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'Stars and stripes represented through sticks and skates'

Unless you're a diehard hockey fan, America's Big Four sports leagues are like the Big Three and the little brother who always gets pushed around.


The NFL, NBA and MLB are powerhouses compared to the NHL. Think of Dewey from ""Malcom in the Middle."" Football is king, the NBA has the best entertainment, baseball is the nation's pastime and you either love or hate hockey. Here in the desert, where the only ice most people see is above the TV dinners and ice cream, it's hard to love hockey.

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Which is why this year's Winter Olympics rocked.


The USA men's team made this nation enjoy hockey, if only for a couple of weeks. It made us sit on the edge of our seats, bite our nails and listen closely to every fast-paced word of play-by-play man Mike ""Doc"" Emrick. It made us realize that this wasn't about hockey; it was about national pride.


Stars and stripes represented through sticks and skates.


Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn hogged national headlines while the U.S. men's hockey team beat Switzerland and Norway. Then — on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the most infamous hockey game in history, when Team USA upset the Soviet team — America beat Canada 5-3.


An astounding 8.221 million viewers watched the game on MSNBC, marking the second-highest viewership in the history of the network.


That wasn't supposed to happen. Hockey is Canada's sport.


America started to pay attention. Team USA dropped Switzerland again, followed by a win against Finland. And then something strange happened, as if by destiny: Team USA and Canada both made it to the gold medal game.


Before the game, NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick boldly said this was ""the biggest game in hockey history.""


No pressure.


With less than 30 seconds remaining and Canada leading 2-1, Zach Parise scored to tie the game. Vancouver, B.C., was shaken. All of Canada was shaken.


So we, as a nation, leaned closer to our television sets, and watched as NHL players competed for two different countries. Suddenly, the picked-on little brother sport of America was king on a global stage.


Less than 10 minutes into overtime, Canada won the gold medal, and Team USA accepted its silver medals quietly.


On the surface, it was a sad ending to a great run for America. But the team's medal marked the 37th for our country. It's the first time in 78 years the U.S. has totaled more medals than any other nation in the Winter Games.


""Congratulations — to all the athletes who competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics — and to the American team for their inspiring performances,"" read the Twitter page of President Barack Obama.


Hockey in America will still be the little brother of the Big Four, but it just went through a massive growth spurt.



— Lance Madden is a journalism senior. He can be reached at

editor@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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