The case for throwing away a medal
author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor
No, Andersson does not lack class
With the World Juniors ending roughly a week ago with a thrilling gold-medal game between a powerhouse Sweden team and an ever-resilient Canadian team, it’s easy to forget how emotional each medal-round game was for the players. On almost every single goal scored, there were huge celebrations and small jabs such that the coaches have their hands full when trying to calm down their teams.
We saw it at its peak in that gold-medal game, from the Swedish bench almost losing it after a third consecutive penalty was called on them, to the Canadians grabbing the logo on their jerseys after scoring a goal.
As such, emotions still ran high after the game was completed and the medals were presented. That’s where an interesting series of events transpired.
During the presentation of the silver medal to Sweden, captain Lias Andersson immediately took off his medal and proceeded to toss it into the crowd, looking visually distraught with the loss. During post game press conferences, Andersson mentioned his reasoning to why he tossed his medal to a fan in the crowd.
“The guy in the stands wanted it more than me, so I gave it to him. I’m just going to have it home in some box or whatever, so he wanted it more than me,” he said to media outlets after the game.
I was surprised and impressed by the gesture, as it is typically not one that most hockey players have the bravery to do that. In the heat of the moment, he wanted no part of anything other than gold, so the silver was worthless to him.
Very quickly, as with anything that happens in hockey culture these days, the floodgates opened and streams of people calling the action “lacking class” and in “poor sportsmanship.” Negative comments kept pouring in from fans and even hockey writers and media players.
So, one thing that is hard to understand, why? Objectively, Andersson never did anything disrespectful toward another player. He still stayed on the ice, was present for the Canadian anthem, shook hands with each member of the Canadian team and even accepted the 2nd-place trophy (albeit with Sweden’s coaching staff close by).
And yet, like any other hockey player that dares to show any emotion, he gets annihilated. This is a reason that most hockey players are mindless robots in the media, why we as hockey fans never see their personalities. It is a shame that we complain that there aren’t any real interesting figures like there are in basketball or football, and then criticize the brave few that do speak out.
The guy is 18 years old, hardly a fully mature man. Yes, going through hockey, one does tend to mature faster than the average kid because of the media training and the vigorous physical training, but this is still someone who is barely a legal adult. In one of the most disappointing times of his life, of course emotion is going to take over. Andersson and the rest of the Swedish team have been training their entire lives to become world-class athletes and they see anything less than gold as a failure.
When someone will not accept a 2nd-place award as an accomplishment, of course they are going to respond negatively. Is that something that he will look back on with regret? Possibly, since it was emotion getting the best of him. However, that is not something we should expect out of him.
If that is how much Andersson hates to lose, then quite frankly, that is the type of player I would scout out to have on my team. He wears passion on his shoulders like any athlete worth a damn would do.
Hockey culture is so flawed since this was an issue in the first place. While the world has moved on into embracing emotion and passion with open arms, hockey culture instead stayed in its out-of-touch, backward mindset that anyone that isn’t a stale, static figure should be shunned into oblivion. Heaven forbid you be interesting playing a sport that sees its athletes with knives on their shoes to go play on god damn ice.
The biggest takeaway from this whole debacle is why do we care so much? Lias Andersson’s silver medal is his, and he can do whatever he pleases with it. The fan that caught it has gotten more use of it than Andersson ever will.
Personally, it is unfortunate that this topic has gotten so out of hand. In an ideal world, something as harmless as a medal toss should not have gotten as big as it did.
The saving grace is that in response to the negativity, there are a string of conscious support for Andersson, viewing him as a determined, passionate leader who will not taking anything less than 1st.
In a tweet, TSN insider Bob McKenzie stated, “Lias is a fantastic kid and player. He could play on my team, if I had one, anytime.”
If there is one thing that will come out of this situation, it is that hopefully hockey culture can learn to embrace players who show their emotions on and off the ice, who put their passion in the spotlight, becoming not just dynamic players but also dynamic personalities. Hockey is at its best when every emotion pours out, and its time we acknowledge it and welcome it.