What holds the Canadians together as a nation

Whether in Canada or anywhere else in the world, the Canadian ice hockey team is expected to win. It's the same at the Olympics, and that's exactly what Sidney Crosby, the team's exceptional young player, wants it.

There is no phone booth in the Vancouver Olympic ice hockey stadium where Sidney Crosby could briefly retreat before the start of the ice hockey tournament to put a Superman throw over his dress. In the next ten days there is no longer any place for him to hide. Superman has to show himself. Crosby may be one of the youngest players on the Canadian Olympic team, yet much of the hockey-mad nation's hopes rest on his 22-year-old shoulders. Gold is the only color that matters to Canadians when it comes to the game on ice.

More than just a sport

Cultures are intermingled in Canada and ice hockey is the opium that holds the heterogeneous crowd together. Ice hockey is more than a sport for Canadians. It is part of the Canadian soul, the center of Canadian culture and the center of life. Ice hockey is Canada's national theater. And “Hockey Night in Canada”, the live broadcast every Saturday on the national broadcaster CBS, the big stage where the best performers meet.

Canada is a country with only two seasons. We have short springs, summers and autumns, followed by a long, dominant winter. While Labor Day at the beginning of September signals the end of summer and the beginning of the cold season, the new year begins with the ice hockey season. When it comes time to dust the skates and sticks, a significant part of Canadians' everyday life begins to revolve around the game that is deep in their hearts. Families plan their working days and weekends around the game plan. Excursions and family celebrations are coordinated months in advance with appointments made by the favorite team. The ice rink is the center of the community.

The passion for ice hockey is the mainspring of all social life. "It's amazing how much is about ice hockey," said Bob Nicholson, president of the Canadian Hockey Federation. "People orient their lives after ice hockey."

Wayne Gretzky, who, despite his modest success as a coach and team manager, still draws on his shine as a player and is one of the most popular Canadians, recently came to a similar conclusion: “I don't think of too many countries for a sport develop a passion similar to that of us Canadians for ice hockey. Maybe the Brazilians for football. "

This unconditional surrender, the "all-or-nothing thinking" has been anchored in Sidney Crosby for as long as he can think. It is a way of life that begins to grow on small, self-made ice rinks in the backyards of the vast country and has its goal on the big ice hockey stages in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton or Vancouver. “This is Canada and that's how we grew up. Everyone accepts that this thinking is part of our life. And nobody wants it any other way, ”says Crosby.

The shine of the Olympic gold

Ice hockey and the successes that Canadians celebrated in it divide the eras: Canadians are still indulging in the glamor of the 2002 Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City, the first in exactly 50 years and the long period of Soviet dominance in the second half of the 20th century. You have still not forgiven coach Marc Crawford for not allowing Wayne Gretzky to take part in the penalty shoot-out in Nagano in the 1998 semi-final against the Czech Republic. And in Canada they avoid talking about the 2006 Games in Turin, where the Canadian team only finished seventh and lost to Switzerland, among other things.

Before the games in Vancouver, the whole nation was concerned with the question of who would be allowed to wear Canada's dress in the best ice hockey tournament to date. When the squad was announced at the end of December, the procedure was broadcast live in a TV show lasting more than an hour in both national languages. The choice of General Manager Steve Yzerman and his coaching staff was debated from east Quebec to the furthest corners of British Columbia in the west of the country. Canadians know that the Olympic Games are a multi-sport event with 86 sets of medals in 15 sports. They cheer with the downhill skier Manuel Osborne-Paradis, the figure skater Patrick Chan, the skeleton skier Mellisa Hollingsworth or her curlers. But they would not exchange a medal for Olympic gold in hockey. That is the background to the challenge that awaits Sidney Crosby. Crosby was hired by Yzerman and the rest of the nation to lead the Canadian expedition for Olympic gold. «The pressure of expectation accompanies us, no matter where we compete. It's exciting and I consider it a great privilege to be able to play for Canada in Canada. It's a great opportunity to achieve something special in your own country. "

Sidney Crosby began preparing for this moment over two decades ago. When he was 2 years old, he stood on skates for the first time. Three years later he began to play ice hockey in an organized manner. He was always one step ahead of his peers and played in older categories. At the age of 10 he scored 159 goals in 55 games and finished the season with 280 scorer points. At the age of 14 he played against two years older competitors and scored 193 points in 74 games, which left everyone amazed. He then went to the USA, played high school ice hockey, broke record after record and led his team to the national title.

In 2005 he was drawn in the NHL player draft of the Pittsburgh as first choice and revitalized the Penguins. Last spring, he lifted the Stanley Cup and became the youngest captain of a team to win North America's premier ice hockey trophy. Crosby was just 21 years old at the time. For the second time, he was voted Canada's Sportsman of the Year and thus found acceptance in the club, which includes icons such as Maurice Richard, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Wayne Gretzky described it as “dynamite” and as the best he had seen since Mario Lemieux. But despite all the point records, Crosby is more than a scorer. Many see him as an artist on ice, perhaps the most complete player ice hockey has ever seen. Because his technical skills are only one aspect of his talent. Crosby is fast and most of what he does with the disc he does at an incredible speed. He goes with every rhythm physically, and he is driven by a will that removes all obstacles out of the way. He has an instinct for this that no one else has had since Gretzky and Lemieux.

Wayne Gretzky played in the same line as Crosby for a few days at a summer camp a few years ago, and he was impressed with the young talent. He said at the time: "I haven't seen a young player in a long time who plays ice hockey with so much passion." There is a lot that you have to like about "Sid the Kid". "I think Sidney Crosby is the greatest player of our time, and I'm convinced he would have been great in any era," said Brian Burke, the US team's general manager. "It's just complete."

Modest despite success

The series of admirers could easily be continued. Crosby has achieved more in the short time since playing in the NHL than anyone else in careers. In 2007 he was awarded the Hart Trophy for the most valuable player in the league. He won the Pearson Trophy, which the players themselves give to someone they consider the best. Crosby won the Art Ross Trophy for best points collector. And he won the Stanley Cup in spring 2009. But despite all these awards, he did not take off. “I know that there are many others who have worked as hard on themselves as I have, but who haven't had the luck I've had so far,” he says.

The Olympic gold medal is missing from Crosby's trophy collection. And in Canada it is assumed that he will close this gap in Vancouver and bring his country another great moment. There are quite a few players who have broken under such pressure. Crosby plays him down. Instead of complaining about the pressure, he draws strength from what awaits him in Vancouver. «I think the expectations drive me. I like it when I am allowed to be the player everyone is looking at. I like it when the coach sends me on the ice at the last minute - so that I can prevent a goal or shoot one. These are the moments we play for. "