If there was any doubt over how much Russian teens care about hockey, given their leader's golden expectations, the protest at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow over a disallowed goal should prove those doubts wrong. Teenagers gathered, with signs and posters, the whole shebang, to protest what the Russian press has said was an injustice against their national team.
On Saturday, the U.S.A. beat Russia in round robin play after the teams finished regulation tied at two goals a piece, and overtime solved nothing. The game went to a shootout, or "game winning shots" as it's known in the Olympics, and T.J. Oshie became a hero. But, late in the third period, the Russians momentarily thought they had the game decided. Fedor Tyutin fired a long shot past U.S.A. goalie Jonathan Quick with five minutes left in the final frame, but the net's left post was not properly connected to the ice, as you can see in the GIF above.
It's not hard to see how Russians could accuse the officials of a fix. After all, it wouldn't be the first time for these Olympics. In the NHL, referees can decide whether or not circumstances like a net out of place can affect a goal. Brad Meier, the official who made the call on the ice, is an American, and one of the other referees was Canadian.
But in international competition, the rules are much more concrete than the NHL. If a net is not properly connected, the goal doesn't count. It's as simple as that.
The Russian press went crazy, accusing the officials of conspiring against the great Russian team. Per ESPN:
Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the country's most popular newspapers, carried a photograph of American goalie Jonathan Quick -- a red circle drawn around his hand, which appears to be pushing one goal post backward -- beneath the headline: "An American referee and the puppet international federation deprived us of a deserved victory."
One state-owned channel ran an hour-long talk show dedicated to the referee's call.
"Judges don't have nationality?!" Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected head of the Russian parliament's lower house, fumed on Twitter. "How interesting. And how come they didn't appoint a referee from Russia, but an American?"
The protest at the Embassy on Monday was organized by a Kremlin youth group. The kids shouted popular Russian soccer chants that translate, roughly, to things like "Turn the referee into soap!" The banner reads, "ref needs specs," but more rude, according to one helpful Russian journalist.
Despite the upset among adolescents and the Russian press, any inkling of a conspiracy can be put to rest simply: the official whose final decision disallowed the goal, Konstantin Komissarov, the referee supervisor for the International Ice Hockey Federation, is Russian.