but it ultimately comes down two formidable competitors. The showdown for gold is tomorrow, and you can bet I'll be up bright and early to take it all in with baited breath...
... What was that? The Oscars are next Sunday you say? I knew that! I'm not even talking about the Oscars right now. For the next twelve hours and a bit I'll have something much more pertinent on my mind:
Mind you, those six victories between 1920 and 1952 are all well before the modern era of the sport, and are thus hard to put into the context of the current state of international competition. While the Soviets mostly dominated from 1956 to 1992 (Canada was sending junior athletes from various minor leagues while the Soviet team trained and practiced as a unit), the decision in 1998 to allow NHL players to represent their countries leveled the playing field considerably. By that time, many European countries, especially Finland and Sweden (the latter being Canada's challenger tomorrow), had caught up to Canada and the USA in terms of output of player talent, so repeat championships in this day and age would be a lot more meaningful than the strings of consecutive triumphs seen before the turn of the millennium.
Unfortunately the same can't quite be said for women's hockey. Not yet, anyway. The rest of the world, though they are steadily improving, is not on par with North America in this sport, often resulting in a Canada vs. USA final. Consecutive gold medals, therefore, might not seem as significant, but are certainly no less dramatic. Earlier this week, the Canadian women snatched a heart-stopping overtime victory from the jaws of a would-be 2-0 defeat with just six minutes left in regulation, making it clear that there's just something about this team that refuses to settle for second best on the global stage (although the annually held World Championships are a different story).