By MIKE LOOMIS
Special To One Great Season
More than all the games, the No. 1 seed and the silver medals draped around their necks, the Americans won respect.
Canada was a team built from the ground up for one thing: to win gold. Even after the United States shocked everyone and beat the Canadians in the preliminary round, I wrote that ultimately the road to gold still would have to go through Canada. (this article continues below...)
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Team USA put up a valiant effort, but ultimately lost to the best team in hockey, on a goal scored by the best player in hockey. A fitting end for both sides, really.
The Americans have nothing to be sorry about. Every achievement in this Olympics was earned, every goal was hard-fought (except for the Finland game, when goals were being given out like candy), every win was another notch on their belts. Team USA earned its place on the podium, and now the world knows where the Americans stand among the hockey hierarchy. This much is true as well: they aren't going away any time soon.
While Canada was built to win gold, the US team was built to compete, and compete it did. Even after Sunday's final, I think even the most die-hard Canadian hockey fan would concede America had the best team overall. It played smart, tough and determined, and only a handful of its players are over the age of 25.
This Olympics represent a true changing of the guard in Olympics hockey, and I would think the Americans are only going to get stronger from now on.
Respect. It's more important than any gold medal, at least until the next Winter Olympics.
Four years will never feel so long.
Mike Loomis is a freelance video editor in Cincinnati who has become "useless around the house since the Olympics started." Follow him on Twitter at @Loomis2.