A dream come true for Team USA Olympian John McCarthy

Photo credit: @SJP_Hockey

By Marko Ukalovic

The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics is the first since 1994 that the NHL did not send their players to participate in at the Winter Olympics. For Team USA it is a group made up of college and minor league players that will compete in South Korea with the hopes of winning a gold medal for the first time since the Miracle on Ice team accomplished that feat back in 1980 in Lake Placid, New York.One of the members of Team USA is John McCarthy, captain of the San Jose Barracuda. McCarthy was picked among 24 other players to represent the red, white and blue by head coach, and former San Jose Shark, Tony Granato. For McCarthy this is a chance of a lifetime for him.

   “I’m really excited about it”, said the Boston, Mass native before he heading out to South Korea last Wednesday. “It’s going to be a fun experience.”
McCarthy described what the emotion was like when he received the call that he was going to be one of the 25 to represent Team USA at the Olympics.
“Yeah it was awesome, it’s really exciting. You know you dream that as a kid, so to get that phone call was awesome. Being able to tell my family, they were over the top excited for me too. So it was a very cool moment.”McCarthy didn’t get too specific on what activities he will do away from the hockey rink during his time in Pyeongchang.

“It’s going to be an awesome experience,” said McCarthy. “It’s going to be important to see everything and just take everything in.”

When asked if he expected to be on the team, McCarthy responded by saying, “No I was surprised for sure. They (the coaches) kinda let me they were looking at me and watching my games and everything. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I just took the attitude of just playing my game. If it works out, it works out and it worked out. It was a really good feeling.”

While he didn’t know what his exact role would be on the team he has had conversations with the coaches of what they expect out of him. “I think it will become a little bit clearer when we get started. I’m just really excited to be on the team.”

Team USA begins group play today at 4:10 am PST as they take on Slovenia in their first matchup in Group B. Good luck to John and the rest of Team USA as they try to bring home gold for the first time in 38 years.

Draymond Green’s summer gets worse

by Michael Martinez

Not too long ago, everything looked up for Draymond Green. The Warriors were so close to repeating as champions, but an ill tempered mistake by the All Star seemed to change the series as the Cavs went on to win three in a row.

And after the tough loss, Green found himself in headlines for all the wrong reasons. Green was arrested, but did reach a plea agreement to pay a small fine. Green got out of that situation fine, but now he’s back in the news for yet another mistake.

As Green traveled with team USA, who appear to be having a lot of fun, the Warriors forward put out a NSFW picture on his Snapchat story. At first, Green claimed he had been hacked. However, the 2016 Olympian confessed that he had accidentally shared the photo publicly, while it had been meant to be sent privately.

“It was a situation where it was meant to be a private message,” Green said. “I kinda hit the wrong button and it sucks. It was meant to be private. We’re all one click away from placing something in the wrong place, and I suffered from that this morning.”

Green’s teammates for this summer’s Olympics have given him a lot of grief for the incident. The Warriors sure hope Green can turn it around, but it seems this is more of an embarrassment for Green than anything. But as a professional athlete, he has to be extremely careful especially with social media.

For Green’s sanity, he’ll hope that everyone’s expectations are met as team USA should dominate in international play. Maybe a gold medal will make Green’s summer a little better. Then again, Green is just thankful for where he is.

“To say I can’t catch a break I think that’s disrespectful for everybody,” he said. “How many people get to live their dreams? I’m not going to sit here and throw myself a pity party and say I can’t catch a break. I’m fine. I get to joke around with these guys all day and get to do what I love for my country. I’m fine. I’m fine.”

USA Men’s Hockey, Falters, Falls Short

By Mary Walsh

USA hockey fans watched their women lose to Canada last Thursday, by one goal, in overtime, during a 5 on 3 penalty kill. It was disappointing, heartbreaking. The men followed that up on Saturday with a loss so stunning it left me more baffled than emotional.

In my short time here I’ve realized that there’s big momentum swings with this team and … we just got to stay calm… When other teams come back on us like that, we know we have the firepower to score off the rush. We have a pretty good offensive team when we get going.

Something like that would have been nice to hear from someone on USA’s men’s Olympic hockey team Saturday. They didn’t say that. Riley Brace said it, after what turned out to be the last game the SF Bulls played at the Cow Palace. The team was gone a week or so later.

There was no national audience watching that game.  There were no big contracts on the line. The players had good reason to suspect they might be on the move soon. They didn’t have their country’s pride to uphold. They were just playing one ECHL hockey game, one night in San Francisco. Still, they took pride in a lead, they came back after falling behind, they played the game to win. They believed they could score. It doesn’t matter what level you are at, belief is necessary for getting a job done.

“Stay calm… We know we have the firepower to score off the rush…” No one on team USA said anything like that on Saturday after they were blown out 5-0 by Finland. You could argue that it is harder to score in that company. You could also argue that if you are in that company you can probably score against them.

Zach Parise said he was embarrassed, Jonathan Quick said they weren’t good. Both are warranted and truthful understatements.

I read one column that eviscerated Patrick Kane for his performance. I thought he was one of the few players really fighting until the end. When you are outnumbered you tend to make mistakes, but at least he was making something. He was shooting, he was getting break aways, he was engaged. I didn’t see that from many on his team. So he missed the penalty shots. How many skaters score those? Besides, that he drew the calls is more proof that he was trying to do something while the rest of his team was… not.

Is it easier to score when there’s no pressure? Perhaps. Many questioned how young teenage girls would cope with the pressure of Olympic figure skating. I think they were too young to grasp the full scope of that pressure, they might have been partly unaware of it.

But NHL players? Grown men, professionals used to playoffs? Surely they have some coping tactics in their satchels. Surely they were not knocked off their feet by the bright lights of the world stage.

So did they just not care enough? Did they not face enough adversity leading up to the last two games? Did they enter the contest with a “gold or nothing” mindset? Did some of them spend too much time with the Austrians? Did they believe too much, have too much confidence, not worry until it really was too late?

In the end it was just one game. Not one of seven chances, but one lone chance to avoid coming home empty-handed. Someone was going to lose, but to lose like that has to sting. Perhaps some of those players will return to the NHL with something to prove. Or maybe it was just one game, badly played.

To Be Or Not To Be On The World Stage: Olympic Hockey

By Mary Walsh

Should the NHL allow players to participate in future Olympics? Should Women’s ice hockey be in the Olympics at all? Those two questions keep being asked and not answered, perhaps because they are only really asked every four years or so. Or perhaps it is because they are silly questions.

It seems like the NHL has been saying it for a long time, that this will be the last time they send their players to the Olympics. They have good, solid business reasons for not liking the interruption to their season. Players risk injury outside the risks they are under contract to take. The NHL schedule is disrupted and condensed, viewership is not guaranteed, especially when the games take place at 4:30 am for some of the audience. The benefits of being seen at the Olympic party are difficult to calculate. Perhaps the money is better spent promoting the Stanley Cup Playoffs or a dozen outdoor games.

Hogwash.

Even the most lukewarm sports fans notice the Olympics, but they might not notice the NHL’s absence from them. That is not the Olympic committee’s fault, that is the NHL’s fault. The NHL has work to do, markets to grow. It is preposterous for the NHL to not want to be on the most global of stages.

Hockey is one of the few team sports in the Winter Olympics. Technically, bobsledding, curling and relays are team sports, but it is not the same. The bobsledders don’t have to contend with other bobsledders ramming them off the track. Most of the Olympic “teams” compete primarily with themselves, a clock, or a judge’s opinion. They take the stage in very small groups or as individuals.

This makes hockey stand out. The spectacle of uniformed groups in active, face to face competition contrasts sharply with the other Winter Olympic events. If the NHL does not see how valuable this is to growth in their market, they are very foolish.

Perhaps the NHL will never have the resources to expand to a global market, but that is no reason to snub the rest of the world.

The NFL doesn’t do Olympics. Major League Baseball doesn’t do Olympics. Basketball and hockey do. Is that why they are smaller than the other two? Is the secret to success to take an isolationist position?

Throw the other football into that mix, the fanatical, globally thriving market that is called soccer here, and the US market looks like small potatoes. Yes, football and baseball have the biggest piece of the local pie but there is more pie, bigger pies to be had. Perhaps the NHL should be thinking even bigger than the big American fish.

Pro soccer goes to the Olympics, after a fashion. Their refusal to allow all professionals to compete equally has resulted in unimpressive Olympic records for some of the historically strongest soccer nations. That is what the NHL could look forward to, which would be good news for Slovenia, Latvia, Switzerland and Germany. Maybe France could finally get a shot at a spot in the tournament, even a medal.

If the NHL did pull their players from the Olympics, would it be worth alienating some players for the sake of one interruption every four years? What if Alexander Ovechkin insisted on going, no matter what the NHL said? Would they suspend him? How many players could they suspend? It could make for a very interesting, different kind of interruption to the season.

For women playing hockey at the Olympics, the question is different. The utter lack of parity between North America and the rest of the world makes the tournament somewhat predictable and less interesting for any audience outside Canada and the US. Or does it?

Does a nation like Japan take pride and interest in their team, even if they have next to no chance of winning a game? Watching the Japanese women bow to each other after scoring a goal, how could anyone suggest that they did not belong there? It is an enormous thing to have more women, in more places, playing hockey. It is bigger than the sport. We have a moral imperative to promote the expression of women’s achievements in all fields right next to those of men.

No matter what the NHL decides to do, no one is talking about dropping men’s hockey from the Olympics. Yet they do discuss dropping the women’s tournament. Hockey for women is still in a fledgling stage in most countries. This is only the fifth time women have played hockey at the Olympics. If countries are prepared to send teams to World Championships and qualifying tournaments, it would be outrageously petty and mean to not let them compete at the Olympics. If the NHL, as the biggest advocate for hockey, is serious about growing interest and its audience, they cannot ignore half of the population.

Many women will watch even if they do not play, just as men who do not play still watch. But if many people prefer to watch sports they also play, there is no reason that should be less true of women than of men. Professional contact sports for women are not likely to make money any time soon. Today, the Olympics are as far as a woman can go in hockey, so let them go. Let them play too, and dream of big games, and enjoy watching the NHL all the more.