One of, if not my biggest movie crush, is Charlie Conway from the Mighty Ducks franchise. His charm, swagger, team leadership, incredible hockey skills, and all-around adorableness made him irresistible. In 2012, I found the second-coming of Charlie Conway. I felt like I was watching Charlie enact the most perfect triple-deke in the final play on ice in the first “Mighty Ducks” movie. That’s what this goal made me think of. A little more than two years ago against the eventual Stanley Cup winning Kings, it was this shootout play that solidified my love of T.J. Oshie. He had been a St. Louis Blue since he was drafted by them in 2005, although not on the roster until 2008, but he had been young and overeager and wasn’t quite my favorite player early on (here’s looking at you, Barrett Jackman). Yet that changed in watching that move against Jonathan Quick. He exuded this smooth, smart, exciting aura that made you want him to have the puck at all times. He became beloved in St. Louis, and known as an “exciting young player” across the NHL. Now, he’s a national hero.
Olympic hockey is as exciting as anything in sports. The “Miracle on Ice” was 34 years ago, but for many, it feels like it was just yesterday. So when the draw led Team USA to face Team Russia in an early round match-up, it didn’t matter that there were no medals on the line. This was sure to be an intensely epic fight to the win. I don’t think anyone predicted what would actually happen.
Tied 2-2 at the end of regulation after sublime hockey and some missed opportunities for both teams, we were set for overtime. The initial format is the same as NHL: 4-0n-4 for five minutes, followed by a shootout. No one scored in OT, although the US had a great look with 27 seconds to go, so the long-awaited shootout began. T.J. started things off with a Conway-esque goal. The next two players for each team missed (Malkin and Datsyuk for Russia, Van Riemsdyk and Pavelski for USA). Then came Russian all-star Ilya Kovalchuk who scored on Russia’s last hope. So Russia and USA are tied 1-1 after the first three shootout rounds – now what?
Olympic Hockey states that teams can reuse any shooter they want after the first three chances, and the order is now reversed, with Russia shooting first. Of course, the two players who scored their respective team’s only shootout goal in the first three rounds took the helm again, but Kovalchuk and Oshie both came up empty-handed. Round 5 starts with Datsyuk scoring on Quick, but is ‘quickly’ upstaged by Oshie’s second goal of the shootout. Round 6, still tied, Russia puts Kovalchuk back out and he scores. At this point, I thought for sure we’d see someone else take the puck for Team USA. But T.J., with his adorable grin endearing all of America got the chance again and didn’t disappoint, solidifying his shootout hat-trick!
So Round 7, the alternating carousel of Kovalchuk and Datsyuk continues, with Datsyuk coming up with nothing. So, back to Oshie… he has a chance and decides to go for his first chance at the backhand, but is thwarted by Tretiak’s stick. Round 8, we go! Kovalchuk’s turn, and… NO GOAL. Guess who gets the puck for Team USA? And with America behind him, Oshie did his best Charlie Conway impression and scored the winning goal for the US. His teammates stormed the ice and my phone started blowing up. My mom called “Did you just see that?” My friends texted “your boyfriend just killed it.” It was with that text that I had this tiny ping of sadness. I have loved T.J. Oshie for a while now. He is special to me. And now he’s special to all of America. Am I happy for him? Ecstatic. Am I a bit jealous that now the entire country has a crush on my favorite hockey player? More than a bit. But all T.J. needs to do now to ensure his Charlie Conway status, it to help his team bring home the gold. And I, for one, can’t wait to see him do it.