Earlier today, Sweden claimed Olympic ice hockey gold by defeating its Nordic neighbour, Finland, 3-2 in a hard-fought game at Palasport Olimpico in Torino, Italy. From Stockholm to Göteborg and everywhere in between, you can be sure they're celebrating tonight.
A replica of the Royal Crown, heraldic symbol of Sweden, on the railing of Skeppsholmsbron with Gamla Stan (Old Town) in the background, Stockholm, Sweden (2005). The building at the far right edge of the picture is Kungliga Slottet, the official Royal Palace. I took this photo with my Olympus SP-310 digital camera on my final day in Sweden last November.
Four years ago, a reporter asked Steve Yzerman - great Canadian hockey player, longtime captain of the Detroit Red Wings, and all-around class act - if he would be happy with winning silver or bronze at the upcoming Salt Lake City Olympics. Yzerman replied saying by all of the right things about it being great to have an Olympic medal of any colour but then also added something to the effect of:
"But while there can be a lot of winners, there's only going to be one champion."
In other words, in his case - and Canada's - only gold would do. And as any Canadian knows, Canada did go on to win gold in 2002, much to the delight of the entire nation.
Fast forward to today. If you happened to catch the end of the game you would've seen the crestfallen look on the faces of the Finnish players - winners who, on this particular day, didn't get to be champions. You had to feel for them. Not just because, for all intents and purposes, Finland was probably the best team in this year's Olympic tournament (before today's gold medal game, Finland was dominating, winning seven games and losing none - you should've seen them massacre Canada last week) but also because of who they lost to.
I would imagine that few North Americans fully appreciate the Finnish-Swedish rivalry. But it's really not that difficult to understand because there's actually a pretty good available analogy - from a Finnish perspective, Sweden is to Finland as the United States is to Canada. You see, up in that part of the world, Sweden is the bigger, more prominent country that gets all of the press while Finland is the quiet, unassuming neighbour. One of the (few?) places where Finland gets to establish its supremacy is on the ice ... and when things don't go as planned, I suspect it's a national tragedy of sorts. So now you know why Team Finland looked so disappointed after today's loss.
Early action in the Olympic gold medal final between Sweden and Finland in Torino, Italy. Sweden would end up victorious in a close 3-2 game.
Dejection and disappointment for Team Finland as they await their silver medals ...
... while Team Sweden celebrates with gold.
Here at felix's daily starfish and waffles, we naturally like to root for the little guy ... so that would suggest that I would've been cheering for Finland in today's game. However, those of you who've been reading this blog for a little while know how much I love Sweden, so to be truthful, I was a little torn. In the end, I guess I'm happy that Sweden did win because, for them, this was redemption for the way they were so unceremoniously bounced from the Olympics in 2002 by lightly-regarded Belarus. I know we Canadians like to think we have a monopoly on ice hockey but it just happens to be Sweden's national sport, too ... so this is a nice win for them. Gratulerar, Sverige!
Before I sign off tonight, a couple of thoughts. First, I really feel like playing some hockey right now. (Actually, one of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I can't skate - yeah, that's right, I'm Canadian and I can't skate - but I was one helluva street hockey goalie once upon a time, I swear!) Second, I have the sudden urge to jump on the next plane to Stockholm ... or Helsinki.
Better yet, I can kill two birds with one stone by flying to Stockholm with my hockey stick so I can play a little shinny across the pond. Anybody else want to come with?
Olympic mural in Stadion Tunnelbana Station, Stockholm (2005). 96 years ago, Stockholm hosted the Summer Games. I previously posted this picture on felix's daily starfish and waffles along with other photos from my trip to Sweden.
Sculpture outside of Stadion, Stockholm (2005). Stadion was built as the main stadium for the 1912 Olympics and today is the oldest Olympic stadium still in use. Unfortunately, the day I went, the stadium was closed. Which is too bad, because I kinda wanted to run on the track. Apparently, it's pretty fast: more world records (83, in total) have been set at Stadion than at any other track in the world.
View of Globen from Globen Tunnelbana Station, Stockholm (2005). See the big golfball-shaped dome in the background? That's Globen, the huge multi-purpose arena that hosts all of the big concerts, conventions, hockey games, and other athletic events in Stockholm. Globen also has the distinction of being the largest spherical building in the world.