Team USA Defeats Canada In Junior Hockey Championships; Is USA Hockey Finally Making Some Noise?

Big congratulations are in order for Team USA and their rousing and inspiring victory last night over Canada in the IIHF 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship. Going into the tournament not many gave the Americans much of a chance to to medal, not with such powerhouses as Canada, Sweden and Russia ahead of them.  Yet the USA proved their resiliency as they overcame a demoralizing shootout loss to Canada in pool play with a late-game surge to take out Sweden on their way to the gold medal matchup.

The USA was on their way, once again, to a solid win when Canada scored two late goals to tie the game and send the two teams into overtime. This was what had happened before against the Canadians and it looked as though the USA would once again surrender the momentum and lose is extremely disappointing fashion. Yet the USA came out in overtime with a new resolve and made some incredible saves on defense, and immediately turned it into a game-winning goal on the other end. Here are the highlights:

So now the questions becomes: what does this win do for USA Hockey? Anything? Will this win go down as nothing but a severe disappointment for the Canadians, a great moment for a group of talented young men and be nothing but a blip on the radar for 99.9% of the rest of America?

The game was played in the middle of the week, sandwiched between NFL playoffs and the NCAA national championship game. All of the focus on ESPN (sadly, the place where the average American goes for sports news) is on football and some basketball at this point. I mean, why spend time breaking down a miraculous win that took place all the way up in Saskatoon when Mike Shanahan has been hired as the new Redskins coach? What's sad is that this is the sort of win that could really work wonder for USA Hockey, a program that has already grown by leaps and bounds as it is.

But the hope is that someday these games get more attention in the United States, from people other than die-hard hockey fanatics. If Team USA is able to have a good showing at this year's Olympics (doubtful), then things will grow that much more. But it's seeing these young Americans, who aren't in the NHL and are still in college or in prep school and are still playing for the love of the game, it's these guys who make watching hockey so fun. If the 1980 team had been made up of NHL players then the win would still have been great, but it wouldn't have the same resonating effect throughout sports history. This was the big win the American hockey players deserved, and unfortunately not many down in the United States paid much attention.

Here's hoping this win changes all that, at least a little.

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