Yep, believe it or not, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia (that’s in Western Canada, if you’re map-challenged) start this Friday with the qualifying round of individual ski jumping in the morning, and the opening ceremony in the evening. (See the full schedule on the official Vancouver 2010 website; I believe all times are PST.)
For me, however, the games don’t really start until 3 p.m. EST on Saturday, when the puck drops in the first women’s hockey game: Sweden vs. Switzerland. I’ll be in the car then, headed to my own hockey game in Harrisburg, Pa., but I plan to set the DVR. I’ll be in the car back for the later game as well (Canada vs…. Slovakia?), so I’ll be watching a lot of DVR’d hockey when I get home.
2010 U.S. Womens Hockey Team captains Julie Chu, Jenny Potter, Natalie Darwitz, and Angela Ruggiero
On Sunday, Feb. 14 I’ll plan my day around the first U.S. game vs. China. I saw the U.S. women’s team systematically dismantle the Chinese team in an exhibition game leading up to the 2002 Games, beating them by something like 15 goals. I sure hope China’s gotten better since then, because the U.S. team certainly has. They’ve been training like maniacs ever since their disappointing bronze-medal finish in Torino four years ago, and they’ve got returning veterans like Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero (who’ve played on all three women’s Olympic hockey teams), Julie Chu, and Natalie Darwitz (whom I remember from her rookie year in 2002). The team even has a set a twins – forwards Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux – and a 5? tall powerhouse named Erika Lawler, who had a goal and an assist in the U.S.’s 5-1 win over Finland in the final Olympic warmup.
Honestly, all the women on the team totally wow me, and I cannot wait to see them play several games in a row. As a hockey lover in general I’m interested in the men’s games as well, but less so since I see those guys play all the time in the NHL. The Olympics are kind of like the NHL all-star game played night after night after night. While the individual players may be great, they rarely play as a team, and the experience-of-a-lifetime thrill is missing. It’s there in spades-and so is the team spirit and teamWORK-in the women’s games. I’d recommend a women’s Olympic hockey game over a men’s game any day.
I also recommend, especially if you’re a rec-level hockey player like me, the profile of the U.S. Women’s Hockey team that’s currently running on the Universal Sports Channel called Blood, Sweat, and Cookies. The next air date appears to be 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 11. Okay, some it’s kind of dorky, but it’s worth watching for the on-ice segment, which includes tips on playing defense and an explanation of what it really means to “keep your head up,” if nothing else. You’ll also gain a healthy respect for women who can flip a 500-pound tractor tire, climb the Pike’s Peak Incline in 40 minutes or fewer, and cause a bruise the size of a trash can lid with their slapshots.