The Polish didn’t really charge German tanks on horseback in 1939 during the early stages of World War II, as the popular myth goes. Had they actually done it, one imagines a brash set of horsemen fully confident in their abilities to win any battle facing the full might of German tank capabilities with a shrug and a few casual winks.
Add some copious amounts of arrogance to that scenario and you get a fitting portrait of what Team USA hockey walked into Tuesday night as Canada dismantled them in front of the percentage of the hockey viewing world that cared to watch. They lost 4-2, but that easily could have been 6-1 in the first. They were 100% embarrassed and embarrassing.
This team was built to beat Team Canada, a team with a Hall of Fame playmaker on the fourth line (Joe Thornton) and one of the best players in the league as a healthy scratch (Claude Giroux). They were built by arrogantly looking to the past, ignoring decades of evolving hockey thought, and essentially trying to luck their way to the second round.
Mike Richter had to steal the 1996 World Cup. In 1980 the USA got lucky no matter how great of a victory it was. You don’t build teams this way in 2016, and you sure as hell don’t try to beat Canada that way.
Team USA hockey is getting everything they deserve right now. Everyone, including American hockey players, is dunking on them.
Phil Kessel roasted them from the get go. Honestly, once he got them it would have taken a Herculean effort to beat the roasting he handed out:
Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it.— Phil Kessel (@PKessel81) September 21, 2016
But then people kept coming.
The US Women’s team got into the act:
Better luck next time boys😂 kiddingggg always fun to watch! pic.twitter.com/ueuPy2kKMl— Brianne McLaughlin (@BrianneMcL) September 21, 2016
They got laughed out of the rink by fellow American hockey players, yet that still wasn’t even the worst part. The flawed team they willingly put together to try to hit and grit Canada into submission, a team allegedly built on pride, determination, and hard work, looked lifeless and apathetic for most of the dismantling they took from Canada.
If this were the NHL we would say the players played like they wanted their coach to be fired. Images from the game showed John Tortorella berating several players. The most glaring example was Max Pacioretty. In one image you could see Tortorella right up against his ear yelling at him on the bench.
In an exhibition tournament.
Where the entire team was terrible.
What a miserable environment that must be for the players.
The existence of Team North America automatically meant Team USA would be missing out on some offense, but is there any reason to think they would have taken “untested” kids? American hockey fans deserve better, and hopefully the World Cup showing makes Team USA reassess their roster construction process. Phil Kessel should never be at home again.
If this World Cup ultimately makes the US rethink how they conceptualize the game then it will have been a success. We live in a world now where people root for the Dallas Stars because they are fun. They play balls to the wall hockey, score a bunch of goals, and hope to every deity with a hockey rooting interesting that someone can make an occasional save. Fans have jumped on the Team North America bandwagon in droves. Why? Because they’re fun.
People like fun hockey and fun hockey has creativity and goal scoring: the two elements Team USA devalued the most in constructing this roster. They were arrogant, silly, and they hopefully got put in their place by the Canadian tanks that steamrolled them.
Mercifully Stars training camp begins this weekend with no one else really left to be injured in the tournament. The real hockey begins shortly, but thank you to the NHL for providing Team USA an opportunity to be humbled before the next Olympics.
Fix it, please. I don’t want to ever root against Team USA hockey again.
Copyright 2016 WFAA