VANCOUVER — For the latest greatest explanation of the women’s hockey rivalry between the Americans and Canadians, check out Rebecca Johnston’s shoes.
The Canadian winger might have singed off her soles Tuesday, after coming to such a screeching stop upon seeing a gaggle of American players in front of an athletes village coffee shop that was about to host a Team Canada media availability.
Officially, the Americans were just hanging out, waiting for an International Ice Hockey Federation photo shoot nearby featuring their twin forwards, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux.
Of course, there’s also an argument that these two teams can’t get away from one another, no matter how hard they try.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Johnston insisted of the impromptu meeting, although the look on her face and sudden halt in her step at the time suggested otherwise. “It wasn’t that strange. You see them and you just walk by. It’s not a big deal.”
The Canadians and the Americans will square off in the Vancouver 2010 gold medal game on Thursday afternoon at Canada Hockey Place, marking the third time in the four Olympics that have featured women’s hockey that these two sides have battled in the title game. They’ve met in all 12 world championship finales that have been contested.
The Americans practised briefly on Tuesday, while coach Melody Davidson gave her charges the day off, except for media duty for Johnston and fellow winger Cherie Piper. Canada has had days off throughout this tournament and Davidson insists it’s something her crew has had mapped out for some time. They did play a 50-game schedule leading up to the Olympics. The U.S., by comparison, played 24.
“It’s a testament to our training staff and the doctors and everyone else we work with,” Piper said. “They have a plan and they’ve had a plan since we started training Aug. 1 full time.
“Obviously, this rest day is important for us. For an outsider, they might not necessarily understand, but we have trust in our system and what our doctors and trainers are telling us to do.”
The Americans beat the Canadians 4-1 in the 2009 world championship title game last April in Hameenlinna, Finland, marking their second straight crown and third in four tries. The U.S. then won Hockey Canada Cup in September at GM Place, beating the Canadians 4-2 in the preliminary round and then 2-1 in the final.
The Canadians responded by sweeping a six-game exhibition series from the Americans played in various North American arenas between October and January. The teams also split a pair of games at the Four Nations Cup in Finland in November, with the U.S. winning the preliminary round 3-2 and the Canadians taking the championship contest 5-1.
Davidson insists that too much can be read into those outcomes.
History indicates she has a point, since the Americans beat the Canadians in eight straight games leading up to the Salt Lake 2002 gold-medal game, which Canada won 3-2.
“The one-off games were great prep and a great opportunity to showcase the game around North America,” Davidson said, pointing to the six-game series specifically. “And it kept the rivalry healthy. But Thursday is a brand new day and they weren’t handing out any medals prior to that.”
© Copyright (c) Postmedia Network Inc.