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It's a great day for hockey

Olympic news and notes

The story lines:

Bordering countries that are (mostly) friendly rivals: Canada meets the United States, a replay of 2002.

Bad feelings renewed: Russia plays the Czech Republic, a rematch from 1998.

Bordering countries that are the biggest of rivals: Sweden faces Finland, as in the 2006 gold medal game.

"Anybody who's a hockey fan is going to be watching," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "To steal a line from Badger Bob (Johnson, the revered late coach), it's a great day for hockey."

Taking sides

Which game is the biggest depends strictly on one's citizenship papers.

• This will be only the second high-level showdown between the United States and Canada since 1996, when the Americans upset their neighbors in the World Cup. The first was in the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City, when Canada won 5-2 for its first gold medal in its homegrown sport in 50 years. Said U.S. and Lightning forward Ryan Malone, "We're as ready as I guess we're going to be, right?"

• The Soviet Union invaded the former Czechoslovakia in 1968 after the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalization, and Communist rule didn't end until 1989. The grandfather of Czech Jaromir Jagr died in prison in 1968, and Jagr, a former NHL MVP and Stanley Cup winner, wears No. 68 in his honor.

"When you retire from the game and look back in 10 years, you look at the big game," Jagr said. "That's why I want to play the Russians. … I will remember (today's) game." In 1998, the Czechs, with Jagr, beat Russia 1-0 for the gold.

• Politically, Sweden dominated Finland from the 11th century, when Swedes crossed the Baltic Sea to convert Finnish tribes to Christianity, until Finland fell to Russia in 1809. The countries are passionate about the same sports and are fierce rivals. "As an individual, I don't know one bad Swedish guy. As a team, you always want to beat them," Finn Teemu Selanne said. "They're like big brothers, and that's what you always want to do to your big brother." In 2006, Sweden won the gold 3-2.

You said it

Re: Snowboarding

With all due respect, I have to disagree that snowboarding is not a sport. It takes a great deal of muscular control and strength to perform any task on a snowboard and much training to perfect "tricks" to a level that is worthy of any competitive venue.

My son is a skateboarder who spends endless hours working on not only his tricks, but his form. He is in peak physical condition for a person his age (14) and feels his practice is true training for his sport of choice.

I would like to commend our young Olympians who have brought new and innovative sports to the forefront. They have provided our children and grandchildren with the opportunity to introduce the Olympics to a whole new genre of athleticism.

Stephanie Salls, St. Petersburg

Ask us

What flowers are in the bouquets that are presented to the medal winners, and how were they selected?

The bouquets contain green spider chrysanthemums, green hypericum berries and green aspidistra leaves. The two Vancouver-area florists who got the contract for the Games worked with organizers to come up with the flowers and bouquet design.

"(The organizers) were design experts in the general sense, who were concerned about every artistic aspect of the Olympics," one of the florists, June Strandberg, told the Vancouver Sun. "There was a young woman from Switzerland who had been involved in previous Olympics who had the final say. She knew exactly what they were looking for."

Facebook posting of the day

"Due to the recent flood of inquiries, we would like to say that, unfortunately, we do not offer curling. Thanks for all of the questions though!" — Posted on the page of Manatee County's Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex on Saturday

Today is hockey's version of Super Sunday, a day the men's field is sorted out for what should be a dramatic final week of the tournament. Six teams with long and sometimes antagonistic relationships go head-to-head in rematches of the past three Olympic finals.

Olympic news and notes 02/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 10:36pm]
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