If the NHL ever wants to gain some traction on the other Big 4 professional sports in the United States, they may want to take a page out of the U.S. Women’s team’s book. During a preliminary match against Team Canada, Gigi Marvin squared up against a referee and laid her out with a beautiful check. That’s the type of badassery that the NHL is missing. Sure, there’s plenty of fighting in the NHL and there’s no shortage of bone crunching hits, but most players don’t have the balls to take a run at an official. That may be just what they need to grow the fan base though. The hardcore hockey fans are going to love the sport no matter what, but the average idiot that knows nothing about hockey would be enthralled with it if you had players taking out referees left and right (hell, they’d probably even blog about it). After all, if there’s one thing every sports fan hates, it’s a referee.
Now some of you are trying to pass this off as an accident, saying that she was caught up in the play and didn’t see the ref until it was too late. I say this was the move of a savvy veteran looking to send a message to the officials. This is Gigi Marvin’s third Winter Olympics with the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, so I’d like to think she knows what she’s doing out there. If the U.S. wants to get over that silver medal hump they’ve been stuck on the past couple Olympics, they may need a few calls to break their way. Setting the tone early by laying out a ref or two will make them hesitant to rule against Team USA on any borderline calls. Smart move. And it’s already paid off. When the U.S. was trying for a late game comeback, Canada scored what appeared to be a backbreaker goal that put them up 3-1 late in the third. But upon further review, they ruled the puck was kicked in and the goal was waved off. Don’t think that hit from Gigi wasn’t on the back of the ref’s mind when making that call. Then when the U.S. took a penalty with just over 3 minutes to play, Team Canada was quickly called for a penalty just seconds later, nullifying their power play. Again, I’ve gotta think the ref heard Gigi’s footsteps (or the hockey equivalent of footsteps) coming for her. Ultimately the U.S. still came up just short in the game, but they hung close and had some good opportunities at the end. I’ve gotta think this was a preview of the gold medal game we’ll see next week, and with a little luck (and maybe a quick hip check or two for the refs) I could definitely see Team USA taking home the gold.