Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yo Renee, Canada's Women's Ice Hockey Is Going Down In 2010!

The Olympic flame lighting ceremony for the 2010 Vancouver Games will happen tomorrow while we're sleeping at 2 AM on this side of the Pond in Olympia, Greece.

The flame is lit outside of the ruins of the Temple of Hera using the rays of the sun focused on a metal reflector. It is part of a ritual in which includes a prayer and a hymn made by a woman representing the ancient role of the high priestess.

The ceremony also involves a young boy who cuts off an olive branch and gives it to the high priestess as a symbolical gesture.

The woman playing that role of the high priestess is Athens born Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, who also presided over the flame lighting ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Games.

The Olympic flame is then taken in front of the statue of Pierre de Coubertin and handed off to the first of the torch runners. They will take the 2010 Olympic flame on a journey through Greece for several days before sending it overseas to arrive in Victoria, BC October 30 to begin the Canadian portion of the Olympic torch relay. It will travel through every province and territory of the host nation before it returns to BC Place Stadium on February 12 for the opening ceremony of the Games.

Who gets to light the Olympic cauldron will be kept a secret until that day. But the honor usually goes to a high profile athlete of the Olympic host nation.

What that means to this Olympics junkie and the rest of you casual sports fans is we are getting close to the start of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games that will take place in Vancouver, BC from February 12-28.

It's also triggered some good-natured trash talking between me and my Canadian homegirl.

She's been bragging (and rightfully so) about her two time (2002-2006) Olympic champion Canadian women's hockey team. The Canadian women along with the USA women have been the dominant teams in the sport while everyone else in the world has been trying to rise to the elite hockey skill levels of the Americans and Canadians.

Team Canada won eight straight International Hockey Federation women's world titles from 1990-2004 until Team USA broke that streak in 2005 by winning a 1-0 shootout. Canada reclaimed the IHF world title in 2007 by beating Team USA 5-1 in the final.

In addition to watching Team Canada pile up wins at their expense, Team USA chafed at being the bridesmaid to Team Canada's championship bride.

But when hockey was added to the winter Olympic women's sports program for the 1998 Nagano Games, Team USA flipped the script and upset the highly favored Canadians 7-4 in pool play. They then proved it wasn't a fluke by beating the then four time world champs again 3-1 in the gold medal match to skate back to the States with the first ever Olympic gold medal awarded in women's hockey.

And that only added fuel to an already hot sports rivalry.

Renee has not let me forget and rubs it in at regular intervals that the Canadian women avenged their 1998 Nagano loss by snagging their first Olympic gold medal on US soil.

They rolled into Salt Lake City and beat us 3-2 in the gold medal game.

In the 2006 Turin Games the USA women were cruising to a payback rematch until they were upset in the semifinals by Sweden. The USA women ended up with the bronze medal as they watched Team Canada skate off with another gold medal after defeating Sweden 4-1 in the Olympic final.

The Team USA women are determined to improve on that 2006 Olympic bronze medal finish, beat their Canadian rivals and return to women's Olympic ice hockey supremacy. Nothing would be sweeter for Team USA than to do so while avenging our 2002 Olympic home ice loss and doing unto Team Canada in 2010 what was done unto us in 2002.

Team Canada is well aware of the target on their backs by being the two time Olympic champs, one of the best teams in women's international hockey and having the added pressure of being the host nation.

They will go all out to defend their Olympic title, make the home folks proud and make it three straight Olympiads they've skated away with gold medals.

But they know it won't be easy. Team USA won the IHF Women's World Hockey Championships last year in Harbin, China by beating Canada 4-3. They defended their IHF title in Hameenlinna, Finland back in April by beating down Canada 4-1 in the final.

Team USA wants to be standing on the top step of the Olympic medal platform in Vancouver when the women's Olympic hockey tournament is over.

The other nations in this upcoming Olympic tournament are determined to prove that they can not only play with but beat the two best teams in the hockey world in Team Canada and Team USA.

They are in different groups, so unless either team falls victim to upsets, the highly anticipated matchup between Canada and the United States won't happen until either the semifinals or hopefully the gold medal match.

Canada will be competing in Group A with 2006 Olympic silver medalists Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland. The 2006 Olympic bronze medalists and two time reigning world champs will be in Group B with Finland, Russia and China.

Go Team USA Women!

Top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals.

It's going to be fun to watch, and I'm looking forward to hopefully calling her up and yelling USA! USA! USA! in the phone when it's over.

I want to see my girls waving the flag, kissing their gold medals and singing The Star Spangled Banner while watch our flag rise a little higher than Canada's at General Motors Place.

So yeah Renee, it's on like Donkey Kong.

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