Russian President Vladimir Putin made no secret of what he expected out of his country’s men’s hockey team at the Sochi Olympics prior to the tournament beginning, and that was a gold medal. Hockey is undoubtedly the most important sport to the citizens of Russia, and after being humiliated by a 7-3 scoreline against Team Canada at the quarterfinal stage of the Vancouver Olympics four years ago, they are clearly out for blood this time around.
Russian reporter Vladimir Pozner summed up the expectations of the hockey team prior to the tournament when he said, “Hockey is the most important sport in Russia in any kind of winter competition, and after really getting blown out in Vancouver, it was seen here in Russia as being shameful. There is a huge desire to set the record straight in Sochi.”
Well, after only two games, the Russians have already felt a set back, and it came from the U.S. of all teams. The actual game in question was by no means a dull one, but ultimately Russia lost in a shootout. Of course, the nation isn’t exactly up for losing in any form or fashion during this tournament. While U.S. forward T.J. Oshie may be a hero in America, one can guess that he is a villain of epic proportions out in Russia.
Logical minds would sit back and comment that the U.S. and Russia could certainly meet again in the knockout stages of the tournament, and that neither team is out of the tournament right now. But as any dedicated sports fan knows, logic doesn’t always apply when it comes to your favorite team, and certainly not when you have something riding on it. Enter Putin, who is a bit angry at his team losing.
In reaction to the loss, Putin has commented that, “I think our team played very worthily. It seemed to me they were a class higher (than the U.S.), a little bit higher.” And while the most perennially angry-faced man in the world certainly could have said more inflammatory things in public, one can only imagine how much he is simmering underneath his skin.
Anyone who watched the game between the U.S. and Russia could tell that neither team had an upper-hand, and that it is rare that any team is as tightly contested in terms of skills as these two sides. Through regulation and overtime, the Americans actually won the shot battle 34-to-31, and they took six penalties while their opponents only took five.
That the game then went to eight shootout rounds before being decided only furthered the case that neither team had an edge in the talent department, and in fact far from it. It is certainly well within the rights of Putin to express grief after a loss, but please be realistic in your evaluations, sir. Russia simply lost a game to a team of equal talent, and anyone who watched knows it.