February 23, 2014

Top Stories of the Sochi 2014 Olympics

Hockey tournaments like Sochi 2014 are memorable for the various storylines. Sometimes those stories are well hyped, but often the best stories come out from nowhere.

The ultimate story has to be Canada's back-to-back gold medal championships for both the men and the women. Canada becomes the first team to repeat as gold medal champions in the NHL era at the Olympics. Canada has now won three of the five NHL Olympics, including three of the last four.

Let's take a look back at the top hockey stories of the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

The 2014 Sochi, Russia Olympics were supposed to be all about Alexander Ovechkin and the Russian hockey team. But it did not turn out that way. Even though he went home with a bronze medal, Sochi was very much about the great Teemu Selanne.

Teemu almost certainly played his last Olympic game. He retires with hockey records for most Olympic appearances (6 - tied with countryman Raimo Helminen) and most points in the modern era (24-19-43 in 37 games). He is the oldest hockey player to a) score a goal and b) win a medal. He is one of only 7 hockey players to win 4 medals in his career.

Selanne is one of the most respected figures in all of hockey history. In his international swan song he showed why, playing with passion and excellence. He was named as the Olympic MVP by the media.

The Americans fizzled out of Sochi, but the early star of the games was Warroad, Minnesota's T.J. Oshie. He shot 6 times in the shootout, scoring 4 times and singlehandedly defeated the Russians in the most memorable game of the tournament even if it was in the preliminary round. You know the story. Everybody knows the story. For a moment he transcended the game with that shootout as everybody in America was talking about him. It was all for not with USA's medal-less exit.

The best game of the medal round pitted bitter rivals Canada and USA. It was a narrow 1-0 victory for Canada, but by no means was this game even close. Canada dominated throughout but their lack of offense continued to amaze. Jamie Benn scored the only. One of Canada's more anonymous players, Benn's excellence has been a real revelation in Sochi

Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis - a guy pretty much nobody had ever heard of before - introduced himself to the world in emphatic fashion - holding Canada to a 1-1 tie late in the quarter-final before finally allowing a Shea Weber shot to get by and allow Canada to escape . . . barely. He stopped 55 of 57 shots - many of them in spectacular fashion. He earned the respect of the hockey world with that performance.

The most unfortunate story of the 2014 Olympics was the failure of the homeland heroes. Under great pressure to reclaim hockey supremacy, the Russian hockey team never fully got untracked and was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Finland. It is terribly disappointing that Alex Ovechkin - who was very much the face of these games - never challenged for the gold medal. Moreover, it seems just wrong that Russia and Canada never played a game. Canada has never brought it's best players to play in Russia since 1972. The long suffering Russian hockey fans deserved the anticipation of hockey's eternal showdown.

In many ways the top hockey moments in Sochi came not from the NHL stars but from the top female players in the world. In fact, the women's gold medal game very plausibly could be declared the best hockey game played in Sochi. Canada's stunning comeback, thanks to hero Marie-Philip Poulin, to tie the score late and win in overtime, was one for the ages.

The women's tournament was also memorable memorable for the marked improvement of the other nations. Criticized as a two-nation sport as only Canada and USA contend, Sochi saw strong performances from Finland, Sweden and especially Switzerland, who was led by the amazing Florence Schelling.

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