SOCHI, Russia – Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick in a gritty, two-month battle to capture a Stanley Cup championship in 2012.
They were a band of brothers, giving them a bond that should not be broken. However, their friendship is currently on pause.
"I want to beat them pretty badly, along with the rest of their guys," Canada's Doughty said Thursday.
The new chapter in the intense Canada-USA hockey rivalry happens Friday when the two countries square off (noon ET, NBC Sports Network) in the semifinals in the men's hockey tournament. Finland and Sweden meet in the other semifinal.
"It's the biggest (rivalry) in hockey," U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said. "For a long time, Canada has been expected to win tournaments and the Americans have challenged that in recent years."
Canada has won two of the past three men's Olympic tournaments, and the USA was its opponent in the gold medal game. Thirteen members of the current U.S. Olympic team were on the team that lost to the Canadians in 2010 in Vancouver.
"You want those bragging rights for the rest of the season, for the rest of your life, really," Doughty said.
Doughty ran into Quick in Sochi, and they talked about what it will be like to play against each other.
"We talked about how hopefully it would come down to a shootout and hopefully I shot," Doughty said.
This will be a meeting of a soaring American team that seems to be playing the best hockey in the tournament against a Canadian team that hasn't been perfectly in sync. But the Americans view the Canadians as being just as dangerous as they always are, regardless of what they've done thus far in the tournament.
"If the Canadians have struggled or they're deep, those things don't matter at this point in time," Bylsma said. "It will be 60 minutes and will come down to one goal."
The Canadiens want to win this game as badly as they always do. "You want those bragging rest of the season and for the rest of your life really," Doughty said.
The Americans need to win this game. This generation of U.S. players needs to establish its place among the hockey superpowers, much like the previous American generation did when it won the 1996 World Cup.
This American generation doesn't want to go down 0-2 in important games during hockey's Cold War.
"There are obvious geographic similarities, there's the style of games that are very similar," U.S. center David Backes said. "World Cups. World Juniors. And another chapter gets written tomorrow night."
It was almost as if the U.S. selection committee took this game into account when it built the American roster with the idea that it had to be hard to play against.
"It's no secret to anyone that we are physical guys who like to grind and bump," Backes said. "We've had to do that against a ton of skill in this tournament and we are going to have to do that against Canada."
Both teams are going to be comfortable because this game likely will be closer to an NHL-style game. Canada has outscored opponents 13-3, while the Americans have outscored their opponents 20-5.
"I don't think it has come easy at all," Backes said. "We've had to work for everything we got. Second chances. Rebounds. Dirty goals. A couple on the rush, but not tic-tac-toe."
It's quite clear that the Americans want to win this game as badly as the Canadiens. To them, the Canadians stand in their way to the gold medal.
Backes is captain of the St. Louis Blues, and two of his top defensemen, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, are playing for Canada.
They were teammates 10 days ago. But now Backes is rooting for Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester to have a bad game. Those guys undoubtedly aren't rooting for him. That's the nature of the Canadian-U.S. rivalry.
"We had the conversation before we left," Backes said. "We are going to wear our country's colors and play as hard as we can for our countries. And we will figure out those relationships when we get back to our respective teams. It may take a cold beverage and someone will have to buy dinner."