Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Nations Cup

Tomorrow I will get on a plane that has a grand total of nine seats.  I am flying to Saranac Lake in order to watch the last round and championship game of the Four Nations Cup.  This tournament is an annual event and this year it serves as a preview of the Olympic women's ice hockey tournament.

Of the four major sports ice hockey is the one I know least about.  Last year I went to watch our Northeastern University team play in the women's Beanpot tournament. The men's Beanpot is a very big deal in Boston.  Northeastern, Boston College, Boston University, and Harvard play two consecutive Mondays in February to determine who will win the coveted cup.  The women's Beanpot is held concurrently (on the Tuesday following the men's Monday matches) but is less of a spectator draw.

One of our college's students was on the Northeastern team last year and I had heard she was an excellent player.  So, I went to the game and was very impressed not only by her skill, but by the excitement generated by the teams.  Northeastern won the women's Beanpot last year and it was truly thrilling to watch the contest. The student-athlete to whom I've referred is now on the United States Olympic team.

I travel tomorrow in a nine seat plane not primarily to watch a student play, but because of a grant I have received to examine communication issues in sport. There is nothing I know of the Olympic team to suggest that there is anything but positive communication there.  When I wrote the basketball book I traveled to watch games not knowing for sure what I might learn related to the research.  The motivation this time is similar.  I am not sure what I will discover, but I think informal conversations may reveal best practices and challenges.

And besides my academic interests, I think it will be exciting to go watch the games. The first two rounds have already been played. The United States trounced Sweden in its first game, but lost to Canada in its second. The chances are good that the US team will defeat Finland tomorrow night in the first game I'll be attending. And if they do, then there will be a rematch for the championship on Saturday night in the same arena where the 1980 men's hockey team startled the world by defeating the Russians.

Not crazy about flying in a nine seater.  I have flown on small commercial planes before, but only once on one this tiny. That was on a flight from Boston to Burlington, Vermont. When I got on that plane I was shaken when I first noticed that I could see right into the cockpit and then observed the captain looking at a map shortly before take-off. A bit unsettling.

As a fan, I am fairly certain that what I will remember most about the tournament will be the excitement of watching a championship game.  Nobody of my vintage can forget the 1980 Olympic victory.  The Lake Placid arena is actually named after the coach of that team, the late Herb Brooks.  Al Michaels did the television broadcast for that game. Michaels would have been a star broadcaster regardless, but his career trajectory was positively launched when at the game's astonishing end he said what has become the line he is most famous for uttering: When he finished counting off the last seconds he exclaimed, Do you believe in miracles? Yes! I'll consider that line when the wind picks up as I bounce along in the nine seater.

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