Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Four Reasons to Hope (Canadian Junior Hockey Team 2012)

They breezed through the round robin, scoring huge wins over their opponents. They played on home ice with sellout crowds cheering them all the way. So good were they that they became the first team to enter the semi-finals. Hopes were inflated. When Canada realized their semi-final opponents were to be their archrival, Russia, tensions rose to fever pitch levels. This game was a must win for Canada. Pride and the right to play for the gold medal was at stake.

Halfway through the second of three periods, the Canadian junior hockey team were down 6-1. All hopes were gone. The cheers were gone. So were the spirits of the young men representing Canada. Yet, one goal after another, the boys fought back. From 6-1, they returned with a vengeance to put in 4 unanswered goals to make the scoreline a respectable 6-5. At the final buzzer during the final period, the Canadians had out-shot the Russians 56-24. At the last minute, one slap-shot hit the post. Canada lost their first game in the tournament, albeit a game that they simply have to win. For pride. For country. For Canada. They lost. Did they?

I admit. When the score was 6-1, I turned off the TV. I cannot bear to even think how bad the final scoreline could be. Somehow, when I turned the TV back on for some glimmer of hope, I saw the score reduced to 6-3. Then it was 6-4, and finally 6-5. I saw the Canadian players mastering everything they have. I saw the crowds standing up with passion. I saw the Russians becoming eaten with fear during the last 5 minutes of the game. Even though Canada lost, the spirits of the players did not. I feel that they had already won their mental battle. They have also won the hearts of the people. Mind you, for Russia to come back last year from 3-0 is one thing For Canada to come back from 6-1 is another.

Here are 4 reasons to cheer than to jeer. The Canadian junior hockey team can lift their heads up high, instead of hanging their heads down low.

#1 - Never Say Die

Never say die! This is the single biggest reason for the Canadian team in yesterday's hockey game. At 6-1, when most people think the game is over, the entire team regroup and recharge themselves with fire. Each goal gives them an additional reason for pressing on. Every shot counts. Every goal counts. Every cheer matters. I like the way the Canadians regain their composure to fight back. Mind you, it is a lousy feeling to be down by 5 goals. Yet, it could have been worse, but the never say die spirit lives on. The 4 comeback goals is a testimony to that fighting spirit.

#2 - Lessons Learned, Humility

The scale of victories in the World Junior Hockey series is a telltale sign of the opportunity to mature. See how Canada overwhelms their opponents. They thrash Finland 8-1. They beat the Czech Republic 5-1. They rolled over Denmark 10-2. They defeated USA 3-2. With every game a great win, it is so easy to become arrogant and complacent. Perhaps, the margins and the ease of victory have created a sense of victory mirage. The lesson here to learn is that victory is important but one cannot allow it to freeze up our heads with arrogance. No doubt, there is some in the Canadian camp. May this loss to Russia reminds the junior teams and future generations that it is important to differentiate hype from reality. As long as Canadian juniors learn this well, they will be even more formidable next time.

#3 - Play Your Game, Ability

The reason why the Canadians lost is because they fail to play their own game well enough. They let the Russians intimidate them too much. The Canadian team fortunately perform a Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde transformation in the second half of the game. This is when they are able to come together to stick to their game plan. When self-belief returns, the goals will come. See how the four goals come together? Perhaps, with time, they will do much better. The world may look at the missing goal to tie the game. I prefer to look at the way Canada came back with four amazing comeback goals.

#4 - The Gold Will Come Sooner

As long as the learning continues. As long as the fighting spirit is kept high. As long as the self-belief continues, Canada will get the coveted Gold much sooner than later. There is no reason to be ashamed even though they lost the game. To the Canadian Junior Hockey Team 2012, I salute you for a job well done. You have played with passion and pride. You have given whatever you can, given the circumstances. You have fought back with gusto. You may have lost a game, but your fightback have won many hearts. Now go win the bronze! I believe you can do it.

Go Canada Go!


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