Although the USA came up short in its bid for hockey gold today, the final game of this OIympics proved to be one of the most exciting sporting events in recent years, and, possibly, a watershed moment for hockey in the United States. I personally could care less about hockey and was once in Calgary during a Stanley Cup Game 7 and spent most of the evening walking around the city looking for a restaurant that was open and not just full of people watching some game I didn't understand. That night I eventually broke down and saddled up to the bar to watch the final period, but I was still not sucked in.
I've been to a couple of games in person, sitting fairly close and up in a skybox and (despite what hockey fans always tell you), did not find it to be that much better live. Even through this Olympics I probably watched more speed skating than I did hockey, but as the excitement built up for the gold-medal game showdown, I started getting pumped and even broke out the 4th of July party supplies so that I could be fully decked out in red, white and blue. My wife, a dual-citizen (born in Canada, now American), attempted to root for both before eventually deciding her heart was with her motherland. We went to a local bar for the game with a group of friends and I was actually impressed with how many others had turned out to watch - particularly considering that we are in LA, not really a big hockey town. Another strong sign of the surprising interest, was that despite the Laker's playing a tight match-up against the other Western Conf powerhouse Denver Nuggets, the hockey took up all buy one TV in the bar (and that was some small 27 inch in the corner).
The game was fun and exciting - even for a total non-fan who cant even follow the puck. And clearly the end of regulation provided as great a singular sports moment as we've seen in a couple of years. I was remarking that the last time I recall being a bar that erupted that loudly on a single play late in a game was Chalmer's shot at the end of the Kansas - Memphis NCAA hoops title. While it was unfortunate to see Canada come back and win in OT, it was such a good game that when it was over the whole bar of Americans gave a solid round of applause for the performance.
I definitely wasn't enough to get me to go looking for Kings or Ducks tickets this week - and I certainly wont be surfing around for the Versus channel anytime soon. But, if the Stanley Cup goes 7 games this year, I probably wont go out of my way to avoid it... so I guess thats a step in the right direction for the sport of hockey as it looks to attract a larger US fanbase.