Olympic hockey teams give nation moment of unity

Both the United States men’s and women’s hockey teams came into the Winter Olympics with golden aspirations, and both teams fell short of that goal. But as a nation, we have once again been reminded of just how close we can become while rallying in support our Olympic teams.

The men’s Olympic hockey team started strong out of the gate but ultimately ended their Olympic games Saturday with an embarrassing 5-0 loss in the bronze medal game to underdog Finland. In the semi finals, the men suffered a heartbreaking loss to neighbor Canada, a team many figured would be the downfall of the United States coming into the tournament.

The women’s Olympic team finished in heartbreaking fashion as well, losing in overtime to a Canadian team Friday that they had all but finished off. It capped the fourth straight Olympics that the Canada women took home gold. The United States finished with silver.

Many who follow hockey call the United States’ performance disappointing and disheartening. While the finish for both teams wasn’t what the players or the fans had hoped for, there are a lot of positives that can be taken away from the Sochi Olympic games that we can be proud of on a national level.

One thing that you can always count on come Olympic time is an increase in national pride. There is just something about competition that brings groups of people together.

In these games, however, with these specific hockey teams, something was different. Everyone knows that in Buffalo, hockey is king. Coming from outside of the city I had never seen such dedication to one team that I have seen in Sabres fans, so it was safe to assume that these games would hold special meaning to everyone here.

After the men’s 3-2 victory over the Russians in particular, I could see what was happening. In what seemed like only a few moments, these Olympic games had captured the imaginations of not just Buffalonians, but of people all across America.

Social media was buzzing about the game. The public outcry for victory going forward was nothing short of amazing. It didn’t stop at social media and television, either; everywhere I went, whether it was at work or at the dining halls at school, people were talking about the game.

I remember having at least four conversations with different people at each place I went about the conclusion of the game against Russia. Each conversation generally went, “could you believe that,” or “I have never seen anything like it, I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

After the women’s team lost to Canada in the gold medal game, Twitter in particular was again overflowing with sympathy and gratitude toward the U.S. team.

Even I, a casual hockey fan, tuned in for the men’s battle against Canada, and for those three periods a nation watched and held strong, together.

The world that we live in today is nothing short of complicated and full of hardships in various shapes and forms. We as a nation are generally divided on most issues that we face, starting conflicts not only with other countries, but within our own, too.

It was nice to finally see us all come together, even though it was about something as seemingly trivial as a game of hockey. That is what the Olympics are all about—not the medals or who won or who lost.

The United States men’s and women’s hockey teams came away empty handed in many respects, but what they gave the people cannot be quantified in words. They gave us something to believe in as one group, a reason to come together and get along despite what was happening in the world around us.

And that is one of our greatest victories during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

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