Olympic Games ignite an old rivalry

Nick Esposito

 Two countries that are separated by a total of zero miles have pitted Celine Dion against Beyoncé, Hayden Christensen against Mark Hamill and Keanu Reeves against…well, we win that one. These War of 1812 rivals have bickered about everything from bacon to health care and plan to use these Olympics to work out some of that pent-up border aggression. 

The Canadians have had great inventions like the AM Radio, TV, telephone, Trivial Pursuit, lacrosse, hockey and basketball. But the Americans have struck back by inventing football and Facebook and, oh yeah, we landed on the moon and didn’t see a maple leaf when we got there. 

This rivalry is taken to another level during the Olympic Games. It is not on the ski slope or in the men’s arena, but it is the women’s ice hockey competition that makes this rivalry more chilling than a snowball fight on the third night of Snowva-fest. 

I cannot think of another rivalry in sports in which both parties meet only on the sport’s biggest stage, except for Federer and Nadal of course. Since women began playing ice hockey on the national stage in 1990, the United States and Canada have competed in every world championship game but one. The only exception was the Olympic game in Torino. The United States was shocked by Sweden in the semi finals and had to settle for a bitter-tasting bronze. 

The American women took the honor of winning the first-ever gold medal in women’s hockey by slaying the juggernaut Canadians in Nagano, Japan. Four years later, the United States came storming into the Salt Lake games on a remarkable 35-game winning streak, winners of eight straight against their rivals to the north.  

The Americans were heavy favorites to take the gold on their home soil, but it was “Oh Canada” that played at tournament’s end. The Canadians defended their title as Olympic Champions in Torino in 2006 and came into these Vancouver games as the hometown favorites. The United States will try to avenge their Salt Lake home-soil disaster by repaying Canada the favor in British Columbia. 

A rivalry composed of two such awesome superpowers is a rivalry that has produced a mutual respect between the two nations and a buzz that shed light on a sport that not many people know about. The American-Canadian rivalry has evolved into a symbiotic relationship in which neither team has value without the other. It is the relationship that has caused hundreds and thousands of girls all over the world to turn in their tutus and figure skates in exchange for sticks, gloves and an attitude. 

Even our very own women’s hockey team draws upon the U.S. hockey team for their inspiration. 

“The U.S. women’s hockey club team represents the best of the best in the sport, an ultimate achievement for all women’s ice hockey players,” said Villanova senior captain Sarah Saladini. 

With no women’s national hockey league in existence, the Olympic team is the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a female hockey player. These girls didn’t look up to Wayne Gretzky, but rather they admired the likes of American hockey superstar Cammi Granato. 

Villanova defender Carolyn Parks commented on the intensity of the world’s best rivalry. 

“Because the U.S. team acted as my role model, their rivalry with Canada was always a big deal,” Parks said. “When my team would travel to Canada to play in tournaments, we would chant ‘U-S-A!’ The rivalry absolutely sparked my own national pride and also inspired me to keep working at my game.”

Senior captain Kara Herman says her ultimate dream would be for women’s hockey, and the sport in general, to receive more recognition. For the next two weeks she will get her wish. 

Just like our Villanova hockey team, we eagerly watch the Olympics to see the best athletes in the world, and we are blessed that in these Olympics we have one of the best rivalries in the world. 

The stage is set again for yet another rematch between the game’s two greatest adversaries. The two are on a collision course to meet in the gold medal game on Feb. 25. You may not care for their syrup, and you may not find the Mounties very intimidating, but in these Olympics the Canadians rule the ice and our American girls may be the only hope of slowing them down.

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Nick Esposito is a junior communication major from Skillman, N.J.  He can be reached at [email protected]