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Dejected Canada hopes for a better week

By Steve Almasy, CNN
Canadian fans felt the highs and lows of hockey during Sunday's game against the United States.
Canadian fans felt the highs and lows of hockey during Sunday's game against the United States.
  • Newspaper: "O No Canada" after loss hockey loss to U.S.
  • Olympic official: "Fool's paradise" to think Canada can catch U.S. now
  • Many Canada fans call for replacement of veteran goalie Martin Brodeur

Vancouver, British Columbia (CNN) -- The headline on the front page of The Province newspaper says it all Monday: "Lost Weekend."

For Canadians, who came into the Winter Olympics full of pride, the weekend was one that they want to forget but cannot. The biggest loss came Sunday evening when Canada's hockey team, full of NHL all-stars, lost to the United States, a team known for its youth and Olympics inexperience.

"O No Canada," read the headline in The Vancouver Sun.

On the sports page, the newspaper said, "Woe Canada, U.S. sticks stake in our hearts."

The streets of Vancouver, a frenzy of activity on Friday and Saturday night, were far less crowded after the game ended about 7 p.m. local time Sunday. Where many sidewalks were so crowded the previous two days that pedestrians were forced to walk in the road, tying up traffic in the downtown core, cars traveled easily Sunday.

It was a stark contrast to the prior Sunday, when fans spontaneously sang "O Canada" late into the night when many of them knew they had to work the next day and should be at home.

"Last week, you could really feel it on the streets," said Steve Milton, a writer for the Hamilton Spectator and the author of 15 books on winter sports. "There was a real testosterone level in the air, and [Sunday] night, it was toxic."

After the game, one Canadian hockey player downplayed the pressure his team might feel.

"You're not trying to take 30 million people and put them on your shoulders," Corey Perry told the Montreal Gazette.

Still, most observers feel that if Canada doesn't medal in men's hockey, its national winter sport, the Olympics will be a disaster.

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It blunts our unhappiness when we have someone to blame. It almost makes us feel better to blame it on [goalie Martin] Brodeur.
--Steve Milton, writer

The country has mixed emotions after the loss to the U.S., Milton said.

In one sense, it doesn't look like men's hockey team will be the cavalry riding in over the hill at the last minute to save the Olympics. But this was a preliminary round loss, and people have some hope this team can right itself in the next round. They sense -- and demand -- a big change to the lineup.

Milton's e-mail inbox is filling at a much higher rate than normal, he said. It's all about the hockey team, and everyone is playing coach.

Most say it's time to change goalies, taking out veteran Martin Brodeur and putting in Roberto Luongo for Tuesday's play-in game against Germany.

"It blunts our unhappiness when we have someone to blame," Milton said. "It almost makes us feel better to blame it on Brodeur."

The somber mood was made worse by the news that the 55-year-old mother of Canada's top figure skater, Joannie Rochette, died in Vancouver just a few days before she was her to see her daughter compete.

Rochette is still scheduled to take part in Tuesday's short program. Although much of Canada will be watching the hockey game against Germany, viewers will also tune in to see how Rochette does.

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Part of the country's embarrassment is over the Own the Podium program that Canadian officials trumpeted before the Games. The government poured $117 million into it in the past five years. Officials predicted huge success for the host nation, including topping the medal count. But with one week left in the Olympics, the United States has a leading 24 medals, but Canada has only nine.

Writers are starting to call it Blown the Podium or Flown the Podium.

"I think we'd be living in a fool's paradise to say we could catch the Americans and win," Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said Monday morning. "We're not throwing in the towel. You never do that in a fight."

Canadian officials say not to worry, things are going to improve.

"It was the 'U.S. Week' last week. This week will be ours," said Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

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