Simply put, it’s one of the greatest rivalries in sport.
I often get asked the question, “Cheryl, what do you miss most about the game?” The answer is simple: playing the United States. There is nothing like the feeling of anticipation, those last few moments in the dressing room where you have to reign in your nerves and take a deep breath to control your emotions. I miss standing on the blue-line, staring stone-faced at the Americans.
I find myself ‘moving’ with the play and my adrenaline going through the roof when the Lamoureux twins induce a scrum at the end of the game. I almost break into a sweat! I know Colleen Sostorics is ready to jump through her television. These ladies certainly won’t be sending each other Valentine’s Day cards!
Leading up to the 2002 Olympics, we lost eight straight games to the Americans (hopefully, everyone has forgotten by now). Over the past decade, I have heard many stories of where people were and what they felt during the 2002 Olympic final:
“I was on my way into heart surgery and remember all of your penalties. The first thing I asked when I got out: ‘did they win?’ ”
“I was upstairs and heard a bunch of noise downstairs. My wife, who NEVER watches hockey, was screaming at the television.”
“I was on vacation and we couldn’t get the game anywhere. We finally found it and were the only Canadians cheering!”
Of course, there are the many questions that come with this rivalry. Some of my favourites…
Did you speak in the Olympic village? Well, we certainly weren’t eating in the cafeteria together.
Do you trash talk on the ice? We are ladies AWAY from the rink. On the ice is a whole other story … ha!
Did they put our flag on the floor in 2002? No.
How did you maintain your composure with all of those penalties? We stayed in the moment. As crazy as it sounds, I remember saying to myself, “Rage, I’m going to put you over there for now. I will go back and get you later. I can’t deal with you right now.”
Who is the best American player you ever played against? Krissy Wendell had the ability to make defenders look sick, much to my dismay.
The preliminary round game in Sochi was a preview of what lies ahead (if both teams take care of business in the semifinals). Momentum shifts, end-to-end action and great goaltending. This rivalry is the reason Canada has been living and training together since early August. It is the reason the players have felt every muscle in their bodies ache. If the officials let these teams play (PLEASE) we will see great speed, puck movement and lots of physical play (Irwin style … I love it)!
To all of the young hockey players out there, you must have the COMPETE factor. You must WANT to win the battles, and WANT the puck. You must WANT to COMPETE.
The game has come a long way, but the rivalry is unchanged. Where were you in 2002? Where will you be on Febr. 20?
THE RIVALRY CONTINUES! Okay … now, I’m sweating!