Have you ever had one of those moments when you pinch yourself – just to make sure that the situation you find yourself in is real?
Have you ever looked around and thought ‘whoa am I really here doing this‘?!
I had many of those moments in Sochi – a few moments that I’ll never forget on an incredible Olympic journey.
As a Canadian I have always enjoyed watching best-on-best hockey – whether it be the old Canada Cup, the World Championships, the World Cup of Hockey etc. But when the NHL became involved in the Olympics back in 1998 in Nagano – my interest – and the interest of millions became even greater when it came to international hockey. The very best in the world on one stage – the grandest of stages – the Olympics was a recipe for unrivalled levels of competition for the greatest game on the planet.
I remember my heart break as Canada failed to medal in Nagano. I remember where I was – who I was with – and I remember how impressed I was with Czech goalie Domink Hasek, and his poise at the very highest level of intense competition, to knock Canada out of Gold Medal contention.
I also remember everything about four years later when Canada and the USA played for Gold in Salt Lake City. I remember how great the hockey was – and how the NHL was showcasing it’s brand, and players on a scale unimaginable before their Olympic commitment, of shutting down the league every four years to participate. I remember thinking it couldn’t get any better!
I could go on about Torino – and the joy for Mats Sundin and Henrik Lundqvist – winning Gold for Sweden over bitter rivals Finland – and the celebration that reverberated throughout their homeland. How could you not again marvel in the brilliance of Vancouver – where once again Canada and the USA renewed hostilities for Gold – and a guy named Crosby jumped into history with a home soil overtime goal. A goal that sent the entire nation into frenzy and celebration!
Throughout all of these magic moments (and plenty more throughout the preliminary rounds and knock out stages of the Olympic hockey tournaments mentioned), I never once considered it could get better. I never once even contemplated that the hockey, and joy of watching the Olympics could get higher.
I was wrong. I discovered recently throughout my Sochi experience, that there was another level. An entirely different level of elation and amazement for our game.
I will never forget commentating on the USA against Russia. T.J. Oshie and the ice in his veins in the shootout win – his heroics didn’t seem to faze, or trouble him as the pressure rose with each new attempt. I will never forget the look of frustration on the faces of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin as they realized they were bested by the Americans.
A moment in time – Canada against the USA in Women’s hockey – for all the marbles – Gold on the line – Canada trailing and yet somehow, some way, the ‘Hockey Gods’ smiled and Canada forced overtime against an American team that had looked invincible in that finale. But there was the never ending desire to win by Marie-Philip Poulin – her Golden Goal at 8:10 of overtime launching Canada to another level. I was in shock and forgot for a second that I still had to commentate! What a game – unreal.
The Canadian men’s captain had been much maligned for his less that super numbers throughout Sochi. Ridiculous talk sprung up throughout the media about Sidney Crosby’s lacklustre tournament. Well, I will never forget commentating on his breakaway goal against Henrik Lundqvist as he put Canada up 2-0 over Sweden – and Mike Babcock’s side never looked back in capturing Gold in Russia. It was a hockey clinic. Three zone domination like I have never seen. I was at times not sure that I was actually seeing what I was commentating on – a sublime performance from what could be considered the finest men’s hockey team ever assembled.
All of the above were surreal – pinch myself – I hope I’m not dreaming moments. I have been lucky in my career to cover three Stanley Cups, World Championships, Olympic Qualifiers, and plenty of domestic hockey. And for all of those experiences I am grateful. For Sochi I am grateful of the opportunity – but somewhere deep down – some days I still have to shake my head, and wonder if I was actually a part of something like that. Something that I had always watched and marvelled at from afar – something that seemed like a dream to be a part of.
For Sochi I will always be indebted – because Sochi and the 2014 Olympics taught me that if you work hard, and have passion for something – then dreams really can come true.
You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce