With the Gold Medal hockey game between the United States and Canada just minutes away, a brief background of the sport and the previous matchup between the two nations in the 2010 Winter Olympics seems appropriate.
There can be little doubt as to which event holds the greatest honor and attention of the 2010 Winter Olympics host country—ice hockey, the national winter pastime of Canada. Hockey was created in Canada and the first organized games took place in the mid 19th century. The United States Postal Service released a stamp in 1976 that features a lithograph from 1855 depicting children playing ice hockey (shown above).
Since then, Canadians have been at the forefront of the sport from the pond to the bright lights of international competition. Canada is home to six NHL franchises, and the majority of players in the league are Canadian (52.3 percent during the 08-09 season). Men’s ice hockey began competition at the Vancouver games on Tuesday of week one with group play. This round of the tournament ended last Sunday with all of the world hockey powers holding spots at the top of the rankings.
The highlight of the preliminary round came on Sunday night(February 21st) when rivals Canada and USA faced off. Both teams entered the game without a loss, and a win would secure the top qualifying position in the group. Although the United States team had looked stronger in their previous games, Canada came in as the favorite due to their extremely deep and talented roster and #1 international ranking from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
The U.S. team got out to the early lead when defenseman Brian Rafalski scored less than a minute into the game. The Canadians countered later in the period with a goal from Eric Staal. Just as soon as the Canadians had tied the game, Rafalski again turned the momentum in USA’s favor with his second goal of the night just 22 seconds after Staal’s goal. Although Canada peppered USA goaltender Ryan Miller for the rest of the period, he stood tall and helped USA carry a one goal lead into the first intermission.
The Canadians came out of the dressing room with aggression and dominated the start of the second. This style of play paid off as Dany Heatley tied the game at two a piece. However, the Americans regained the lead with just a few minutes left in the period with a goal from Olympic veteran Chris Drury.
The third period alone was worth the price of admission. The Americans got on the board first in the period with a deflection from Jaime Langenbrunner. Canadian superstar Sidney Crosby brought the Canadians back to within one with a few minutes left in the game. After the goal, Canada had numerous chances but Miller refused to be beaten, making sprawling saves all over the crease. The United States sealed the victory with a superb empty-net goal from Ryan Kesler. The win was definitely a surprise to the international community, as many had the US slotted as the fourth best team in the tournament behind Canada, Russia, and the Czech Republic. With the victory, the United States secured a bye through to the quarterfinals.
The United States has a long history of featuring Olympic ice hockey on stamps. Most of these stamps were released to commemorate Olympic Winter Games about to be played and feature “USA” and the Olympic symbol. The stamp featured above was released in Lake Placid, NY in 1980 shortly before the start of the Winter Olympic Games. The USA hockey team would go on to beat the vaunted USSR team on their way to an improbable gold medal.
GOOD LUCK TEAM USA IN TODAY'S GOLD MEDAL GAME AGAINST CANADA!!!!!
About the Author
Alexander T. Haimann, Collections Specialist & Web Projects Developer at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, collects and writes primarily about the stamps and postal history of the U.S. during the first one hundred years of stamp production (1847-1947). Additionally, he develops internet based education projects and exhibits for the National Postal Museum. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Stamp Dealers Association, the Chair of the American Philatelic Society’s Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship and the publicist for the United State Philatelic Classics Society. His national and international society memberships include the American Philatelic Society, United States Stamp Society, Collectors Club of New York and the Royal Philatelic Society London.