You have to feel for the Latvians (I prefer Latvillains). No one is giving them a chance in this Olympic tournament. Or the Swiss. And how about Belarus? If you think winning gold as a prohibitive underdog is a daunting challenge, try seeking independence from the Soviet Union.
It’s a 12-team field, yet no one seems to be looking beyond Finland to find a gold medalist and that could prove to be a very costly mistake. If David’s epic battle with Goliath taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate
a short guy with a big rock the little guy.
There’s a real sense of arrogance in hockey. It seems only nations with reasonable budgets have a legitimate chance to win. So what if Norwegian players exchange sticks and helmets during line changes. Does that mean they can’t win? Norwegians are direct descendants of Vikings and, as the old saying goes, never piss off a Viking (unless you’re a Saint).
Canadians, Russians, Americans, Swedes and Czechs are cocky when it comes to hockey (hmm, that’s a catchy Latin beat: cock-y [bump bump] when it comes to hoc-key [bump bump]...).
Past results have shown that comeuppance is destiny’s way of keeping us humble. Just when you think success is imminent, along comes old comeuppance to knee you in the groin (finally the “come” and “up” parts of the word make some sense) sending the hopes of your country crumpling to the ground like, well, a cocky person who’s just been kneed in the groin…
Take the Germans. The only thing preventing them from dominating hockey is the national desire to dominate hockey. If they ever put the same motivation into hockey they put into high-end automobiles and polka bands...
The Swiss actually have some on-ice success to brag about, having beaten the Czechs and the Canadians in Turin. Sure they were never really able to capitalize on that momentum and have kind of spiralled backwards into the maelstrom of the pack, but...well, OK, forget the Swiss. They’re not likely to scare anyone, although I do think their uniform is quite exquisite. Makes you think the Red Cross is in town for a convention or something.
Slovakia’s major blunder has always been that nasty little rift with the Czechs. Everyone was going through that hey-we-want-our-autonomy-too stage and the Slovaks just had to have theirs as well. But, in the end, though they may have gained back a little real estate and that all-important flag superiority over the Czechs (three bars and a triangle thingy? Really?), they lost out on some fourth-line depth and the efficiency of a Petr who doesn’t need two E’s in his name.
Ultimately the lesson to be learned here is to not underestimate the small fish in this Olympic Pond, even when they spend most of their time swimming sideways. On any given day one nation can triumph over another. It may take a solar eclipse combined with a power outage and a severe case of dysentery, but it can happen. As the old song goes, never take your eyes off a Norwegian.
Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre cartoon, brings you the humor column Loose Change every Tuesday. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.
Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Check out his website at charlieteljeur.com.
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