Used to be the greatest rivalry in hockey was Canada vs. Russia.
When the best players from both countries hooked up for an eight-game series in 1972, a heated rivalry was born. Canada won the famous Summit Series, but the Russians taught them a thing or two about conditioning and team play.
Then, in 1980, things changed again when a bunch of school kids did the unimaginable and beat the Russians in the semifinal of the Olympic Games – the Miracle On Ice. Even though that victory wasn't for the gold medal, it is widely regarded as the greatest hockey game ever played and put the American right into the thick of things in terms of world dominance in the sport of hockey.
Since then, Canada and Russia has waged a bitter ice war and now, with the Olympic Games being played in Russia, the host country desperate wants to win the gold medal.
That's what makes Saturday's match-up against the United States such an interesting one (7:30 a.m. ET, streaming at cbc.ca/olympics). Team USA lost the gold medal by a goal in 2010 in Vancouver and thoroughly dominated its opening game in Sochi, crushing Slovakia 7-1. Russia, meanwhile, beat Slovenia 5-2, but was not overly impressive.
The Americans – pros this time – are influenced by the legend of the Miracle On Ice. Not only that, Team USA star defenceman Ryan Suter is the son of Bob Suter who was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Ryan was born five years after the stunning win over the best team in the world.
On the other side of the ice, Viktor Tikhonov, 25, is the grandson of legendary Russian coach who goes by the same name. The elder Tikhonov is 83 years old.
All guns firing
The Russians boast a high-power offence featuring the likes of superstars Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin. All three scored goals in the opening victory against Slovenia.
Team USA has a few snipers of its own starting with Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In NHL action this season only Ovechkin, with 40 goals, has scored more often than Kessel who has 30. The speedy right-winger had a goal and three points in Team USA's win over Slovakia.
Team USA coach Dan Bylsma has indicated he will stick with Jonathan Quick in goal. Quick, who led the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup two years ago, got the start ahead of Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres.
Miller almost singlehandedly led the United States to a gold medal in 2010. He was the tournament's most valuable player despite losing the final to Canada in overtime.