THE BLOG
04/28/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Cocky Canadians Act Entitled to Olympic Hockey Gold

With half a period to play and their team leading by three goals over Slovakia in the Olympic semi-final Friday night, Canadian fans chanted "We Want U.S.A.!'' as if the game in front of them was already decided and it was time to play the next one.

Slovakia shut them up for a few minutes by scoring twice and almost tying the score in the final seconds before Canada survived with a 3-2 victory to qualify for Sunday's gold-medal game against the United States.

Canada will probably win -- it has the better players and a home-ice advantage. And it also has a swaggering sense of entitlement as if its very soil has harvested hockey's master race. It's an attitude that has always grated on its international rivals.

For goodness sake. Canada lost a preliminary game to the U.S. in this tournament and needed a shootout to get past Switzerland before barely beating Slovakia.

And yet its fans and journalists (and some of its players) combine the self-regard of Notre Dame supporters in football with the imperial air of the Yankees in baseball.

The theatrics late in Friday night's second game made up for a disappointing day that began with the U.S. winning, 6-1, over Finland in a one-sided match that was over in the first few minutes.

The Americans might have one slight advantage Sunday in that they had an easy game early Friday while Canada had a difficult game late.

The U.S. victory over Canada last Sunday will probably be inconsequential in predicting the result this time around because Canada since then has learned to play with cohesion and confidence.

In an interview with NBC Sports after the game, Sidney Crosby of Canada said ``We've improved and come together as a team.'' As for Sunday, he said ``It's going to be emotional. It's going to be intense.''

A better omen of Sunday's game could come from the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City when the Americans played the Canadians well but Canada won the gold medal with a strong third period.

But the U.S. also has some historical mojo on its side.

It won its only two gold medals in 1960 and 1980. The decades are in line here in 2010 for another American victory. The game will be seen on NBC, live, at 3 p.m. Eastern and viewers can only hope NBC continues its professional camera work and commentary.

About the only view they failed to provide Friday was a good replay of the shot by Slovakia's Pavol Demitra that went wide of the net in the final seconds.

Did it hit the goalie, Roberto Luongo? Did it hit the crossbar? Did it just miss? NBC had plenty of time to find a definitive replay but offered only a view from behind the net that showed nothing clearly.

The only other annoying aspect of the telecast was the habit of color analyst Eddie Olczyk to talk and talk and talk when shorter comments would let his play-by-play man jump back into the rhythm of the action. Sometimes, less is more.

But Sunday could provide a great conclusion to a good tournament. Olympic hockey has raised the profile of the best players of a sport that is often overlooked, especially in recent years following the destructive lockout of Commissioner Gary Bettman that canceled the season of 2004-05.

With a good finish Sunday, the gold-medal championship match could be a sparkling conclusion to an entertaining Vancouver Olympics.

And if Canada happens to win it on the soil of its home and native land, well, that won't be all bad either. It is, after all, a great sport and a great nation. Let's hope they remember to say something gracious about all their vanquished visitors.