It’s Olympic season and everyone wants to speculate, guess, wildly hypothesize which team will take home the gold. Here at High Heels and High Sticks, we care about that, of course, because we are good Americans. But we’re not going to break down the teams by who has the best players or who has performed well in international competitions. No, of course not, that’s been done a hundred times by now just on TSN broadcasts alone. Instead, I will be assigning arbitrary rankings to teams based on people who are cool, interesting, funny, attractive, and I guess, talented. Obviously this is a much better system.
Clearly the coolest team of all time.
I do not have the time or patience to go through all of the teams that are participating in the games so instead I’m going to go through the top five men’s teams as predicted to place in Sochi by The Hockey News and the top five women’s teams as currently ranked by the International Ice Hockey Federation. This part will spots 5-3, probably tomorrow before the opening ceremony will be spots 1 & 2.
Switzerland Women’s Team – Ranked 5th by IIHF
It is surprisingly difficult to find information about this team. But upon first glance, several of their team members went to Northeastern, which I live near, so let’s give them a +1 for that. They also have two sets of twins – Stefanie and Julia Marty and Sara and Laura Benz. Unfortunately, both sets seem to be split between defense and offense instead of doing the Sedin or Lamoureux twins thing, so I guess I’ll give Switzerland +4, one for twin and -2 for the lack of the creepy “twins on the same line” thing.
Another one of their players, Jessica Lutz, has dual citizenship in the US and Switzerland, so we’ll give her +.5 for being American. She works as a barista in DC and trained by playing pick-up hockey against male opponents. This is basically the female version of Rocky. Imagine the training montage: she beats up hanging meat and pounds back beers with the guys after playing and then goes hungover to make pretty foam hearts on cappuccinos. (She’s probably more responsible than that, but that’s a better montage than one of her eating quinoa and drinking protein shakes.) I’m going to give her another +2.
Now their goalie, Florence Schelling, not only went to Northeastern but has played for the Swiss national team since she was thirteen. She was the first and only woman so far to have played for a club in the Swiss men’s national B league. If my math is correct, she played in the 2006 Olympics at age sixteen and had a .939 save percentage. True, she didn’t do so hot at the 2010 Olympics, but in her four years at Northeastern, she had a career .940 save percentage.
So for Florence Schelling alone, I give the Swiss team +10. I told you this was arbitrary.
United States Men’s Team – Predicted 5th by THN
Yes, The Hockey News, that biased piece of Canadian propaganda, predicted the Americans would come in fifth at Sochi. How dare they! Clearly they are just trying to forget how close we came to defeating their precious team in 2010. Remember, maple-hoarders, we beat you in prelims. And just when you think we’re down, we’ll find a way to bounce back.
So let’s look at the US Roster. Well, they’ve got Ralph Lauren Model Zach Parise. On the other hand, they also have the least photogenic man alive in poor, poor Phil Kessel.
I honestly don’t know which sweater is uglier.
So that’s a wash. Parise is also the son of noted Canadian J. P. Parise and that has to be a negative, right? Let’s take -1 for that. But his BFF Ryan Suter comes from good, solid, American stock — his father Bob played on the immortal 1980 US team and his uncle Gary was a member of the silver medal team at Salt Lake City. Just for the Miracle connection, we’ll give him a +5.
Moving on, we’ve also got David Backes, who saves puppies and did an AMA where he talked about going to school and hockey and stuff. Of course, Hannah, as a Blackhawks fan, hates him, but I, as a Blackhawks hater, loves him, so that balances out to about a, what, +2? Yeah, that works. +2 for saving puppies.
Who else have we got…ah yes, Patrick Kane.
Oh god why.
I think we have to take off two points for that mullet. -2.
Moving onto the goalies, we have three of Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, and Ryan Miller. Now we all know that I love Jimmy Howard and his weird drumming, but we also gotta give a point to Jonathan Quick basically being Liam the Teenager who just woke up.
Wait where am I? Why is this medal silver? Last time I was awake Parise had just scored.
And then there’s Ryan Miller, who is married to the beautiful Noureen DeWulf and once sold his house so he wouldn’t have to keep anything to keep him in Buffalo. What a stud. He also takes pictures like these:
Also, here’s his goalie mask for Sochi:
That’s gotta be at least +5 bald eagles. With Jimmy and Quick, that’s +7 for the goalies.
Russian Women’s Team – Ranked 4th by the IIHF
Once again, I found it somewhat difficult to find information on this team, which really speaks to the need to cover women’s hockey more (in general and in particular in countries where the programs are still growing). But let’s talk about the Russian women.
First, Yekaterina (or Ekaterina, depended on transliteration) Smolentseva. She is their captain, possibly (as I said, I had some issues finding definitive info), and according to THN recorded 102 goals and 179 points in 48 games last year in Russia, which is insane. That’s a 3.7 point-per-game pace. I don’t even know what to do with that information. Interestingly, she is listed on the Hockey Hall of Fame’s website as a Legend of Hockey. According to her official Sochi profile, she returned to training two weeks after her son was born.
I don’t know what’s going on in this picture. A hit? A hit gone wrong? A missed edge? Regardless, look at that majestic Russian goddess, gliding through the Swiss like a knife through cheese.
What a badass. I give her a +5.
Moving on, one of their goalies is Anna Prugova and she is twenty years old. This is the thing about the Olympics; they always make you feel very unaccomplished. She participated in Vancouver, where she was the youngest participant in ice hockey. She did not do so hot, but hey, she was sixteen. Actually, glancing through, all their goalies are young. The other two are twenty-two. I don’t know how I feel about this. +1? -1? Let’s give them +1
That one girl looks weirdly unhappy.
So as I said, it’s hard to find info about them in general, but I do know that they’re kind of the underdog — on home turf! They medalled for only the second time since 2001 at last year’s World Championship, and their program is still very much in building mode. I dig the underdog. It’s kind of like being the 1980 team at Lake Placid, except they’re Russian and female. +3.
Finnish Men’s Team – Predicted 4th by THN
I feel like the Finnish team is the Olympics’ Ottawa Senators: the unlikely but trendy pick. Automatic -2 for that.
Okay, but here’s the thing: I like the Finnish team. Part of this is that I’m a Penguins fan and two of them, Olli Määttä (the boy of a thousand umlauts) and Jussi Jokinen, are on the national team. As this points system is completely arbitrary, I’m going to give a point for each of them, so +2.
The most obvious thing the Finns have going for them is their goaltending. With Tukka “Don’t Poke The Bear” Rask and Antti “Former Zamboni Driver” Niemi as their number 1 and number 2, Kari Lehtonen has almost become an afterthought.
Speaking of Tuukka Rask, though, literally the first suggestion that comes up when you type his name into YouTube is “Tuukka Rask goes crazy.”
God I love him. I’m also terrified of him, so yeah, let’s give him +5, okay?
But the real plus the Finns have, obviously, is the Great One of Finnish hockey, aka Teemu Selanne.
If I look that good at 43 it will be a modern miracle.
Selänne, at 43, is no longer the wunderkind he once was, but he’s still Teemu. He’s the guy who raced cars under the name Teddy Flash so the team wouldn’t find out he was doing it, the guy who shot his glove in celebration when he broke the rookie scoring title, the guy who is absolutely going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer (Hannah and I discussed this at great length the other day, maybe we’ll post our debate at some point). #TeemuForever. +5
The creepy thing is how much Teemu still looks like he did as a rookie.
Finnish Women’s Team – Ranked 3rd by IIHF
The Finnish women’s team is basically always the bridesmaid, never the bridesmaid. They seem to always place third or fourth; not quite good enough to take on the big guns of Canada and the USA, but almost. +1 for keeping on, that takes real fortitude.
Their captain is defenseman Jenni Hiirikoski who, in addition to playing for the team, has her own painting and wallpaper business to pay the bills. (We really need to get on making women’s hockey a sport where they can make money.) +3
Their goaltender is the adorable Noora Räty who played for that insanely good Minnesota Golden Gophers team. In her senior year, they went undefeated and she had a save percentage of .956. She’s been World Championships MVP and best goalie, and actually had a shutout at the Torino Olympics when she was sixteen.
Dang, I love her. She looks basically exactly what you’d expect someone from Scandinavia to look like. Also, check out her badass goalie mask:
Gotta give her some love just for that. +6
Lastly, they have their veteran Riikka Nieminen-Välilä, who is basically their Petr Nedved in that she came out of retirement to play in the Olympics. She’s a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame and won the scoring title in Nagano. She could have easily stayed retired and not come back — it’s been ten years! — but mad respect for her deciding to go for it anyway. +3
Swedish Men’s Team – Predicted 3rd by THN
Now, there’s a particular kind of stereotype about Swedes, men and women alike: they are a good-looking bunch of folks. There’s the whole “Swedish twin thing” for a reason (except not these guys). Also, they like Ikea.
They have an early advantage in Henrik “The King” Lundqvist, most stylish man in the NHL. He even won an award for it! (He also accidentally dropped the f-bomb at his Vezina acceptance speech, which is reassuring if only to prove that he is flawed.) +2 for swag.
He also plays guitar in a band, has a lovely family, and got a massive contract earlier this season. We should all hate him.
He is also a Swedish twin, though sadly his twin will not be playing with him. In fact, none of the Swedish twins involved have both halves playing, since Henrik Sedin is injured. Sorry, Sweden. No creepy twins to confuse the announcers. You get -5. You had so much potential. If only you had sent Joel Lundqvist.
They’ve got half the Red Wings squad on their team, ranging from Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike Henrik Zetterberg to former last-overall Jonathan Ericsson. They’ve also got Daniel Alfredsson, who once did this after getting knocked out of the playoffs:
I honestly don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus. My brain says minus, my heart says plus. I’ll go with my heart. +1
Other highlights of their team include actual ray of sunshine Gabe Landeskog:
And Erik Karlsson, frequent abuser of hashtags, who I keep forgetting is only 23:
In conclusion: Sweden. +12.5 for pretty, half a point for each player.
We’re gonna eat a Malm bed’s worth of meatballs!
Stay tuned for the remaining four teams: USA and Canadian women’s teams, and Russian and Canadian men’s team!