Saturday, February 18, 2006

US Women's Hockey Upset By Sweden

US Women With Cammi Granato (2005):

US Women Without Cammi Granato (2006):

Where was Cammi Granato yesterday? Oh, that's right, the best US women's hockey player ever, their long-time captain, got cut from this team. For no reason I can figure. Doing a great job in the booth, by the way, but should have been on the ice. So she's broadcasting, and the US women are in the bronze medal game. Coincidence? I don't think so. Coach Ben Smith should be out on his keister after this Olympic showing, but he's a man, and the federation is run by men. Even if he is fired, he'll get a cushy exit package.

Hockey is a sport that reveres its captains. Granato was a great captain. Why was she cut? Why isn't Smith answering that question?

Supposedly this game will "save" women's hockey. The powers that be were thinking about cutting it from the Olympics because only two teams are competitive, the US and Canada. Like it's the women's fault that most countries organizing committees don't support their sport. Well, if this is what it takes, it's the silver lining for the US women. They lost to save women's hockey as an Olympic sport.

MSNBC: This U.S. hockey squad doomed from start
Americans' best player was doing color commentary for TV broadcast

Chicago Tribune: A cut that still pierces: `Kicked to the street'

Cammi Granato is angry. She is a broadcaster at the Winter Olympics, not a player on the U.S. women's hockey team. The face of U.S. women's hockey for the last decade, Granato was cut from the team last summer. Six months later, her relationship with USA Hockey remains icy.

"I'm not mad," she said. "It's just that, I was kicked to the street. See ya. See ya later. Thanks for shopping. I'm not saying, 'Oh, they need to come suck up to me.' There's just a lot of raw emotions at the moment."

NY Daily News: Granato wishes she had a shot

TURIN - The greatest player in the history of American women's hockey desperately wanted to be on the Palasport Olimpico ice, leading the United States to yet another gold-medal showdown with Canada.

But she was sitting in an NBC studio under its stands, aching for her friends, not seething at the coach who had unceremoniously cut her from the 2006 Olympic team.

"I feel like someone punched me," a shaken Cammi Granato told the Daily News an hour after Sweden had rocked the women's hockey world with a stupefying victory over the U.S. "I don't even know how to feel. It's like all the air is gone. I feel so bad for the girls."

As clutch a performer as women's hockey has ever seen, Granato set standards in the sport with 186 goals and 343points. She captained the United States to the first Olympic gold in Nagano in '98 and to silver in Salt Lake City.

But just five months after captaining Team USA to the 2005 world championships, the 34-year-old forward was cut from the national team without warning by coach Ben Smith. In his postgame press conference, Smith cut short a questioner wondering if the Americans missed Granato when crunch time arrived last night.

Red faces leave Team USA feeling blue

Ben Smith, the U.S. women's hockey coach, is probably feeling it a little bit today, too. He made the controversial and widely criticized decision to cut Cammi Granato from his team. Smith was cruising, too. His team had a 2-0 lead in its semifinal against Sweden yesterday.


If the U.S. team had reached the gold medal game against Canada - as it has in every single international tournament up until now - Smith would have skated (you'll pardon the expression). He still would have been wrong for whacking the most recognizable female hockey player in the States, but he would have been off the hook.

Now? Smith looks like a fool.

Call it Der Miracle on Ice, although this time the Americans were the prohibitive favorites who played scared and let the scrappy underdogs come back and beat them. Once the Swedes came back to tie the score, you half expected the U.S. players' sticks to start shattering, so tightly were they being gripped.

They played like a team that needed an experienced leader. A team that needed someone who had been there and done that and could rally the troops with a big play or the right words.

Say ... Cammi Granato?

But Granato was commenting on the game for NBC when her replacement as captain, Krissy Wendell, took a bad penalty during a Swedish power play. The Swedes didn't score, but the penalty prevented the U.S. from getting back its momentum.

Toronto Star "The Spin" blog: Miracle in Turin

With criticism of the women's game having hit new heights during the past week because of a series of lopsided scores, it may well be that Sweden's absolutely shocking 3-2 shootout victory over the United States this evening at the Palasport Olimpico will be the match that saves women's hockey as a viable sport in the Winter Olympics.

For the first time in any major women's competition - world championship or Olympics - it will not be Canada vs. the U.S. in the final. Sweden, having never beaten either country, fell behind 2-0 against the Americans but fought back to tie 2-2, largely on the basis of a breathtaking goaltending exhibition by Kim Martin.

Both Swedish goals were scored by star forward Maria Rooth, and it was Rooth again in the shootout who ripped a wrist shot past Chanda Gunn in the U.S. net to send her country into the gold medal game on Monday.

It was an upset perhaps even greater than that of the 1980 Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid when the U.S. men upset the mighty Russians, for that had happened before. In fact, the Americans had been Olympic champions at Squaw Valley in 1960.

WaPo: U.S. Women on a Cold Spell at Olympics
Hockey Team's Shocking Loss to Sweden Is Latest Disappointment

Since the first women's hockey world championships in 1990, the United States had faced Sweden 25 times in various competitions. Twenty-five times, the Swedes lost.

The Americans' record against teams other than Canada was 102 wins, two ties -- both with Finland -- and no losses. The talk at the women's tournament all week centered around that inevitable Canada-U.S. matchup for the gold. Sweden, in fact, lost 8-1 to Canada earlier in the competition. There had never been another matchup in a world championship or Olympic final, and some observers had grown critical of women's hockey as a sport because it seemed just two teams could win.

"It's always Canada and the U.S. in the final," Swedish goalie Kim Martin said.

That has changed now, in large part because Martin was in net for the Swedes. Four years ago, when she was all of 15, she led Sweden to the bronze medal -- behind, of course, Canada, which took the gold, and the United States -- at the Salt Lake City Olympics. On Friday she was steady and stellar, the primary reason Sweden was able to withstand 39 shots from the Americans and still finish regulation time tied at two goals apiece.

1 comment:

biscuit said...

AMEN to everything you've said about ben smith..
did you see the comments today that Tricia Dunn-Luoma made today about Smith.. Amazing!
I hope that they are smart and hire Cammi on to be the new head coach!
peace out hockey fan!