Why You Should Watch the USA-Canada Women's Hockey Gold Medal Slugfest, in GIFs

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Update 3:10 p.m. You listened to us, right? Hockey is a bonkers game that will take years off your life, and that game was a perfect explanation as to why. The U.S. led Canada all game. But two late goals from a desperate Canadian squad, including the game tying goal from Marie Philip Poulin, sent game to overtime. The game almost ended, though, when Canada won a faceoff in the U.S. zone, and passed the puck to the point. What would normally be a Canadian scoring chance at a crucial time when a linesman got in the way and

allowed the U.S. to clear the puck towards Canada's open net. Surely, doom was on the way. Canada's golden dreams were saved by a single post. That's how close the U.S. came to gold. But in overtime, Poulin cam through for her country again, scoring the game winner, just as she did in Vancouver.

Original: Canada and Team U.S.A. will drop the puck with a gold medal on the line shortly, and we can't stress enough that you tune in, because women's hockey at this level is just as exciting as the men's competition.

These are the only two teams that matter in women's hockey, really, and they absolutely hate each other. The sport is young enough that Canada and the U.S., the world's top two hockey powers, outplay their rivals to an embarrassing degree. Some have called for the Olympic committee to consider sidelining the sport completely even though this is only its fifth Olympics. The sport needs time to grow and flourish, and without a professional league to support it, the Olympics are its time to shine. If two countries catch up, the rest will fall into place.

But for now, Canada-U.S.A. is the only game anyone cares about, because the competition is fierce, exciting and violent. These two teams play each other regularly so there are few surprises when they hit the ice. Just two equals battling it out for supremacy at the top of their sport. They played each other in the preliminary round, and Canada came away with a 4-3 victory. Canada wants to continue its winning ways, while the U.S.A. wants revenge.

Before the Olympics started, the two teams played seven exhibition games as tune-ups for the big international meet, but these were not your daddy's friendly competitions. Canada won the first three and U.S.A. claimed the last four. But all anyone could talk about was the two brawls in the last three games. For a sport with "no bodychecking" in the rulebook, these sights were shocking:

But the fisticuffs aren't the only reason to show up and watch. The quality of play has risen too. Both squads field offenses that would make an NHL team blush. Team U.S.A. is led by Amanda Kessel, younger sister of the NHL's Phil Kessel, a fellow Olympic standout. Kessel, Kendell Coyne, and Brianna Decker lead their team with six points each. Here, in the GIF at right, Kessel dives for a loose puck in front of the net and manages to chip it past a crowd and into the roof at an extremely sharp angle. She barely touches the puck with her stick, but to raise it like that requires so much skill and precision. It's an incredibly difficult shot.

Who will win is anyone's guess. The game is tied at zero now, on NBC, and really what did you hope to accomplish today anyway?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.