Saturday night in Sochi the game for Olympic hockey’s bronze medal played out in a 5-0 Team Finland win over Team USA, somewhat shocking for anyone who has been following the USA’s 20 goals over the course of this past week.
But for those familiar with the resilience Team Finland has shown over an equal amount of time, the fact that the Finnish go home with bronze might not be such a shocker. Neither is the fact that Teemu Selanne returns to the Anaheim Ducks as one of the game’s heroes.
After sprinting out of the gates last week, Team USA quickly shot to the top of everyone’s gold-medal prediction list. But concern arose as they played deeper in the tournament with little to no adversity, a factor at large in Friday’s 1-0 loss to Team Canada and today’s loss to Finland.
Finland, on the other hand, was a nowhere team by most predictions. But early on they figured out a way to make their talent produce; lead by a captain who knows a thing or two about prevailing as the underdog.
During his NHL career Selanne has never played for an original six team and he does not have Olympic gold. Yet, the records that bear his name and the respect he has earned throughout the league for not only his conduct on the ice, but perhaps even more so off of the ice, make him one of the greatest to ever enter the game. He proves that team location and hockey heritage don’t make the champion — character and talent do.
Selanne took his admirable mentality and work ethic to Sochi and led a comeback team worth cheering for until the very end. As the Finnish Flash accepted his final Olympic medal with a smile and tears flooding his eyes, the country lines for hockey fans watching around the world blurred, even if just for a moment.
Because once again, Selanne is a reminder of what hockey is all about; despite what flag flies above your house this time of year, any fan lives and loves this game just the same.