Friday September 19, 2014

Sports in Prime Time

Canada, U.S. women eye hockey gold


Here’s one sports prediction you are almost guaranteed to be able to take to the bank: Canada will meet the United States in the gold medal game of women’s hockey at the Sochi Olympics.

Oh, other hockey playing countries will send teams, but they’re mere window-dressing to the obvious climax: Canada vs. the U.S. on Feb. 22 at noon eastern time. Grab your flag, your hot, buttered popcorn and get ready to cheer.

The U.S. and Canada are linked in the same four-team group at the Olympics, which means they play each other Feb. 12 in a preliminary game to determine first place in the pool; the loser will be second.

Eventually, though — and Vegas wouldn’t even have a game like this on the board, it’s such a certainty — the two North American rivals will wind their way through the playoff system to meet 10 days later for the gold medal.

If Olympic history is a factor, bet on Canada, the team wearing the maple leaf on its sweaters has won the last three Olympic golds: in Salt Lake City in 2002; Turin, Italy in 2006; and Vancouver in 2010.

But if you’re going by recent results leading to the games, bet on the U.S.; the Americans beat Canada four games in a row in December exhibitions. The last game, a 4-1 U.S. win, ended in a line brawl, adding some good ol’ fashioned acrimony to the rivalry.

Those recent results, however, came amid Canadian turmoil: Coach Dan Church abruptly quit in December, and former Florida Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen, a 1984 Canadian Olympian, took over.
Having such  a major change occur less than two months before the Olympics must be viewed as a negative.

In Brief

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Investor Warren Buffett is offering $1 billion to anyone who fills out a perfect bracket for this year’s NCAA basketball tournament. Mathematicians say the chances of that happening are about 1 billion to 1, or roughly the same odds as hearing the words ‘Chicago Cubs, 2014 World Series champion’ or ‘Richard Sherman, SI Sportsman of the Year.’”

• Janice Hough of, on lame-duck baseball commissioner Bud Selig set to receive the first Bud Selig Leadership Award: “Thereby managing to get a redundancy and an oxymoron in the same sentence.”

• Norman Chad of the Washington Post: “Let’s take a moment out to consider Richard Sherman. I can’t figure out the guy — smart and well-spoken off the field, breast-beating and trash-talking on the field. He’s like Winston Churchill moonlighting as a pro wrestler.”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Not all Super Bowls are heavyweight match-ups. Anybody outside of Phoenix remember the Arizona Cardinals sneaked past security and got in the game five years ago?”

• Another one from Cote: “Commissioner Roger Goodell delivered his annual state of the NFL address and spoke a lot about concussions and safety initiatives, but it was hard to hear him over the loud snoring of sportswriters.”

• Blogger Bill Littlejohn, on Guinness confirming that two men at a Las Vegas electronics store set a world record by watching TV for 87 consecutive hours: “It was the last two minutes of an NBA game.”

• Dwight Perry again: “Super Bowl turning point: Peyton Manning switches from ‘Omaha’ to ‘Truth or Consequences, New Mexico’ in his signal-calling, draws delay-of-game penalty.”

• Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “In Utah, a ‘prognosticating ape’ picked Seattle to win the Super Bowl by knocking over a papier-mâché Seahawks helmet. Now, let me stress that this was unscientific.”

• Not at all sporty, but Dickson had a good line by writing: “Don't forget: Amanda Knox trials in Italy are the best four out of seven.”

• TC in BC says: “Dennis Rodman has checked into a clinic to treat alcoholism. When sobered, he asked, “I went where, did what and sang Happy Birthday to who???”

• Janice Hough of “Robert Marchand, 102, broke his own world record in the 100’s cycling category. He rode 26.927 kilometres in one hour, more than 2.5 kilometres better than his previous best time two years ago. Quick, somebody test his ENSURE.”

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