Canada wins Olympic gold; Team USA fights to the end

And it all came down to overtime. Wow. What a game! I’m mourning the loss because Team USA was so close to tasting gold, but I’m proud of how well the team played. No one thought they were going to be that good.

Team USA reacts to gold medal loss.

Team USA reacts to the gold medal loss. Photo by AP Photo/Julie Jacobson.

To wrap up my Ryan of the Day features, I’ve decided to give gold, silver and bronze to my top three Ryans.

Bronze: Ryan Malone. It seemed like Malone was all over the place when he was out on the ice. He made plays work, and he contributed to Team USA in a big way. His goal against Finland sent USA into an offensive explosion that led to a 6-1 win and a trip to the gold medal game.

Ryan Malone was a force for Team USA.

Ryan Malone was a force for Team USA. Photo by Reuters.

Silver: Ryan Kesler. I didn’t know too much about Kesler before the Olympics, but once he hit the ice, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He plays without holding anything back, and that’s one of the most important qualities a hockey player can have, in my opinion. He’s one of my new favorite players, and I’ll keep tabs on him as part of Vancouver’s team.

Ryan Kesler never gave up.

Ryan Kesler never gave up. Photo by AP Photo/Chris O'Meara.

Gold: Ryan Miller. What can I even say about Miller? He was outstanding. MVP of the Games and the backbone of Team USA.  He made one big save after another at key moments. Unfortunately, the game ended with a goal slipping past him, but that doesn’t take away from how well he played throughout the Olympics.

Ryan Miller was the backbone of Team USA.

Ryan Miller was the backbone of Team USA. Photo by AP Photo/Chris O'Meara.

Coming so close to the gold and then having to settle for silver is going to hurt for awhile, but I hope that soon the American men are able to see how great they were tonight. What a thrilling game! The Parise goal with less than 30 seconds left in the game was probably the greatest hockey moment I’ve ever witnessed. I was so proud of Team USA, and I still am. Sure, I love my NHL teams, but in the end I bleed red, white and blue.

Zach Parise's goal will forever be one of my favorite hockey moments.

Zach Parise's goal will forever be one of my favorite hockey moments. Photo by AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

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“This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

Well, today is the day. USA vs Canada in the gold medal game. We’re just a few minutes away from the puck drop, so I’m not going to write much. I just wanted to post an inspirational video to remind us all of the greatness we’re capable of.

And one last Ryan of the Day before the game starts. Today I’m going with Ryan Whitney, just because. I’m a fan of his, and I think he can do big things for Team USA. We’ll see how he does tonight.

Enjoy the game everyone!

USA! USA! USA!

Ryan of the Day: Ryan Suter

Team USA is going to the gold medal game! Although I missed most of today’s 6-1 win over Finland because of prior commitments, I did catch the highlights. I was hoping to have a clear winner for my next Ryan of the Day, but I was left wishing that Patrick Kane was one of the seven Ryans on the team. Yes, Ryan Malone did score, but he already got his day, and I want to share the love.

With that in mind, today’s Ryan of the Day is Ryan Suter because I felt like he showed up in several of the game clips that I saw. He also had two shots on goal in the win, and that’s the second most on the team.

Team USA's Ryan Suter.

Team USA's Ryan Suter. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

 The 24-year-old defenseman plays for the Nashville Predators in the NHL, and Olympic victory is in his blood. His father, Bob, was part of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, and his uncle, Gary, won silver at the 2002 Olympics. In a post on the blog Puck Daddy, Ryan was asked if he should win bronze this year just to complete the family set of medals.

No worries, he’s going for gold.

NHL teams jump on the Olympic bandwagon

Right now the hockey world is all about the Vancouver Olympics. With the world’s best players facing off against one another, there’s nothing else to care about besides the teams that are fighting for medals. Play has been suspended in the National Hockey League to accommodate all the players who are pulling on sweaters for their countries.

Team USA celebrates a 6-1 victory over Norway.

Team USA celebrates a 6-1 victory over Norway. Photo by Bennett/Getty.

So what is the NHL to do during the Games?

Well, it’s time to promote the best the sport has to offer, of course.

The NHL Web site is currently devoted to the Olympics, and the league created Destination: Vancouver, a blog covering hockey at the Games. Fans can easily check out the tournament bracket, and you can follow exactly what your favorite players have been up to one the ice.

NHL Teams Take Advantage

Individual teams in the league are also cashing in on the big event. The Pittsburgh Penguins have Team USA defenseman Brooks Orpik writing blog entries, and the Vancouver Canucks posted a behind-the-scenes article about the team’s equipment manager because he’s also in charge of equipment for Team Canada. The New York Rangers caught Team USA forward Chris Drury on camera for an Olympic chat, and several other teams have people reporting back with video updates for their fans.

A Gold Medal Off the Ice

But the gold goes to the Chicago Blackhawks when it comes to using the Olympics to connect with fans on a different level. Since Rocky Wirtz took control of the Hawks and entrusted John McDonough as team president a few years ago, Chicago’s team has been the NHL leader in reaching out to fans.

One of the team’s greatest strengths is giving fans the chance to see the players in videos posted online. The guys are frequently filmed goofing off on the road, pulling pranks on one another and chirping at each other in the locker room. As a hockey fan, it makes me feel like the Hawks are the same nice, normal guys you can find on a team at your local rink. As a PR student, I realize that making players accessible to the fans is a sure-fire way to create lifetime supporters.

Blackhawks' teammates are Olympic rivals.

Blackhawk Patrick Kane is suiting up for Team USA, while teammate Jonathan Toews is playing for Team Canada. Photo by Mark Humphrey/Associated Press.

The Hawks Olympic coverage includes live fan chats with Olympic players, a video chat with Team USA forward Patrick Kane’s parents about their thoughts on the Games, and a special USA vs Canada viewing party for fans at ESPN Zone in Chicago. All of those were great ways to tie the team to the Olympics, but the Hawks sealed the gold with a series of videos covering their own Mini-Olympics, which included speedskating and popsicle-eating contests. When a team can convince their stars to pull stunts like that, you know the players must absolutely love being a part of the organization. And who wouldn’t want to be a fan of a team like that?

Ryan of the Day: Ryan Miller

I’m still basking in the glow of last night’s 5-3 USA victory over Canada. It was glorious.

Team USA celebrates last night's 5-3 win over Canada.

Team USA celebrates last night's 5-3 win over Canada. Photo by Livesey/Getty

I watched the game at home with my parents. At one point my mom read a sign that a Canadian fan was holding up in the crowd. It read, “I Believe!” My mom said, “I believe? Yeah, I believe you’re going down.” It was a highlight of the game for me. When I first got into hockey she didn’t know a thing about the game. Last night she was calling out the refs and commenting on players by name. She’s come so far.

Ryan Miller shuts down Team Canada.

Ryan Miller shut down Team Canada last night. Photo by REUTERS.

Throughout the game, I was paying special attention to the multitude of Ryans. I had to decide who would get the honor of being my next Ryan of the Day. Really, it wasn’t much of a question last night. Today’s Ryan of the Day is Ryan Miller. He was outstanding in goal. There were several times that I wondered how Canada didn’t score, and the answer was Ryan Miller’s magic.

Ryan Kesler deserves an honorable mention for scoring that final empty-netter that took the pressure off Team USA. When he scored, I briefly considered making him today’s Ryan of the Day, but my mom shut that down pretty quickly. She said there was absolutely no way that I could give the award to anyone but Ryan Miller. She was right. But I do love Ryan Kesler  just a little bit more now that he made good on his guarantee to beat the Canadians.

Ryan Kesler celebrates after his empty-net goal.

Ryan Kesler celebrates after his empty-net goal. Photo by Getty Images.

I’ll get back to covering actual hockey PR issues later today or tomorrow. My Ryan of the Day posts are just little bits of fun in between.

Team USA: A Team of Ryans?

This past week I happened to stumble upon a Juggle.com blog article about Team USA. The article pointed out that there are six players named Ryan on Team USA. Make it seven if you count Bobby Ryan.

Here’s the Ryan Roster:

Ryan Miller, goalie
Ryan Suter, defenseman
Ryan Whitney, defenseman
Ryan Callahan, forward
Ryan Kesler, forward
Ryan Malone, forward
and Bobby Ryan, forward

That’s seven out of 23 players. Weird? Yes.

In honor of the roster of Ryans and my love for Team USA (plus the fact that Ryan is my favorite boy name), I’ve decided to pick a Ryan of the Day every day or so until the Olympics are over.

On Tuesday, my Ryan of the Day was Bobby Ryan for scoring the first men’s hockey goal of the Olympics. Bonus points for scoring on his Ducks’ teammate, Jonas Hiller.

Today, my Ryan of the Day is Ryan Malone. Not only was I a fan of his during his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Malone also scored off an assist from Jack Johnson in the game against Norway. And if you’re keeping up with this blog, you know that I consider Jack Johnson to be Team USA’s golden boy. He’s quickly turning into my favorite.

I’ll keep you posted with my picks throughout the rest of the Olympics. Each Ryan will have his chance to shine.

Vancouver Olympics provides PR dream to USA Hockey

 With the men’s ice hockey competition at the Vancouver Olympics kicking off tomorrow, I figure that I have no choice but to examine Olympic hockey in my post this week. From a PR point of view, this is a dream come true: The birthplace of hockey is hosting the world’s biggest sporting event. Canada, hockey and gold medals. Does it get any better? No, I don’t think it does.

Canada, the home of hockey, is hosting the Olympics.

Photo courtesy of the Olympics. © VANOC/COVAN

But have the hockey powers-that-be taken advantage of this gift?

To simplify things, let’s look at just USA Hockey, the organization that oversees the Olympic team.

The Americans are Olympic hockey underdogs. With Canada’s skill depth and Russia’s dominant players, the media has been putting the United States on the backburner. As an American, I find that slightly offensive, but also inspiring. I think our American men have what it takes to take it all at the Olympics, and if people see us as underdogs, that will make victory so much sweeter.

Team USA (and Los Angeles Kings) defenseman Jack Johnson talked about the perception of the team in an article on nhl.com. “I don’t know who makes the underdog statement, but I certainly think I speak for everyone when I say that when I go out and play these games for the USA, I expect to win,” Johnson said.

Jack Johnson is Team USA's golden boy.

Courtesy of USA Hockey. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

Johnson, a 23-year-old from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been performing as Team USA’s own media darling. The NHL season wasn’t suspended until today, so most Olympic hockey players weren’t able to attend the opening ceremony for the Games on Friday, Feb. 12. However, Johnson showed up for America.

An article on USA Hockey’s Web site details all the arrangements he made to be able to walk in with Team USA. Clearly, USA Hockey has found a golden boy. I think that’s great. It’s important to have someone that America can fall in love with.

So they’ve got something to sell, but how do they connect that with sports fans in the States?

I’m a college student, so Facebook is my main way of staying in the loop. I didn’t know when the opening ceremony of the Olympics was until several of my friends showed up in my newsfeed as “attending.” With that in mind, I think that USA Hockey could launch a massive Facebook campaign.

Currently, the USA Hockey Magazine fan page is promoting both the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Over 3,400 fans stay updated on USA Hockey through the page, but I didn’t know about that until I started researching for this post. When I first searched for USA Hockey on Facebook, I didn’t find anything authentic. It wasn’t until I saw the Facebook link in an article that I found the fan page.

Facebook isn’t just about reaching a young audience anymore. Most of my older relatives are “friending” me now. Even my mom “likes” my status updates. By reaching out through a fan page, USA Hockey has the potential to influence people of all ages across the country.

Twitter continues to grow as a communication tool, and it provides another avenue for two-way communication. The USA Hockey account focuses on action updates, while tweets from USA Hockey Magazine offer more commentary on the latest hockey happenings.

The 2010 medal design.

Photo courtesy of the Olympics. © VANOC/COVAN

I think that if Team USA presented a unified brand on social networks, it would help the organization gain awareness and raise interest during the Olympics. This opportunity is just too good to pass up. With all eyes on Vancouver, there’s no better time for USA Hockey to try to expand its fan base.

 And if USA Hockey kicks off a social media campaign now, fans and followers will be ready to “like” and retweet when our American boys take the gold.

What do you think? Let me know what you’ve been hearing about Team USA, and feel free to comment about your medal predictions.

Smack talk encouraged.