The Canadian men's hockey team celebrates their gold medal in Sochi.

Will Arnett: My 2014 Sportsman nominee, Canadian men's hockey

By Will Arnett, as told to Sarah Kwak
December 01, 2014

This essay is one of more than 20 nominations for SI's 2014 Sportsman of the Year. You can see all of this year's nominees here and vote for your choice for SI Sportsman here.

Look, I’m biased. Let me just start by saying that.

I grew up in Toronto, and you have to understand, in Canada, you can open the sports page in the middle of August -- two months removed from any NHL game of consequence -- and the first four stories will be about hockey. It’s a country obsessed, a one-horse town. There are other sports, of course, but hockey is the sport of kings, in my view. There is no better sport to watch live, no more exciting sport. And at the end of the day, I’m a hockey fan, and nothing beats watching good hockey.

So that being said, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that my Sportsmen of the Year are the men from the Canadian Olympic hockey team, who dominated in Sochi last February. Now, I think a lot of people are going to roll their eyes when they see my selection, but it should be noted that apart from my self-proclaimed bias, they were also a fantastic hockey team. They were dominant on both sides of the puck; they never trailed in any of the games. Mike Babcock was and is an unbelievable coach, and Steve Yzerman was a fantastic leader and architect for that team. And they won gold under all the pressure they faced back in Canada.

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Ever since the NHL players were eligible, the pressure of winning Olympic gold has been immense. It would be like if you were to combine, in the U.S., the pressure of winning gold in basketball combined with NFL football if it were an Olympic sport, but—see, there’s no equivalent! It’s almost expected, and the entire process comes with so much scrutiny. And yet, Team Canada proved itself tenfold in Sochi.

Listen -- I, like anybody else, like the underdogs; I love an inspiring and uplifting story. But there is also something so special about watching the greats play really well. You get to see something truly phenomenal. Sure, they’re different experiences -- seeing underdogs versus favorites -- but they’re not any less valid, in terms of drama I think. I’ve always been a fan of seeing Tiger Woods dominate a tournament. I like watching Roger Federer play beautiful tennis because being able to watch a living legend play at the top of their game is so rad. It’s why you watch. You want to see them do incredible things, and I think that’s sort of taken for granted in a way.

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They were maybe even better than the team that won gold in Vancouver in 2010. I remember being there for that game, and the sense of elation there was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Going into Sochi there was a lot of pressure of course, because the other teams around the world have gotten so much better too. It’s not a done deal. Take the U.S. hockey team. There was a part of me that was torn when they met in the semifinals, only because I’ve lived here for so long. And there are a lot of American players I really like -- Maple Leafs like Phil Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk. It was kind of like rooting against your own kid, which we are not really equipped to do. But at the end of the day, I have no trouble maintaining my allegiance to Canadian hockey.

But back to that 2010 game, I went to the game with Jason [Bateman], and our flight the next day was super early, like 6 in the morning. And we were tired and up all night, screaming. Well, he had go back a loser and heard it from me the entire flight back from Vancouver to Los Angeles. I mean, he’s a loser for different reasons, too. But yeah, I guess you could say I’m biased. 

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