|The U.S. and Canada shake hands after an epic Olympic final in 2010. (Getty Images)|
Most of the time, Canada and the USA are friendly neighbors. There is some good-natured ribbing back and forth, things that you'll see in an episode of How I Met Your Mother or South Park. All in all, things are pretty cordial between America and its hat.
But that's most of the time. When they get together in a sporting event those cordialities are usually laid to the side, at least for a little bit. Especially when they are heated -- and great -- as the soccer match the two nation's women's teams played at the London Olympics. For a few hours it rekindled the sporting rivalry that exists between the two countries that is almost entirely built in hockey and winter sports.
It was an incredible soccer match that the USA won 4-3 in injury time of extra time on a header by American striker Alex Morgan. It came after Christine Sinclair had a hat trick for Canada. Oh, and there was some very ... questionable officiating that cost Canada dearly. Sad as it is for the Canadians, often times controversies like that can only make a game even more memorable, especially when it was of that quality.
For a few hours if you happen to be following the Twittersphere you might have thought it was Canada vs. USA in hockey or something, that's how fervent the nationalism -- and rivalry -- was running.
The match got us thinking ... what are the best moments in Canada vs. USA sporting past? Surely most if not all of the best before Monday came from hockey and really, most of them have come in recent years since the Soviet Union dissolved and their hockey team was no longer the supreme villain.
Considering this is a hockey blog and all we'll just limit it to hockey games, even though I'm not sure anything outside of hockey could crack this list anyway (save the aforementioned soccer match). Also considering that this is a trip through time with video, we'll keep it to the 21st century.
2010 Olympic Gold-Medal Game
Of course nothing beats this. Nothing. As great as the women's soccer match was it just isn't in the same realm as this game from two years ago.
With the weight of the country on their shoulders and on their home soil, the Canadians were facing a ton of pressure to win. No way were they going to lose the gold medal in hockey within their own country to the Americans. This is Canada's sports, after all.
Consider, though, that the USA was fielding one of the best teams it ever has before -- same can be said for Canada, though. Also consider that earlier in the tournament during the pool play, the USA actually beat Canada, just to set up some extra drama. Like it needed any.
Canada was just moments away from winning the game, and the gold. They hadn't found much success against Ryan Miller in goal for the U.S., keeping the game tight. But they had found just enough to lead in the waning seconds. With the Canadians already starting to celebrate the win, Zach Parise found himself in front of a half empty cage and tucked home the game-tying goal. The reactions across Canada were simply excellent.
The game was about as good as it gets and the fact that it came in the Gold-Medal game between two heated rivals made it just ... the best.
2010 World Junior Championship Final
Boy, 2010 was quite the year for Canada-USA hockey matches. The World Junior final between the two didn't have the same type of stakes as the Olympic final did, but it was still a huge game.
Remember, in Canada the World Juniors are treated almost like the Stanley Cup playoffs. They are a huge deal, Canadians are very proud of their junior hockey system. So once again, we're talking about a lot of pressure on the Canadian players. With the game being held in Saskatchewan, there was just that much more for the Americans to compete against, same as the Olympics.
Honestly, the parallels between this game and the Olympic final are pretty amazing, just in reverse. Before the final Canada had beaten the USA in pool play, winning via a shootout. In this game it was Jordan Eberle scoring in the final two minutes for Canada to tie the game to set up overtime. That's when American defenseman John Carlson fired home the winner to send the U.S. to the upset victory and of course the championship.
2002 Olympic Gold-Medal Game
Once again we have Canada and the USA meeting in the championship game, and again this one was in the Olympics. You had two nations that were dreaming of winning hockey gold. Consider that the United States had only won (and still has) two gold medals in Olympic ice hockey history and both of them came on American soil (1960 in Squaw Valley, 1980 at Lake Placid). This was a shot at No. 3 in Salt Lake City.
However the Canadians were also desperate to end its somewhat unfathomable drought. Canada won the gold in six of the first seven years ice hockey was in the Winter Olympics. The final year in that run was 1952. That was also the last time that Canada had won gold in ice hockey. Again, looking back, that's really hard to believe that Canada could have gone 50 years without winning gold in hockey.
Frankly, the United States was going to need every bit of home-ice support it could get to pull off the upset. Team Canada iced an insane lineup that included Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya, Jarome Iginla, Scott Niedermayer, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Joe Sakic, Eric Lindros and Martin Brodeur. It's not hard to see why they were the favorites.
The U.S. was actually able to strike first in the game and hang with the Canadians for a bit but in the end Canada was too much, just as expected. They won the gold to bring an end to the torturous drought for the country in its favorite sport.
Still, looking back and remembering how amped up people were on both sides of the border for that game is incredible.
2004 World Junior Championship Final
Take the pressure of the previous World Junior Championship game for the Canadians and duplicate it here. The only difference is that this tournament wasn't held in Canada but instead in Helsinki, Finland.
Either way the United States and Canada found themselves at each other's throats in the final and wouldn't you know it, once again we had ourselves a tie game late in the contest. Then Patrick O'Sullivan broke the hearts of Canadians with the game-winning goal. Well either O'Sullivan broke their hearts or Marc-Andre Fleury did, for it was the young goalie's questionable decision to come out of the net and challenge the puck that led to the goal that would certainly fit the "ugly" mold.
To make it all just a little sweeter for the Americans and a little more memorable than it already was, it marked the first time in history that the USA had won gold in the junior championships. The fact that it came against the heated rivals to the north had to have made it just that much sweeter.
2010 Women's Olympic Gold-Medal Game
Hey, don't forget the ladies. After all, for as strong as the rivalry is between the men it might be even more intense between the women. That's because the two are the top two nations in the world and thus are always meeting with the biggest prizes on the line.
Just like the men, the women met in both the 2002 final in Salt Lake City and the 2010 final in Vancouver. Also just like the men, the Canadians came out with the gold in both games.
The most recent one, the Vancouver final, was a 2-0 win for Canada. It shutout the American ladies who had scored nine goals in the semifinal. Frankly, the game itself wasn't that remarkable, Canada grabbed a two-goal lead in the first period and nobody scored afterward.
What made this game memorable, though, was what happened afterward. To celebrate the gold medal, the ladies did what any good Canadians would do (see, a light-hearted joke, neighbors), drink beer and smoke cigars. Except they did it on the ice in their uniforms. It was unorthodox to be sure and drew a lot of scrutiny. It probably didn't make the Americans feel the warm and fuzzies either, having to see the Canadians partying like that in front of them. Usually that's done behind closed doors.