Yes, it is true that Canadians are obsessed with every aspect of the game of hockey. They love the sport sometimes in an unhealthy way. This was seen during the entire 2014 Winter Olympics process, from picking Team Canada, through the actual games. Every single roster move and performance by a player was under a seemingly never happy microscope.
None of this was more apparent than the never-ending debate regarding Chris Kunitz's spot on Team Canada. From people claiming that he only made the team because of Sidney Crosby, to the people that criticized his play no matter what, even after scoring a goal in the Gold medal game. The narrative that said that Kunitz shouldn't be on the team was used by many every single day of this tournament.
Kunitz earned his spot on the team, despite what some people may think. Especially if you consider how he's played the last season and a half. Last year, Kunitz finished tied for seventh in points in the NHL and is currently sitting tied with Jonathan Toews for 17th in the NHL in scoring. The argument was that Kunitz's success, was solely based off of the fact that he plays with Sidney Crosby. If you truly believe that is the only reason for Kunitz's success you're not actually watching the games, or you don't know what you're watching. Kunitz's is also in the top-five in +/- for the second straight season to boot.
Part of the "Kunitz benefits from playing with Crosby"argument is true. Kunitz does benefit from playing with Crosby. Hell any player would. But not everyone can succeed playing with Crosby. If you've been following the Pittsburgh Penguins during Crosby's career most of the time there's been a campaign for the Pens to go out and get a winger for Sid. Players have failed playing alongside Crosby, so the excuse that Kunitz is only thriving because of Crosby is erroneous in my opinion. If anything, Kunitz deserves praise for the amazing chemistry that he's developed with the best player in the game. Kuntiz has adapted his game to play a role alongside Crosby and he's damn near perfected it.
Looking further than Kuntiz's point production explosion the last two seasons, Kunitz is a well rounded two-way player. He's also an extremely physical player who can be a tough son of a bitch to play against on a nightly basis. The gritty part of the game plus his ability to not only skate with Crosby, but to keep up with Crosby's unreal pace just adds to his game. Sure, Kunitz isn't perfect. During the Olympics he took bad penalties, which he can be guilty of from time to time. Sure, Kuntiz killed a few solid rushes and squandered a few scoring chances but it wasn't like he was the only one. Kunitz had more goals (One) than Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis, John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron all had combined during the 2014 Winter Olympics. That lone goal of Kuntiz also happened to come in the biggest game of the tournament, the Gold medal game, and it was beautiful.
Before that goal, Kunitz and Crosby, despite not producing a goal, both put on a masterful performance against Team USA in the semifinals. They put on a clinic, displaying championship caliber two-way hockey. If you looked at the box score, of course you would have never known just how well they both played. They forced turnovers, constantly dominated puck possession, and produced multiple scoring chances. For Pens fans, that was nothing knew to see, but for the skeptics regarding Kuntiz, it should have been an eye-opener.
After defeating the Americans, Kunitz and Team Canada moved on to face Team Sweden in the Gold medal game. Once again Kunitz and Crosby displayed championship worthy performances, this time both getting on the scoreboard. First, Crosby scored a breakaway goal in vintage fashion. Later in the game, with a 2-0 lead, Kunitz swooped in on a forced turnover from Crosby and scored a beautiful top-corner goal from a wicked wrist shot. Just then, all of the criticism, mostly unwarranted, was avenged by Kuntiz, who has done nothing but give 100% for the Penguins and Team Canada.
Vindication for a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder game in and game out. Kunitz is now a gold-medalist and a two-time Stanley Cup Champion. He has the eighth most points in the NHL since the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. Not bad for a guy that went undrafted and was told he didn't deserve his spot on Team Canada. Kuntiz's story is a great one for people that have ever been told they weren't good enough to do something in their lives. That kind of hate can fuel your dreams. So please, continue to tell everyone that Kunitz isn't good enough, and he'll keep proving you all wrong.