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Olympic Hockey Day 1 Preview and Open Thread: The Latvian Bandwagon Pulls Out of the Station (USA and Canada, too)

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It's been about four years since Antero Niittymaki played in that 2006 Gold Medal game in Torino.  The hourglass I flipped over that day has finally run through, meaning that it is once again time for Olympic Men's Hockey to begin again.  SB Nation has the action previewed as well, but if you want to stick around good ol' BSH to watch and comment on the games, we'd be more than happy to have you.

Today's three match-ups look like routs on paper, but if Miracle taught us anything it's that the team who is expected to win NEVER does when it comes to the Olympics.

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Group A Game 1: United States vs. Switzerland - 3 PM EST - USA Network:  The Americans are the favorites here, and should win pretty easily, barring Jonas Hiller's equipment getting even more enormous than it already was.  The real question is if life will imitate art in the second intermission, leading Bobby Ryan to don his Mighty Ducks jersey instead of that Hendrix-sponsored garbage.
 
3dflags-nor1-2_medium3dflags-can1-2_mediumGroup A Game 2: Canada vs. Norway - 7:30 EST - CNBC: As excited as our neighbors to the north got about some guy winning that version of skiing that inexplicably includes rumble strips, you know that the whole country is standing on guard for these 23 hockey players of theirs.  Norway may want to consult their rulebook's index under the heading for "Mercy Rule."

 
3dflags-lva1-3_medium Group A Game 1: 3dflags-rus1-2_mediumRussia vs. Latvia - 11:55 EST - CNBC: Ovechkin and many other Russians were recently eating at McDonalds, clearly realizing the need to bulk up as much as possible before stepping into the ring against the Latvians.  You hopefully know all you need to know about Latvia by now, and have already listened to the anthem enough times that it's the most played thing in your iTunes.  But your commitment to this cause shouldn't end until around 3 AM, when your viewing party's celebrations has poured out into the streets and led to your neighborhood being christened "Little Riga."  Do it to it, brālis.

(Animated flag images by 3DFlags.com)