The day after a big game, the focus is always on who won and who lost. And to be truthful, as athletes in the heat of the competition, that is all you care about in that moment. You are so narrowly focused at that time on winning that you forget about the rest of the world. You don’t care about what anyone else on the face of the earth is doing, you are trying to do what you have trained countless hours to do, and that is to WIN.
After Canada’s heartbreaking loss to the Russians last night, there is no doubt that all of the members of the Canadian team are extremely disappointed. I know how disappointed I have felt after losing three consecutive World Championships to our arch rivals, the United States, and I can relate to the way these players are feeling right now. After a loss like that, you feel completely deflated, and you don’t sleep much that night after the game. Instead of sleeping, you spend the night lying in bed replaying every moment of the game that you can possibly remember over and over in your mind, wondering if there was something you could have done differently to change the outcome. You try to tell yourself that you played your hardest, that you prepared the best you could, and that you did everything in your power to win that hockey game, but no matter what you say to yourself, nothing seems to make you feel much better. Your family members tell you that they are proud of you no matter what, but what they say doesn’t seem to help much either. If these players did in fact get some sleep, chances are that all of the feelings of devastation that came with the loss last night were there to greet them the second they woke up this morning. They will feel better eventually, but it will take time.
The Canadian team showed a tremendous amount of character, grit, and determination in battling back from a 6-1 deficit, scoring four goals in less than five minutes. Speaking from experience, when you are down by that many goals in a game, it is extremely difficult to find the strength and courage to battle back. They deserve a great deal of credit for their never-say-die attitude, and for providing viewers all over the world with one of the most entertaining games in Canadian World Junior hockey history. But when all is said and done, as Canadians, we expect gold and nothing less, and gold is what this Canadian World Junior team expected of themselves.
Witnessing our young Canadian Junior team lose a game of this importance is disheartening to fans and players alike, especially knowing the countless hours of training and preparation that were put in with the sole intention of winning gold, but it cannot be labeled as a tragedy in comparison to many things that transpire in our world today.
A tragedy is the passing of Mandi Schwartz, former Yale hockey player and sister of Canadian captain Jaden Schwartz, at the age of 23 after a 16-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia. A tragedy is the lives that were lost in the plane crash this past September carrying the Russian KHL team, including Daniil Sobchenko and Yuri Urychev, two members of the gold medal winning 2011 Russian World Junior team, as well as Pavel Snurnitsyn and Maxim Shuvalov, two players that were projected to play in this year’s World Junior tournament for Russia. A tragedy is the passing of NHL’ers Rick Rypien and Derek Boogard, and former NHL’er Wade Belak, this past year. Although playing in that semi-final game last night at the Saddledome in front of over 19,000 fans may have been the single most important thing that these two teams were doing at that time, these tragedies serve as a reminder that losing that game is almost insignificant in comparison to a true loss in life. Jaden Schwartz, a star player for Canada in this tournament, is one person who, after the loss he experienced this past year, can keep this semi-final game in the proper perspective in the grand scheme of life.
Perhaps a dose of perspective is just what this Canadian team needs to realize how fortunate they are to be experiencing everything they have in this tournament, including playing for a bronze medal on Thursday. They are the top 22 male hockey players for their age in Canada, and they are healthy and strong. Life could be much worse.
At the end of the tournament, they may not have won the gold medal, but they will have won the hearts and minds of not only Canadians, but of hockey fans everywhere. The fact is, in sports and as athletes, whether you win or lose is not going to change the world. It may change us as individuals as we learn and grow from disappointing and challenging experiences, but in the grand scheme of life, it is just a game.
Author: Meaghan Mikkelson
Author: Meaghan Mikkelson