Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Hockey -- Precedents

Not to put too much pressure on the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team, which plays for the gold medal this afternoon against Canada, but the U.S. has never failed to win the gold in men's hockey in the Winter Olympics in a year ending in zero.

The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924. The first time they would have been staged in a zero-year was 1940. The 1940 games had been awarded to Sapporo, Japan, but they were cancelled because of World War II. That city had to wait 32 years before getting its chance to host.

The U.S. won the gold medal on home ice in 1960 at Squaw Valley, California, and in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York.

Before 2000 came up in the rotation, there had been a fundamental change in the scheduling of the event. Beginning in 1994, instead of staging the games in leap years, they changed to half-way between leap years. That delayed the next zero-year Winter Olympics until this year.

I hope the U.S. team continues the pattern.

One caveat: Believe it or not, ice hockey was part of the Summer Olympics in 1920 in Antwerp. Apparently, it was a sort of dress rehearsal for the first full-blown Winter Games, four years later. Canada won the gold medal in 1920. But my statement still holds true for the Winter Olympics per se.

UPDATE: Apparently, I got it wrong. It's the team with home ice that wins in the zero-years. Congratulations to Team Canada, who beat the U.S. 3 to 2 in overtime, in one in-****ing-credible hockey game.

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