ANAHEIM — A lot of Olympic-watchers weren’t alive for the 1980 Miracle on Ice, but Brian Gionta was.
He is 37. Two other Team USA teammates are 35 or over. James Wisniewski, formerly a high-minute Ducks defenseman, turns 34 before the Games end.
The goalie, Ryan Zapolski, played most of his stateside hockey in the East Coast Hockey League, for the likes of the Gwinnett Gladiators and the Toledo Walleye, before he signed with Jokerit in the KHL. He’s 30.
No one is begrudging them the thrill of wearing the USA jersey, but this is more like Metamucil On Ice.
The Canadian team features Andrew Ebbett, a former Duck, and Christian Thomas, son of former Duck Steve Thomas, the hero of 2003. It contains Maxim Lapierre, just in case things get too harmonious. Again, a fine opportunity, and not a knock on these hockey lifers who thought they’d sung their final note.
But everywhere else in the Olympics you see the world’s best. In 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, we saw hockey’s best. It was better than anything else’s best.
When Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 in overtime, eight years ago at high noon in Vancouver, there were All-Stars playing on fourth lines. There were Hall of Famers scrumming on the boards, NHL linemates thrust into combat. Every shift was a symphony.
But the NHL withdrew its players from the Pyeongchang Olympics. It did so for money and convenience. If you ever thought its owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman cared to see how high their game could climb, you have been relieved of your delusion.
The league didn’t make money from the Olympics and it had to deal with a two-week hole in the schedule. Somehow those two factors eclipsed the sight of Sidney Crosby coming off the wall and firing in the winning goal in overtime, sending Canadians into gleeful streets across six time zones.
That one Canadian locker room in 2010 held Crosby, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Jonathan Toews, Drew Doughty, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey…