USA Hockey Is on Life Support
And after its World Cup game against Canada on Tuesday night, it will be time to pull the plug.
Photo by Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
It's a sad scene; a devastating scene, really.
USA Hockey is lying helpless on its back, propped up by inexpensive hospital pillows, tubes in its nose, an IV drip in its arm, unable to communicate except through grunts that come with a steady drip of drool. Its loved ones sit around the bed, weeping, desperate for answers, wondering how they got here when just a few years ago, there was so much hope—so much promise for USA Hockey.
Suddenly, their heads all turn to the door while USA Hockey lets out a soft, muffled moan, saliva running down its cheek and onto the finest pillow socialized medicine can offer. The doctor enters. He's handsome, early-50s, light brown hair, a stethoscope draped over his lean shoulders. He looks down at the clipboard, then up at the family. He shakes his head.
"It's not good," says the man in a long white coat who bears a striking resemblance to Mike Babcock.
Dean Lombardi rises to his feet, his legs wobbly from the news.
"What is it, doc? What's causing this? Can we save it?"
"I'm afraid USA Hockey is dying from an acute case of Living In The Past," the doctor says. "What's worse, the disease has progressed too far. It's terminal and there's nothing we can do about it."
John Tortorella, unable to use his words, throws a chair against a wall.
The doctor flips to the second page of his report.
"Oh, it's also one of the worst cases of Too Much Grit this hospital has ever seen, and we treated those Brian Burke Leafs teams."
Lombardi collapses to the floor. Justin Abdelkader and Jack Johnson tremble as they hug. Tortorella covers his face in the corner of the room, hoping no one will see tears streaming down his cheeks and onto his goatee.
The doctor waits a beat before offering his final words. "Team Canada will be taking USA Hockey off life support on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre around 10:30 PM, so please, say your goodbyes and get your affairs in order."
It was six years ago that USA Hockey was nipping at big brother Canada's heels, earning a round-robin win at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics before falling a goal short in overtime of the gold-medal game. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, USA Hockey was again a bounce away from shifting the balance of power on the continent, but Canada was too powerful and again provided the death blow in the most lopsided 1-0 win in sports history.
The gap certainly widened between 2010 and 2014 but here in 2016, at a best-on-best tournament designed (rigged, practically) by the NHL to get the Americans into the semifinal round, USA Hockey has been exposed as a behind-the-times, knuckle-dragging, out-of-touch entity in desperate need of an organizational philosophy shift out of 1996 to 2016, because the assembling and usage of this current roster is nothing short of shameful.
Lombardi's two Stanley Cups with the ultra-talented Los Angeles Kings fly in the face of his desire to build an international team that reflects 1996 hockey instead of the modern-day version that rewards speed and creativity. Modeling a hockey team in 2016 after one that had success 20 years ago would be like walking into Apple's offices and saying, "I have an idea. A Walkman."
The 1996 team that won World Cup gold gets pegged as "tough" and "gritty"—words that may have meant something then but have become coded language to mean "slow" and "untalented." But have you taken a look at that 1996 roster?
Half the blueline—Chris Chelios, Phil Housley, Brian Leetch—currently reside in the Hall of Fame. Brett Hull and Mike Modano are also enshrined in Toronto. There are a handful of other players—Bill Guerin, John LeClair, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight—that are a step below that level.
That team had an edge, but it also had a lot of very talented players, which probably had more to do with beating Canada than Tkachuk's ability to absorb pain.
Who are the future Hall of Famers on the current roster? Patrick Kane? Jonathan Quick (since the same people who label him the best goaltender in the league have influence on that sort of thing)? Is there anyone beyond that with even an outside chance?
This USA team could not afford a single mistake during roster selection, yet it left off Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Justin Faulk and Kyle Okposo in favor of Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Matt Niskanen and Abdelkader.
On top of that, a coach sporting facial hair that screams 1996 just as much as this roster does scratched Dustin Byfuglien in the opener because... it's inexplicable, really. He's USA's top right-handed defenseman and perhaps the team's fifth-best forward.
And now, in the wake of a humbling 3-0 loss to Team Europe, Tortorella's answer seems to be getting Abdelkader more ice time and putting 40-goal scorer Max Pacioretty on the fourth line. It's like he bought a used car everyone warned him against and after it broke down, his response to fixing it was, "Let's put the air freshener in the back seat and paint, 'DON'T FUCK WITH US' on the side of the car."
Good luck getting to your destination.
If you're an American hockey supporter, this pending rapier swipe from Team Canada to the neck of USA Hockey is great news. Pulling the plug on USA Hockey is the humane thing to do. It's in too much pain. It wants to die. It will allow us to start over again. From death comes life.
And the more lopsided the loss, the better.
It's the only way to take USA Hockey into present times. Cheer for a 7-0 Canada lead with 11 minutes to go in the third period that results in Team USA walking off the ice in protest. Hope Tortorella grabs a bench, throws it onto the ice and hits a linesman with it. Pray for Tortorella's arrest while EMTs set the broken bone in the linesman's arm.
Yes, the NHL makes Major League Baseball look like a radical liberal organization by comparison, but it's always funny when NHL teams sign useless fighters to play meaningful minutes and Gary Bettman says publicly that a website with salary information isn't a thing fans want. That's living in the past we can all get behind.
But when it's USA Hockey operating on a dial-up modem, the only way forward is take it out behind the ACC on Tuesday night and shoot it like Old Yeller.
At least, that's my understanding of how socialized healthcare works with the terminally ill. I get all my news from Donald Trump.
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