Team Canada will face off Sunday with Sweden in the Sochi Olympic 2014 men's ice hockey gold-medal game, arguably the most important game of the Winter Olympics. (Information on how to watch the game free online via live stream can be found below).
With a passion as intense as the Americans for the NFL, Canadian fans are prepared to wake while it is still dark to watch their nation's star hockey players fight to defend their birthright as hockey was invented in Canada.
After defeating U.S.A. Friday with 1 to 0, the Canadian players will attempt to edge their way past their opponent by making high number of shots and hoping at least a few puck will sweep past Sweden's tight defense for the goal.
"It's going to be tight again," said Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn, who made the goal in Canada's semifinal win against the U.S., the Global News reported. "They know how to play a great game on this ice."
Benn scored the only goal in the second minute of the second period, after sending the puck to defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who returned it to Benn, whose stick placed in the right angle deflected the puck past goaltender Jonathan Quick, although Quick had stopped 36 shots - 5 more than Canada's Carey Price.
Canada's captain, Sidney Crosby, is scoreless so far in the Olympics despite his high scoring stats in the N.H.L. Yet he remains optimistic and trust that the puck will finds its way into the net "just when you think it's not going in," according to New York Times.
The sports cliché that "a good defense is the best offense" may not apply, but NFL's No. 1 defensive team Seattle Seahawks' win over the Denver Broncos, the No. 1 offensive team, during the Super Bowl XLVIII hints at how the Canadians continues to make their way towards the gold medal.
"We have taken a lot of pride in playing good defense in the Olympics," defenseman Shea Weber said, adding, "Our focus is to play good defense, and the offense is going to come," the New York Times reports.
The last time that the Canadians and the Swedes met were in 1994 Lillehammer Olympics gold-medal game, where Canada lost in a sudden death shootout, on a goal by Peter Forsberg.
Sweden's goalie Henrik Lundqvist already has a gold medal from Torino eight years ago, and he expects both teams to close the Sochi Winter Games with performance worthy of their undefeated records so far.
"I think it's going to be the best game of the tournament, and it should be," said Lundqvist, according to Associated Press. "These are two fantastic teams. Everybody knows what happens next, you have to live with it for four years."
Many of the Swedish players remembered the shootout victory over Canada in 1994, which was arguably the biggest moment in the nation's hockey history that have inspired most of the members of the current team.
"It's one of the greatest memories I have growing up," said 25-year-old Carl Hagelin, the Associated Press reports. "It's something that really made me want to pursue a career in hockey. Seeing those guys win gold made me want to be in the same situation."
Meanwhile, Canada's coach Mike Babcock said his team was inspired by the success of other Canadian athletes - women's curlers and the women's hockey team - that won gold. The men's hockey team attended women's gold medal game and saw how they caught up from trailing 2-0 and put in the game-winning shot to defeat U.S.A. in overtime for their fourth consecutive gold medal.
The women's hockey team saw that this once in every four year opportunity is the testament to the players' hard work, and they decided to give their compatriots a little boost in motivation just before men's semifinals against the Americans. When the Canadian men's team entered their dressing room, they discovered a handwritten note from the women's team.
"Guys, tonight is yours. Own the moment. We are proof that every minute matters. The podium is reserved for the brave. Earn every inch, dictate the pace, and go get'em."
Seeing the women's wins, Canadian forward Jonathan Toews said, "and now we've got the chance to follow their efforts."
Sochi Olympic 2014 Men's Hockey Gold-Medal Game Broadcast Information
Location: Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi, Russia
Date: Sunday, Feb. 27, 2014
Start Time: 4 p.m. local time, 4 a.m. PT, 7 a.m. ET, 12 p.m. GMT
TV Channels: NBC Sports (United States) and BBC Two (United Kingdom)
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra (NBCOlympics.com)