Unfriendly Relations: the women's hockey game at the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, between Canada and the U.S., was a chippy, high-energy contest and good stuff to watch. Canada's 3-2 victory doesn't mean a great deal at the moment – unless true disaster strikes one of those teams, they will be playing for the gold medal next week – but the loss may have planted a small seed of doubt in the minds of the Americans, who had beaten their Canadian rivals in four consecutive exhibition games prior to the Olympics.
Add-on: In an earlier game between Finland and the Swiss, it took about five minutes of watching those two teams to realize that most countries (maybe all of them) still have a ways to go before they can compete consistently with the likes of Canada and the U.S. in women's hockey. Watching Finland and the Swiss, or Japan and Germany, is like watching people in their 90s play tennis (please, no letters from people in their 90s who play tennis).
Our men's hockey team started their journey to what we hope will be a gold medal on Thursday, when they got off to a slow start against Norway before coming on stronger as the game wore on, winning 3-1. The slow start is understandable, even against Norway: it will take these guys a couple of games to get their stuff together.
Canada racked up the medal count in the first few days of the Olympics, much of that thanks to the good work of our snowboarders (yes, I took a shot at snowboarding last week, and I hope nobody got hurt). Whether Canada finishes the Winter Olympics first overall in the medal count is not really that important – not to me, at least – it'd be enough hold our own in the medal count and take care of business at the hockey rink.
That's what our hockey teams are there for: to win gold medals on Russian soil, and make sure the world knows we are still kings and queens of the puck.
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I'm going to be made fun of by a couple of buddies of mine for saying this, but I kept turning the channel this week to watch figure skating. There was a Russian pair who were absolutely enthralling to watch, and I don't often use the words "enthralling" and "figure slating" in the same sentence.
That was probably the first time I had paid any significant amount of attention to Olympic figure skating since the 1994 Games, when Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were rivals, right after Kerrigan had her knee bashed by someone who knew Harding. There was a great ESPN documentary on that whole sordid tale recently (I always liked Harding better – she's not all princess-y like Kerrigan, who could be a catty piece of work, as the documentary somewhat demonstrated).
But I digress.
Truth be told, I couldn't keep my eyes off the pairs' figure skating. While there are technical components the skaters must adhere to, the artistry is what I find compelling, maybe more so than their athletic abilities (I can't believe I'm actually writing this).
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After U.S. college football player Michael Sams admitted this week that he was a proud gay man – Sams is projected to be selected somewhere in the middle of the 2014 NFL draft – one NFL executive who remained anonymous flat out told a U.S. sportswriter that he wouldn't be drafting Sams, because of the baggage that might come with an openly gay man in an NFL locker room. There are times when it's quite reasonable for someone to not want his name associated with what could be highly controversial words that came out of his own yap, this time it's just gutless. And stupid.
Since this is 2014, I figure most enlightened people would be accepting to the idea of a gay man playing professional football, and being open about it.
Any NFL fan I know cares about one thing, and only one thing: is the guy a good football player, and can he help my team win?
Kevin Adshade is a sports columnist for The News.