On Friday at noon EST, the United States will play Canada in the Olympic men’s hockey semifinals. For Team USA it’s a chance for redemption after losing to Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. And for Canada—the country that invented the game, after all—it’s a chance to move one step closer to a record ninth gold medal in the sport.
But for Indian country, it’s a chance to watch two of the top Native hockey players go at it.
T.J. Oshie, Obijwe, a power forward on St. Louis Blues, became an instant hero after his shootout goal against Russia helped propel the U.S. to a spot in the quarterfinals. Carey Price, Ulkatcho First Nation, goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, has started—and won—three games for Team Canada in Sochi thus far.
“I’m just excited,” Price told NHL.com when he learned he’d be the starting goalie in the Olympics. “It’s been a lingering thought, but this whole season I’ve been preparing one game at a time. That doesn’t change once I get here. I’ve been preparing these last two days for this game [Thursday] and I’ll just continue to do the same.”
Price saved 19 of 20 shots in Canada’s 3-1 victory over Norway; 14 of 15 shots in the Canadians’ 2-1 overtime win against Finland; and notched another 15 saves in a 2-1 win over Latvia.
Oshie, meanwhile, scored on four of his six shootout attempts against Russia to lead the Americans to a heart-stopping 3-2 win last Saturday.
“It’s something you practice at the end of practice all the time, just kind of messing around,” Oshie told CBS Sports about his shootout against Russia. “I had to go back and maybe think of some different moves that I can do and maybe go back to some that I already did. It was a fun end.”
Both show humility on and off the ice. Oshie told reporters not to call him an American hero. Instead he said, that that title should refer to American military troops. Price’s mom, Lynda Price, has said that his indigenous culture keeps him grounded.
Oshie, 27, was born in Washington State just a half-dozen miles from the Canadian border and became a prep star in Warroad, Minnesota. He led the Warroad Warriors to two state titles and then headed to the University of North Dakota before he was drafted by the Blues. This is his first Olympic games.
His dad, Tim, coached him as a kid, and told the Everett, Washington Herald that Oshie’s worked hard to get to the level of success he’s had on the ice.
“He just seems to have a knack for the magnificent. I’ve seen it his whole life, but not on a worldwide stage,” said Tim.
This is also the first Olympics for the 26-year-old Price. He grew up off the Indian reserve near Anahim Lake, British Columbia and earned his Ulkatcho status in 2011.
“Price has that personality, too, where he can just keep things even-keel even if half the city of Montreal wants to come have a word with him on his doorstep,” Jonathan Toews told the Toronto Star about his Sochi teammate. “I think that’s what makes him the type of goalie that we really trust in our locker room at this tournament.”
If Canada comes out on top, it will be their third Olympic win over the U.S in the past 12 years. The Canadians also defeated Team USA in the gold-medal game in 2002 Salt Lake City games.
“I think both teams will be very excited to play each other and will need no motivation, and it’s going to be some great hockey played Friday night,” Team USA center David Backes told the Chicago Tribune. “There’s a lot of talented guys on this team, and I’m on it too. It seems to be a great balance, and we’ve got guys willing to do the dirty work.”
The International Business Times has predicted that USA will defeat Canada this time 3-2. As did NESN, saying that no team has won back-to-back gold medals since the NHL started sending its players to the Olympics in 1998.
If it comes down to a final shootout, Oshie and Price may be the Crosby and Miller of the 2014 games. Or, vice versa.