The inaugural award show for Association of National Olympic Committees took place in Bangkok, Thailand, where Hockey Canada won awards for best female and male teams of Sochi 2014.
For most Canadians, if ice hockey is a religion, the Olympic finals have become the sacred Pantheon for nationalist pride in sport.
While all athletes in each sport gives their all for Canada at the Winter Games with tremendous support from fans back home, it is the success of the ice hockey teams that is still most anticipated.
Best Female Team of Sochi 2014
It’s strange to think that back in February Canada was three minutes and 26 seconds away from losing its first Olympic women’s ice hockey game since 1998, down 2-0 to the United States.
Marie-Philip Poulin of Canada celebrates her game tying goal in the thrid period against the United States.
When hope seemed lost, the hockey Gods intervened. Brianne Jenner brought life back into the partisan Canadian crowd in Sochi cutting the American lead to 2-1. Then a cooperative goal post on the right side of an empty Canadian net was sympathetic to the Canucks’ cause, and that was all the added help Canada needed to equalize with 55 seconds left from Marie-Philip Poulin.
Eight minutes into overtime Poulin popped in the 3-2 winner completing one of the most remarkable comebacks in Canadian sport history at a Games that wasn’t short of such feats (see Kaillie Humphries & Heather Moyse).
Canadians celebrate Poulin’s overtime winner.
Only a great team refusing to be defeated could engineer such a comeback. The attitude of Canada’s hockey playing women guaranteed that it is now at least 2018, nearly 20 years since Nagano, that Canadian women will not have lost an Olympic women’s ice hockey game.
Best Male Team of Sochi 2014
The men’s ice hockey tournament at Sochi had its drama, but it was relegated to the buildup and nowhere in the building at the gold medal game.
Jonathan Toews celebrates his goal in the gold medal game.
While a couple of opponents made things interesting, forcing Canada to work for an overtime preliminary round win over Finland, and the Latvians coached by a defensively astute Canadian Ted Nolan provided a quarterfinals scare, the Canadians got through and faced a familiar foe in the semifinals, the United States.
It was a second period Jamie Benn goal and a 31-save shutout performance from Carey Price that made the difference, lifting Canada to the final with a 1-0 win for a chance to repeat as Olympic champions.
Sidney Crosby gets a hug from one of the team staff after Canada defeated Sweden 3 – 0 in the men’s hockey gold medal game.
Backstopped by another Price shutout and Canada’s top forwards finding a new gear when it mattered most, the Canadians eased to 3-0 Olympic gold medal glory with goals from Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. In the end, it seemed clear that Canada was by far the most complete team in the men’s tournament.
For all Canadians
In Bangkok, women’s team captain Caroline Ouellette was on hand to receive the awards and she best captured what most Canadians felt in February.
“What our team was able to accomplish in Sochi was truly something special,” Ouellette said. “I am absolutely honoured to be representing and accepting this award not only on behalf of the women’s hockey team but all of Hockey Canada.”
She also accepted it for all Canadians glued to their televisions, tablets and mobile phones for 16 days in February.