DAY 12: SILVER OR BRONZE
By Derek Jory, Canucks.com
Would you rather win silver or win bronze?
Seems like a simple enough question, but are you really winning silver by losing gold?
Enough with the queries. What I’m getting at is when a team finishes third, they have to win to earn the honour. When a team comes up short on gold and is awarded silver, they didn’t win anything.
I’ve fallen short of first place a few times in my life, hard to believe I know, and had to settle for silver. While it’s great being second best, you’re just that, second best.
If you saw the reaction of the American women after losing to Canada in the gold medal game Thursday, it was clear they weren’t too pleased with silver either.
The Finns, meanwhile, were ecstatic with their bronze. If you didn’t know up from down, you could have mistaken them for gold medalists.
According to a recent story by USA Today’s Steve Wieberg, the bronze over silver argument is spot on.
”Research by three U.S. academics, who analyzed heat-of-the-moment reactions, medal-stand temperament and interviews of Olympians, shows that bronze-medal winners, on average, are happier with their finishes than silver medalists,” wrote Wieberg.
“Take silver, and you tend to fixate on the near miss. Score bronze, and you are thankful you were not shut out altogether.”
Either Finland and Sami Salo or Slovakia and Pavol Demitra will be fortunate enough to win an Olympic medal in the third place game Saturday at 7:00 p.m. (PST).
My money is on that the winning team’s reaction will be a lot better than that of the loser in Sunday’s game for gold.
It should be. Give me bronze over silver any day.
BEHIND THE SCENES OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY
At the 2006 Games, Sami Salo was injured in a 4-3 quarter-final win over the United States, so he didn’t suit up for Finland as the team made a run at gold.
The Finns finished second losing to Sweden in the final, but he didn’t truly get to experience his team’s silver medal win.
Even if he had, the third place finish he was part of in Finland’s 5-3 win over Slovakia in the bronze medal game Saturday definitely topped it.
That was clear when Salo celebrated the win by handing out souvenirs to the crowd at Canada Hockey Place.
”It was just happiness, I threw my gloves and my helmet and it was just a great feeling,” smiled Salo, “all the pressure was gone after the final buzzer.
“I feel great, it’s unbelievable. The goal has been for a few years to come here at the home rink and get a medal and it’s an unbelievable feeling, I can’t describe it with any words.”
Salo had the only Finland score, a warp-speed slap shot on the power play in the first period, going into the third period with his team down 3-1.
A four goal outburst, including back-to-back goals for Olli Jokinen two minutes apart, helped Finland regain its swagger and hold off the swarming Slovaks.
The Finnish team that played the final 20 minutes looked nothing like the group that was skated circles around for the first 40.
A calming talk from coach Jukka Jalonen at the second intermission helped Suomi regain focus.
”We just talked about how that wasn’t a good enough period, we made some mistakes and we didn’t skate that well,” said Salo. “But we believed in ourselves that if we play smarter and just keep putting pucks behind their Ds and work it down low, they’ll take some penalties and maybe we’ll get some opportunities on the power play and that’s what happened.”
Finland’s bronze is its fifth podium finish in the last seven Olympics and fourth in five Games. Since NHLers began taking part in 1998, the Finns have won three medals, more than any other country.
Salo was quick to give credit where it was due. Teemu Selanne, the all-time Olympics points leader, and Saku Koivu, one assist shy of the all-time assists record, have guided this team since the beginning and with both competing in their final Games, Salo took in as much of their knowledge as possible.
”It’s a great experience, those are the two guys who have been the leaders of this team for many years and this was probably our last tournament together for a lot of the guys.
”To come here, it wasn’t an easy situation, we had up and downs in the whole tournament and even in the last game. We just believed in ourselves and kept working hard and we got a couple of bounces in the third period and ended up coming away with the bronze medal.”
Royal treatment after hitting the podium comes with the territory, but the Finns received it faster than expected.
Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, greeted the players as they gathered for a brief meeting before speaking with the media.
”She hugged Kipper,” laughed Salo. “She said maybe she should hug everybody, but then she just hugged Kipper. It was a cool opportunity to meet the president.”
It was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win an Olympic medal on home ice.
”This is where the greatest fans are and they threw a big cheer every time my name was mentioned and it’s a great feeling. To win in this rink and hopefully in the later part of the season we can accomplish something else too.”
Pavol Demitra doesn’t recall seeing any black cats, he didn’t walk under any ladders and no mirrors were smashed on his watch, but for the second straight night luck wasn’t on his side.
Demitra was a sparkplug for the Slovaks all Olympics and that was as evident as ever in the bronze medal game when the tournament’s leading scorer added a goal and two assists to his total of 10.
Assists went to Demitra for helping set up second period goals by Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa before the Canucks forward scored one himself off a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Hossa.
The Ovechkin-like celebration that ensued displayed exactly how Slovakia was feeling: large and in charge.
Four third period goals for Finland, including two on the power play, completed a heartbreaking comeback, one that washed Demitra’s hopes for his first Olympic medal down the drain.
”I don’t know what we were doing, it’s tough to explain, that’s the biggest loss in hockey in my life,” said Demitra. “I can’t believe it. We worked so hard and it’s tough to talk about a game when you lose it like that.”
The Slovaks were simply outworked over the final 20 minutes, but still, trailing 4-3 with just over a minute to play, with Jaroslav Halak on the bench, Demitra had the tying goal on his stick.
From the right point Demitra let a low shot fly that made it’s way through the tangle of bodies in front and even got the best of Miikka Kiprusoff. It couldn’t get past the right post.
First a smidgen of Roberto Luongo’s glove kept his tying goal out of the net, now this.
”In the end, in the last two minutes, that’s just about luck, I know we hit the post, but we just spent too much time in the penalty box,” Demitra said, adding that a two-goal third period lead isn’t something to give up.
”To have a lead like 3-1 after 40 minutes and lose the game and they score like four goals in seven minutes, that’s almost impossible. It’s impossible to explain how I feel, I feel like we worked so hard that we deserved better. I don’t know…I just don’t know, we spent too much time in the penalty box, I don’t know what the [frick] we were doing there.”
It was a bitter ending to a Games where Slovakia surprised everyone. A fourth place finish is the best for the team in Olympic history, topping ia fifth in 2006.
Understandably, Demitra wasn’t up for seeing the bright side of the loss.
”We fight for third place and being fourth is just like feeling like the biggest loser. Being fourth, that’s worst than being eighth."
Team Canada practiced at noon at Canada Hockey Place in preparation for Sunday’s gold medal final against the United States. Afterward, as usual, Roberto Luongo was the centre of attention.
Since taking over the reigns in the Canadian net, Luongo has been under the biggest spotlight of his career.
Now, less than 24 hours before the biggest game of his career, he opened up about facing the Americans, his Olympic experience and the save Canadians and Pavol Demitra will remember for a long time.
Media: Are you worried at all about the early morning start? (game time is 12:30 p.m. (PST) Sunday).
Luongo: “It's an early start so it's a bit different, I'm going to get up early have a nice breakfast and pretty much head to the rink right away. Not much time to sit on it, so that's a good thing. Get to the rink early and start preparing. Making sure, once the puck drops I'm ready to go.”
Media: Will you see your wife before the game?
Luongo: “Not tomorrow morning for sure, probably after. In a moment like this, it's such a big opportunity you have to make sure your intentions are on the game and you're fully focused.”
Media: What are your thoughts on Ryan Miller’s game right now?
Luongo: “He's playing great. But I'm not worried about Ryan Miller, I'm worried about their forwards and their D-men. It’s my job, to make sure I stop those guys. I can't control the way Ryan plays; he's been playing great. We’ve got to make sure we do a good job on him tomorrow.”
Media: What are some of the challenges the Americans bring to the table?
Luongo: “They play a North American style. They go north-south, they will throw some pucks and bodies at the net, point shots, screens and tips, all that kind of stuff, it's NHL style hockey and obviously it's something I’m used to.”
Media: Have you given much thought to your glove stop on Demitra at the end of last game?
Luongo: “Yeah, the fact that it's Demo makes it so much better. I can't wait to see him on Tuesday. It was great, it is for moments like that you play the game. When you're a kid in the streets you play for moments like that. You try to imitate those moments and I'm happy something like that happened.”
Media: Was it a desperation move?
Luongo: “Yeah, it was a reaction. After the first save, when I looked over I saw one of their players and I just tried to get as much as I could across. Luckily, it hit the cuff of my glove.”
Media: What was said between you and Demitra afterwards? Why were you laughing?
Luongo: “That's the whole thing. I didn't know it was him. That was my reaction when he told me he was the guy who shot that puck. I was kind of surprised and that's why we started laughing there.”
Media: What’s it been like stepping onto the ice with that crazy Canadian crowd backing you?
Luongo: “It's fun. You come out on the ice and you see everyone screaming, wearing red. It gets the guys going even more. It's fun to be part of something like that in an experience we will probably never get to live again. I’m just looking forward to tomorrow and all the craziness of building.”