Kuznetsov: Then & Now (Part 1 of 2)

Among the many hockey fans eagerly anticipating the arrival of the latest Russian phenom Evgeny Kuznetsov, count Dave Bidini.

Bidini NomadAn accomplished musician, author, film-maker and all-around hockey nut, Bidini documented the life and trials of a young Kuznetsov 10 years ago in the film “Hockey Nomad.” Tracking the trevails of a 12-year-old Kuz and his struggling family, Bidini offers a portrait of a young “Zenia” as an unusually mature, yet uncertain pre-teen with one skate in an NHL future and the other in his hard-scrabble youth. 

If you haven’t read “Tropic of Hockey“, do so right now. In the meantime, the first of our two-part interview with Canadian polymath Bidini. Today: the young “Zenia” as a 12-year-old phenom, and the pressures that came with that. Tomorrow’s will feature Kuznetsov’s young talents, and how they might manifest in the NHL. 

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PuckBuddys: First off, a little background. “Hockey Nomad” was based on your book “Tropic of Hockey.” How did that happen? I mean, you just don’t make a movie. How did that come about?

Dave Bidini: Well, ‘Tropic of Hockey’ did well and had a lot of attention, and, well, the CBC – kind of in the glory days that you came to them with an interesting idea, and when they were doing more long-form documentaries for sure, and uh…

PB: When they were doing crazy stuff like that?

Yeah, they were a little bit more open, but yeah, it’s timing, it’s all those things.

PB: So, I guess they called him Zenia…

Zenia, yeah. His name is “Ev-jen-ya” so we just all called him “Zenia.” [ed note: pronounced "JEN-yah"]

PB: How did you settle on following him?

We got lucky. Our Russian producer did a lot of ground work, and we knew we wanted to find someone who represented the next generation of players, or certainly their hopes.

Nomad Kuz 5And somebody who wasn’t from the big city. And we wanted to find the equivalent of the inner-city basketball phenom, a kid who’d grown up in the sticks who’s only way out of relative poverty was to get into the NHL or to get some sort of attention playing hockey.

He was on the radar of our Russian producer certainly because they brought him from Chelyabinsk to Omsk to play. He was this kid who was the best player of any of the players in his hometown, and in the new power order of Russian hockey  - Omsk and Siberia – they could afford to bring kids in to play for their midget team, I suppose is the term. So he was on the radar that way.

PB: So what was your first impression of him?

evgeny-kuzetsov-brother-memorialWell, I’m trying to remember whether we met him before we saw him skate. Definitely watching him, he had a very strong stride; he was definitely heads and tails above all the other kids his age.

Good shot, kept his head up, used all of the ice. All of those boxes you check when you’re looking at a young player. And his parents are, and by no means were at the time, stable at the time. And he’s one of those young players who was even-tempered, even-minded, certainly as a kid for sure. You know, his brother had been murdered, and he told that his dream was to have…

PB: A tournament (in his brother’s name)…

Exactly, it was just very mature and lovely and it seemed he’d come to terms with all of that, way beyond his years for sure.

PB: How did your impression of him change over the eight weeks you were there?

Certainly, we weren’t aware of the terms of the state from which he’d emerged from his family, and in terms of the environment that he came out of. And how his parents had struggled, and how they put their lives on hold, for what they were, to move to this new place.

Nomad Kuz 4They were living in this dorm, it was very spartan, where all the teams were. So it seems as we got to know him, the odds certainly seemed to mount in terms of this kid never having a chance of any kind of success on any kind of scale.

Because it’s such a long shot. It also became obvious: Russia is very classist, especially in terms of hockey now. Visiting rinks in Moscow, there are SUVs and stretch hummers as far as the eye can see; all the oligarch kids playing. And not working class kids – so how’s this kid of working class means going to measure up?

But talent will itself out at the end of the day.

PB: Watching his mom talking in the movie, it’s obvious that no-one had processed the older son’s loss, and the pressures that were now on this 12 year old kid. Did you get a sense that he understood the pressures fully that were on him?

Kuz parents NomadYeah, it’s funny. I think he did; I really think he did, but he didn’t show it. He was really able to absorb that and I don’t think it weakened him in any way, and I think like a lot of rare athletes, he was able to use that – I think – as a motivating force.

And yeah, his parents; they were around him all the time and I’m sure he was reminded at every turn that he was the meal ticket. And I think that’s why you see somebody like that being who he is and what he is because he’s able to withstand that kind of pressure.

Tomorrow: Bidini’s thoughts on what Kuznetsov will mean to the Caps, how he will fit with the NHL, and what mentorship from Alexander Ovechkin will mean. You don’t want to miss it. 

Posted in Washington Capitals | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Gay Hockey Diary: The Season Comes to a Close

I finally started learning how to actually play hockey in the Madison Gay Hockey Association. I’ll chronicle my journey in my Gay Hockey Diary, a semi-regular feature here. See the previous posts here.

That was fast.

There’s a weird paradox that comes with a long hockey season, especially when it was my first one. The time flies, and it seems like yesterday that I first strapped on all my gear for my first game. Yet, at the same time, you can’t help but improve so rapidly that it seems like years ago when I was such a noob that I could barely skate backward.

Tony 1But, as the regular season ended, I found myself beating some of the league’s better players in battles for the puck and even getting some quality chances on goal that were the result of hard work, and not just dumb luck.

And perhaps the most impressive part of this season is not just seeing how much I’ve improved,  but also seeing how much other beginners have improved.

 Hockey shape

When I played in my first-ever scrimmage last spring, I was so out of shape, I was dead tired after my first shift—dreading the moment that I had to hop over the boards again and skate up and down the ice.

Eight months later, I now dread the moment that my line has to get off the ice and sit on the bench. I want to take more shifts, and when I’m sitting on the bench I find myself urging the line before me to change so I can jump back over the boards.

After those first few scrimmages, I realized just how out of shape I was, so I started exercising regularly and eating healthy. And magically, I was less and less tired as the season wore on. I became a faster skater, and I could keep it up for longer shifts. It’s a baffling concept, really, that simple diet and exercise can work wonders.

I even found myself heading to the rink early some weeks, hoping to fill in as a sub for some other games so I could play more than one game. After my first time on the ice last spring, I never would have imagined that I would soon be playing two games in two hours without passing out.

I’m able to skate and keep up with some of the better players in the league, and I can get in good position and win some puck battles along the boards.

Now, if only I could stick-handle and lift my shot higher than my ankles. There’s always room for improvement, I guess.

What a difference a year six months makes

Speaking of improvements, I certainly wasn’t the only one who picked up speed, strength and skill over the course of the season. Every player got a little better, but the most impressive and inspiring improvements came from players who had never even skated before signing up for the MGHA.

There were a few players who could barely stand up on the ice in October, and when the puck came to them, they would just fall down. In other hockey leagues, his teammates would get mad as the other team stole the puck and scored on a breakaway.

But that’s not how things work in the MGHA. Everyone encouraged those players, and cheered when they made the simplest of plays. And I mean everyone—everyone on his team’s bench, everyone in the crowd and even everyone on the opposing team’s bench. It’s really inspiring how encouraging this league is.

Early in the season, I mentioned that one of those players found it hard to take compliments and encouragement when he knows he’s not very good. Last week, that player was able to skate the puck into the zone and get a shot on net.

Both benches cheered him on the whole way.

On to the playoffs

Tony 2The Green Gay Puckers finished the season 4-8-1, and now we’ll head into the playoffs. Predictably, no team is ever really eliminated in the MGHA’s playoffs. All eight teams play for three weeks, with the final week of the postseason featuring games for 7th place, 5th place, 3rd place and finally culminating in the championship game.

If you’re in Madison, we’d love to see you come out and support the league on championship night, March 23.

Go Puck, Go!

If you have any questions about the MGHA or life in general, feel free to email me of hit me on twitter.

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Sans Louis

In general, I don’t like to overly criticize or castigate professional hockey players (well, on this blog) mainly since I’ve never played the game myself.

NHL: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning

Once a player gets to the NHL level, it’s self-evident they have the talent and drive to be there – even if they are on the team solely to be a punching bag. I respect their dedication to the sport. I understand the discipline and training that goes into the the job. Also, I’m not privy to the whole story on a person or the team. I only know what I can glean from press or social media (both have varying levels of accuracy). There are always other dynamics and factors – human beings still lurk beneath the professional facade.

stlouis12All that being said, I’m not here to heap slag on to Martin St. Louis for requesting a trade. Besides there are plenty of others ready to refer to him as “Baby St. Louis” (I’m looking at you, Milbury) Bolts fans never see this behavior from our beloved #26. He’s always been a team player and (to use another hoary cliche) the heart and soul of this team. That’s why it’s so painful to see this petulant side to a leader and role model. Is there more to it than the Olympic snub? Let the rampant speculations commence! Clashes with Coach Cooper? Frustrated by their system (or their habit of letting two goal leads evaporate)? Tired of being interviewed by color commentator Bobby “The Chief” Taylor?

Bette_Davis_in_Jezebel_trailer_1Since you, the discerning reader, visit this site for a different take on the NHL, we are pleased to provide this following commentary featuring (what else?) comparisons of Hollywood film divas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both notoriously demanding actresses, they had completely different styles and methods to get what they wanted. Davis stomped, screamed, threw tantrums, bitched out the crew for lighting her from any angle she deemed inappropriate.

Joan_Crawford_in_The_Last_of_Mrs_Cheyney_trailer_2Crawford was far more devious. She killed ‘em with kindness. She would bring her famous homemade baked goods to the set and remembered crew member birthdays, even their family member’s birthdays. And when she didn’t like, say, the lighting, she would have a chat with the lighting director and changes would happily be made. They were both tough as nails broads who schemed and clawed their way to the top of their profession (well, Joan did sleep with anyone she needed to which helped) but those reputations have always remained in the collective conscious.

I don’t compare Marty to Bette just because she was shorter (Did You See What I Did There?!? It’s A Short Joke! It’s Flipping Hysterical And Totally Original!) it’s the whole willing to burn bridges attitude that will ultimately tarnish all the good will Marty has built in the Tampa fan base. Because he’s not supposed to be Diva in the negative connotation of the word, he’s supposed to be the Captain. He’s supposed to be the veteran leadership not the elephant in the locker room or worse, the albatross around the team’s neck.

And to paraphrase Ms. Davis in the camp cinematic classic “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane”: “But cha ARR in the captain’s chair, Marty!!! Ya ARR!” But when the captain of a team practically demands a trade (and then invokes the No Trade Clause to force Tampa to send him to a destination with limited trade bait), you pretty much have to dump him rather than poison the atmosphere in the locker room any further.

Baby JaneAnd the timing is fairly awkward since the Lightning are set to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their Stanley Cup victory and as Marty was MVP of that shindig, it’s gonna be hard to excise him from the highlight reels. Will they fly Marty in for the ceremonies like so many other of those team members? Well, Vinny probably can’t be there either.

At least his buyout was amicable and not so publicly acrimonious as this affair has been.  Ultimately the Lightning fan base will forgive Marty, but it will take a long time for these scars to heal. On both sides. And it will be a long while before the number 26 is raised to the rafters in the Forum.

martin-st_-louis-ripped

Posted in New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sports On Earth… And Sochi

From Sochi: Q&A with Sports Writer, Chuck Culpepper

Chuck Culpepper is on the ground in Sochi and seems to be filing around the clock for Sports on Earth. Sochi is loaded with sports scribes for the Games, but Chuck is a rare animal, he’s a gay sports writer. Just after the 2013 Super Bowl he came out (to his readers) in a very personal and thoroughly enjoyable column:

In my offbeat life, I have clomped my klutzy size-13 shoes in two worlds you might call disparately disparate. On six continents I have hung around excellent gay people who find sports an unappealing mystery and look flabbergasted at my interest. I have hung around excellent sportswriters who would never stray near a gay bar unless they wandered too far down Bourbon Street at a Final Four. The gay people seldom ask about the sports people, and the sports people seldom ask about the gay people.

Chuck has been humping it double extra overtime covering the action in Sochi but he was able to carve out some time to do a Q&A with us. If you don’t follow him on twitter, shame on you. You’re missing one of the best sports feeds there is, gay or straight.

How did you come to cover sports from so many different locations? What’s personally and professionally  rewarding for you about that jet-setting life?

It all came about piecemeal. I always did love the foreign assignments – Barcelona ’92, Sydney ’00, Athens ’04, Wimbledon, etc. – and my former and wondrous employer, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, once sent me to Europe for a slew of summertime events (1998) simply because they knew I loved all the roaming.

Still, this habit accelerated after I became one of those “love exiles” (foreign same-sex partner – Colombian in my case – and no immigration rights to live legally in the U.S.). My Other Half and I, somewhat excited but pretty much scared to shards, moved to London in 2006, with no job and no flat at the time. After that my travel became more varied with more regions, and from there I became addicted to frontiers, through a Los Angeles Times contract in London and especially a subsequent two-year job in Abu Dhabi.

Culpepper 2For whatever reason, maybe because I came from a small (Virginia) town and remain grateful for this unforeseen path, I have never tired of boarding jets. I still love when they aim airborne. I still get excited about flight routes. I still take photos of screens that show the destination or never-before-seen airlines parked at the terminal. (I saw an Air Madagascar at Guangzhou!) I still can’t believe when I’m going from Bangkok to Seoul or Dubai to Guangzhou or Amsterdam to Cape Town or Amman to Addis Ababa or New York to Austin. This will to roam has gathered rather than receded. It seems to be getting worse. When I was riding around the Auckland, New Zealand, harbor while covering the Volvo Ocean Race (sailing) race in March 2012, I already had been at this wandering for a long time, yet still kept looking around thinking, I cannot believe this . . . I cannot believe this . . . I cannot believe this . . .

You’ve been to so many places. What, if any, are some of the lessons or trends that tend to ring true from place to place, culture to culture?

Here’s one: I find the vast majority of earthlings are just trying to struggle through the day.

And here’s one: I grew up thinking it a nice world with hard pockets; now I think it’s probably a hard world with nice pockets.

And: There’s so much more beauty to see than I ever realized, so that the whole total of desired sights becomes intimidating; how will I get to everything? (Did anybody ever tell us of the beauty and grace of, say, Oman? Isn’t it something we could get through entire childhoods without hearing of Iguazu? How did I go all the way to Auckland and miss the glowworm tour?)

And (but this line belongs to Bertrand Russell): All sin is geographical.

And: I’m overwhelmed by the overwhelming prevalence of English; just yesterday, a young Russian woman told me she finds it a problem when young Russians can’t speak English.

And: The common refrain of the United States as “greatest country in the world,” coming even from political figures at campaign rallies, doesn’t help us. It’s pointless and ill-mannered and quite possibly damaging to our motivation. What do they give you for that, anyway, the BCS trophy?

I remember traveling in Russia in the early 90′s; it wasn’t very tourist-friendly, or friendly in general. What’s Russia seem like these days and how were you received on arrival?

A dear (media) friend and I were talking about how this might be the most inscrutable Olympics we’ve known, the one on which we have the least grasp of the setting. (I’ve been to four foreign Olympics; he has been to six.) The wonderful young volunteers give a bright and hopeful picture of the Russian future, but even though they hail from all over the country, the fact is we’re in a resort, and resorts don’t tend to give real pictures.

Sochi-Hotels

But, same as for you, it’s not a chirpy-friendly place in general. I have a longstanding habit of smiling at people; about 10 percent smile back here as opposed to, say, the Philippines, where everyone smiles back. There’s that sense of some deep and unknowable reality here, something beyond the visible reticence or sullenness, as if the people have a much better read on us than we do on them. The very-oft-quoted Churchill line on Russia – “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside in enigma” – has come to make sense after my scientific sample size of, what, 17 days now.

You often mine out humor of the stories you cover – whether it’s the venue, the competition or the athlete. What strikes you as funny about Sochi so far?

I think it’s funny they had all these loud, graphic problems with people checking into their living quarters (especially the stray dog in one room), and that they’ve still been doing work in the hallways where I stay, but that the buses and so much else have run with excellent efficiency. (I’ve had two long bus waits the entire time.)

I suppose it’s funny that, with Vladimir Putin present, they got a hockey goal disallowed in the third period on home ice (even as I don’t root for anybody when I go to games).

I definitely think the demanding questions posed to the men’s hockey coach are funny as they come into my earphones through the interpreter, because they remind me there’s pressure to win in so many pockets of the world.

I think it’s funny what Martin Rogers of Yahoo! wrote, that the young women here don’t so much fancy the men because the men smoke and drink too much and don’t tend to want to talk to the women.

I suppose the divide between the older Soviet-era Russians and the young is funny, because I can just see Putin et al signing off on having t.A.T.u., the female duo who once played lesbians in a video, play before the Opening Ceremony. What a moment that must have been.

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No Miracle Here: Team USA in Sochi

North America Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us: USA vs. Canada

Sochi guyGod, Jesus, Buddha, and Vishnu sat around a table, watching hockey. They loved it, but Buddha turned to God and said, “What if we took the NHL, and just blew it up! All new teams, like a fantasy draft, but for real. And we’ll add in players from the other best hockey leagues in the world, too, like the KHL and the Elitserien!” And ye, God did look upon Buddha and say, “That’s a bitchin’ idea, Buddha, but let’s pair them up by country so they care super hard.”  And so there was Olympic hockey.

Meet the New Boss – Team USA

Oh what a difference four years makes. Like a wide-eyed freshman unsure how to pronounce “Jagermeister,” Team USA’s 2014 roster has matured into a big, bold, burly upperclassman. They were the underdogs in Vancouver, for reasons broader than cartographic geography. They still bore the scent of that Miracle team: scrappy, with far fewer marquee names than big, bad, Hollywood Team Canada. Call it fifty shades of Eruzione. And so when they lost the gold medal, or won the silver, depending on time of day and who you ask, it was a bittersweet bite from a fruit called “Crosby.” No one expected a silver medal, to have the United States officially named the second-best hockey team in the world. It was, in all senses, a victory. But this time…

Sochi-Olympics-Ice-Hockey-Men-1

But this time things are different. That steam whistle you hear playing “God Bless America” is the sound of a red white and blue freight train headed straight for Sochi. While respectable, competitive teams like Slovakia and the Czech Republic field two or three NHLers and a host of KHL and domestic heroes, Team USA features an entire roster of all-stars from the top hockey league on earth. One goal on Sunday against Slovenia credited the goal and both assists to NHL team captains. This is not your father’s cold war hockey team. These are monsters, and they’re on our side for once.

Just listen, as the shepherd hark’ed upon the herald angels: Kane. Kessel. Callahan. Kesler. Carlson. Quick. Oshie. Orpik. Pavelski. Backes. Brown. Et glorious al. Our backup goalie? Ryan Miller. With notable (and laughably Detroit) injuries to Sweden’s Henrik Zetterberg and Russia’s Pavel Datsyuk, the latter still operating on a tetrademensional plane of hockey val halla DESPITE his injury, Team USA is poised to duke it out with Canada for a syrupy apology-laden gold medal.

Team Canada is Un-Eh-Voidable

And speaking of things that go “sorry” in the night, Team USA’s yellow brick road runs straight through Los Provinces. Team USA’s Wednesday quarterfinal opponent will be the Czech Republic, who lost to lowly, Lindt’y Switzerland 1-0 in group play. Assuming the United States dispatches these pretenders, they would face the winner of Canada vs. Latvia - who cares, they’re playing Canada in the semifinals.

Of course, in Vancouver the gold medal game saw Sidney Crosby score in overtime to give Team Canada the win, and as I ironically drank myself to death on Crown Royal and Molson and muttered the fevered nonsense of a madman,”Not him, god, not him, why,” what I felt was not injustice, but the cold hard wallop of reality. The better team had won.

But hell, if you want to exorcise some demons, we can get a P90X class going this year. Team USA’s path to gold could feasibly go through both Canada and, on their own ice, Russia. I want that more than I want just about anything.

What Yay’s in Sochi Stays in Sochi

I do feel a bit like a cheating boyfriend, however. I hate Brooks Orpik with every fiber of my being. I hate him down to my gooey nougat core. He’s a Penguin and for that he must die. But, damnit, he’s an American, and I cheer for him when he has the puck.

It’s an almost voyeuristic joy to relish in this once-in-a-leap-year opportunity to hear the fantastic, the faerie Emrick echo of “Malkin to Ovechkin, over to Datsyuk!” or “Sidney Crosby across to Rick Nash!” It’s the kind of thing I hope to be greeted with when I die. And so I indulge, and I shut the blinds, and I lock the doors, and I cheer for a defenseman from the Penguins and a forward for the Rangers and I thank god over and over that I’ll never have to root for Sidney Crosby.

Sidney Crosby

Sweet Jerseys, or, “Uni-Bombin’”

On a less geopolitical note, one of the best parts about Olympic hockey is the jerseys. Sweden rocks a minimalist three-crown logo that looks like the letterhead of an offshore banking firm. Russia’s away jerseys feature a chess piece undergoing the final stage of cell mitosis, and Slovenia snuck into the Seahawks trash bin and took the left overs.

Ice Hockey - Day 10 - Sweden v Finland

I bought a knock-off 1960 Team USA hockey jersey when I lived in China. I bartered down real cheap, and told the shop keeper I didn’t give a damn where it was made. I got it home, and the crest on the chest, right about the “U” in U-S-A, did not say “USA.” It said “ANUS.” I guess that’s what I get.

The Czech Republic plays Team USA on Wednesday in Sochi. Let’s hope that what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming will, through the perilous fight, still be gallantly streaming.

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Olympics From My Perspective

By Matthew Skolnikoff  @mattsko

So I thought I’d chime in on a few timely Olympics issues while my now two different half-written Habs articles simmer just a little while longer.

Puton Sochi OCFirst, the gays. You know, the one group of people that could’ve helped Putin put on an opening ceremony that didn’t remind everyone of a 1980s themed Las Vegas-on-the-Volga head-scratcher. I’m glad that the more enlightened countries of North America and Western Europe didn’t, in the end, boycott the games. That would have been a big slap in the face to Putin but it wouldn’t have changed anything for gays in Russia. It would’ve denied all the athletes a chance to compete on a televised world screen though and would’ve seriously cut down on mid-winter lycra-wrapped eye-candy on my TV set.

olympic malfunction GIF

The fact that many nations, in particular and in a very-in-your-face way the US, did not send any high level, A-list politicians or celebrities to Sochi in an official capacity was a big cuff upside the head to Putin. And that, along with Obama outright spelling it out in numerous speeches, was about as effective as a boycott would’ve been. Message sent. From a US President no less. But nothing would or will deter Putin.

CAN RainbowLost in this all to some but not all is the amazing facts that in 2014 gay rights are an international issue in a big way (not an afterthought or minor detail) and, on top of that, are also being referred to in any way connected to sports other than figure skating. These are big changes. Another milestone. Though I’m more of the kind of gay guy who’s all for smashing down the closet door and letting the unicorns roam free under rainbow dappled skies RIGHT NOW things just don’t move that fast in Russia. They never have. Remember, it took them over 70 years to figure out that authoritarian communism was not such a great idea after all.

So, except for actually dropping nuclear bombs on Russia, I don’t think there was or is any way to convince Russia to change it’s draconian anti-gay laws. Let the games go on. And, in any case, after a few days of games it’s not like Russia is either getting a lot of medals so far or getting very good press about Sochi accommodations or snow conditions. Given that the US didn’t boycott the 2002 Salt Lake games despite Utah’s equally medieval anti-gay laws the whole boycott of Sochi would’ve just fallen flat on it’s hypocritical face. Unless you are going to go all out and do an embargo – think Cuba or Iran – a boycott has little effect.

SNL GIFOn a lighter note, there is also the issue of which team I’m cheering on. This is as simple for me as complex as it may seem. I’m American but I used to live in Montreal. I’ve lived in New England and Quebec almost all of my life. I’m a Habs fan. Plus I can practically see Canada from my bedroom window (if the earth wasn’t round and all). Put that all in a blender and… I’m cheering on athletes from New England and Quebec. There are a lot of skiers and some skaters and other athletes competing in these games from my region. Screw the international border or feverish nationalism (the 3rd biggest cause of wars after religion and money).

My region is doing better than yours! So far a bunch of gold medals in Free Style Skiing from Quebec athletes and medals in other disciplines for New England athletes.

And in men’s hockey: It’s Team Canada all the way, baby! Why Team Canada?

CAN Sochi 2014

Well, if you want me to be pedantic (moi?) I just can’t support a team that represents a country with so many states that repress gay rights. I’m talking about the US. Boycott USA! Does that make any sense? No, of course it doesn’t. So, fortunately I have some better reasons:

Subban OlympicsBecause I can easily admit I secretly like and look forward to embracing Sidney Crosby every 4 years and there is no way in hell I could not support Carey Price and PK Subban. I realize they are not from my home region, but they play for my home team. Plus I think Team Canada is going to win and who doesn’t want to support a winner?

Team Canada got off to a great start today by besting Norway 3-1. Weber, Benn and Doughty found the twine while Carey Price looked good. Next up, Austria on Friday at 12noonET, Luongo will be in net for the good guys and hopefully PK is in the line up.

weber-crosby-hockey sochi

Ultimately, I support any team that keeps Russia from winning hockey gold. Defeating Russia for hockey gold is just about the biggest pee-pee whacking you can give Putin. And there’s a very good chance that’ll happen, unlike any chance that Putin can be pressured to change his mind on gay rights.

Rainbow RUS flag

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U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

I have a serious problem with what has happened to the Olympics, and particularly hockey. No, this isn’t about the whole “Russia hates gays” thing. (Though, OK, there is that. But if you’re reading this blog, you already probably agree with what I have to say about that.)

2r7aiv6No, what I’m angry about is the fact that there are red, white and blue-blooded Americans out there rooting for other countries! There are people from Pittsburgh rooting for Canada. Pittsburgh is a city where the British and American troops kicked those crazy French Canadians out, and renamed Fort Duquesne to something easier to pronounce.

Worse still are the people from our nation’s capital rooting for Russia. Russia! That would never have happened 30 years ago. How quickly these people forget. Can you imagine someone from DC rooting for the CCCP against the young college-aged Americans in 1980? Unless that person was a KGB sleeper agent, no such Americans existed in 1980.

We’ve become too attached to hockey players, and we’ve lost a grasp on our own nationalism. This is ‘Merica, for cryin’ out loud! We’re the greatest country in the whole world. American teams have won the Stanley Cup each of the last 20 years. In Abraham Lincoln speak, that’s a score!

Where has our pride gone? Team USA came so close to gold four years ago, and they have a good shot to do it again this year. We have a great group of goalies on the roster, some great defenders like Brooks Orpik and talented forwards like Patrick Kane and Bobby Ry—oops.

Okay, the USA roster isn’t that great. But still, I’ll be cheering my heart out for the good ol’ US of A. I’m a Penguins fan, so yeah, I’ll be cheering especially for Orpik and Paul Martin. But my Penguins fandom won’t brainwash me into cheering for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Olli Maata.

In the words of Herb Brooks, “Screw ‘em!”

I’m actually looking forward to hating Sidney Crosby for a few weeks. Only once every four years do I get to feel what it’s like for fans of the other 29 NHL teams. (Fun story: I watched the 2010 gold medal game at the house of a die-hard Flyers fan…you don’t know Crosby-hatred until you’ve seen his reaction to that game).

I’m especially looking forward to rooting against Russia—for obvious reasons—and because Malkin is just so darn likeable. It’s fun to cheer against likeable people for a few days, just to further my own sense of nationalism.

If you’re from America, you root for America. If you’re from Canada, you root for Canada. If you have dual citizenship, you should probably root for Switzerland. I don’t care what country your favorite player is from.

Oh wait…Gabe Landeskog plays for Team Sweden? Umm…okay, go Sweden!

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