USA Vs. Canada: Winner Takes Gold, Continental Bragging Rights

Today's game will be broadcast in the United States, live coast-to-coast at 3:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM ET on NBC. In Canada, the game will be broadcast live on CTV. Puck drop is at 3:15 PM ET / 12:15 PM PT.

At each Canadian hockey game during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, there have been several signs in the crowd proclaiming that 'Hockey Is Canada's Game.' With a victory today, the Americans can prove that to be false, at least for the next four years.

In Canada, however, the sport is still a source of national pride and a major factor in their national identity. Winning gold on home ice in men's hockey is the only thing that truly matters to Canadians at these Winter Olympics. If you were to ask 100 Canadians if they'd give up the other 13 gold medals their countrymen have earned thus far in Vancouver in favor of just the one men's hockey gold, they'd likely take the offer in a heartbeat.

There's no doubt that Canada has the more talented team, either. The roster is literally stacked from top to bottom, but there's the perennial question of whether or not the most talented team is better than a team that plays cohesive, sound team hockey. In their five wins in this tournament, that's what the Americans have done.

They started slow in the preliminary round against Switzerland but eventually ramped things up. Now, as the gold medal game is set to begin, they're playing sound team defense in front of an unbelievably hot goaltender. The offense is clicking too, with the top players scoring as well as the secondary players, who were the biggest question for Team USA before the tournament began.

Canada has gone through some struggles in the tournament, despite all of their talent. Future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur has been relegated to the bench in favor of Roberto Luongo, perhaps the change of an era in Canadian hockey. Sidney Crosby, the poster boy for the Canadian team, has not played his best hockey in the tournament. They seemingly fell asleep in the third period on Friday night in the semifinals and Slovakia came daringly close to making them pay for that.

They also lost to the Americans, who overwhelmed them early and often a week ago in a preliminary round game.

Still, they have a ton of talent. They'll have 16,000-plus fans behind them in the arena today as well as millions across their country. Hard work, not talent, wins hockey games. Because of that simple fact, today's game is a toss up. Canada has talent, but they'll have to outwork the Americans if they want to hear "Oh, Canada!" at Canada Hockey Place later this afternoon.

This is for gold.

Follow along with other fans in SB Nation's live game discussion thread.

More: SB Nation’s full coverage of the Winter Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics Medal Count Tracker.

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