Fans of college hockey traditionally have a special relationship with the Olympic tournament. The sport has provided Miracles, while more recently Minnesota alum Jordan Leopold saved the Americans from the chore of explaining a loss to Latvia. It also saved us from learning where Latvia is. (It’s in the Baltics … which are right next to Mediterranean Avenue).
For men’s hockey, all college fans get now are alumni like Leopold. Having shifted to the Dream Team format, the IOC has allowed the college season to continue uninterrupted. Not so for the women. While Team USA played Germany on permanent power play last Saturday, there were five collegians on the ice for the Americans while the Deutschlanders had one. Canada boasted four. And these teams are littered with alums.
The schools have already sacrificed many wins by playing this season without their Olympic stars. No. 10 Harvard has to think that it might have more victories with Caitlin Cahow, Julie Chu, and Sarah Vaillancourt in the lineup. Minnesota might be atop the polls instead of being ranked fourth with Natalie Darwitz and Lyndsay Wall.
So for these two weeks, in a spirit of recognition for all that college hockey has given the Olympics, these stars should be able to give a little back to their alma maters.
Let their stats count. Think about the fun that could be had if Minnesota stars, and heck, also include their alums, could be sending goals home from Turin to help the Golden Gophers turn aside the Huskies. Think about the divided loyalties if U.S. coach Ben Smith discovers that the Crimson need a couple extra goals and could create an ad hoc power play of Cahow, Chu, Hagerman, Ruggiero, and somebody else who wouldn’t be allowed to touch the puck.
So many of these early women’s games have been snooze-fests with the talent disparity blatantly obvious. The Americans clearly were sleeping for two periods against Finland before pouring on five goals in the third period to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 7-3 win. Letting the stats count in the States … heck, perhaps teams with more Olympians could have wins count too.
And at the end of the tournament, instead of the national anthem, fight songs could play on the podium.
All of this presumes, of course, that I will be watching women’s hockey instead of the other “compelling” sporting events that occur at the Olympics. One of my favorite games to play is entitled “Not A Sport.” Simply pick any activity not named hockey and then try and come up with an increasingly ridiculous reason why it does not qualify as a sport.
Tell your old man that golf or bowling is not a sport and watch him start to seethe. George Carlin won the heavyweight championship in this game by labeling gymnastics “not a sport” because “Romanians are good at it.”
The Winter Olympics do not need a comic talent like Carlin to parody events. The punchlines are cheap and easy, such as snowboarding, which hands out gold medals to the best high school skater punks — how in the world is “The Flying Tomato” an Olympic athlete? There’s the classic biathlon, combining the incredibly complementary activities of skiing and shooting (is it too late to enter Dick Cheney?). Let’s not forget the most athletic of them all, curling.
Since NBC has told me on several occasions that I should be more in the Olympic spirit, I have decided to create other compelling snow/ice-based events that should appear in the XXI Olympic Winter Games. In order to make sure these events reached the desired 18-34 television demographic, I asked a bunch of high school kids to help me with this list.
The best I share with you below:
• Olympic Snowball Fighting — Think about how many fewer wars we would have to fight if we could simply pummel other countries with snowballs. First team to make the other one cry wins.
• Olympic Knee Hockey — You remember the game you played with broken sticks against your brother in your bedroom? Make it an Olympic event because we don’t have enough 10-year olds winning gold medals.
• Badminton on Ice — If smacking around a shuttlecock is good enough for the summer games, it will be twice as stimulating on ice.
• Snowboarding Tackle Football — One team starts with the ball at the top of the mountain and tries to advance it to the bottom while the other team attempts to tackle them. The whole “sport” of snowboarding seems predicated on dangerous things to do on a mountain, so why not this? NBC can bring in members of the Kennedy family as special guest commentators.
• Snow-Sumo — Same rules, just in a foot of snow. And the athletes still can only wear diapers.
The IOC should get on these ideas right away. Eventually, the novelty of curling is going to wear off, and the Olympic theme is only so catchy.
In the meantime, I want to go watch Team Dartmouth … I mean Team Canada.