You win the gold; you lose the silver.
It’s an argument I’ve heard a lot in the past few days; one that would seem to excuse the actions of Swedish captain Lias Andersson as he lobbed his IIHF Junior World Championship silver medal into the crowd immediately after receiving it.
The Swedish team lost 3-1 to Canada in the final Friday afternoon in Buffalo, NY. It was a tight game, tied right up until the final minutes of play when a rarely-used Canadian forward scored to give Canada the edge. An empty-netter goal sealed the deal. Gold for Canada. Silver for Sweden.
It was the last chance for this group of Swedish guys to win it all at the junior championships.
“I didn’t want it,” Andersson told media after the game. “The guy in the stands wanted it more than me.”
Here is Lias Andersson tossing his 🥈 into the stands. 😶 pic.twitter.com/oKvLGE0aIb
— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) January 6, 2018
Shaflucas, who was wearing a Rochester Americans sweater when he caught the toss, quickly pulled that sweater and a Team U.S.A. jersey over his head to reveal a Team Sweden jersey.
Shaflucas took a few photos with the medal and then handed it over to Team Sweden staff.
“Someday he’s going to want this,” Shaflucas told CTV. “What am I going to do with (the medal)?”
But Andersson wasn’t interested.
When media asked him if he regretted throwing the medal into the crowd, he said simply, “no.
“I have a silver medal from the U-18 Worlds and I haven’t checked it for two years.”
Like many other Canadians, I rushed home Friday after work to catch the game.
When Swedish athletes removed their medals from their necks as they received them, a pit started to form in my stomach. When Andersson – the team’s captain – removed his medal and threw it into the crowd, my stomach dropped.
Some have excused his actions as being those of a child.
Finally, on Lias Andersson tossing his medal into the crowd, I would say only this: 1. It’s an emotional game; 2. They’re just kids, living and learning; 3. Lias is a fantastic kid and a great player; 4. He could play on my team, if I had one, any time: https://t.co/Cuun5O69dA
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 6, 2018
TSN’s Bob Mckenzie tweeted: “1. It’s an emotional game; 2. They’re just kids, living and learning; 3. Lias is a fantastic kid and a great player; 4. He could play on my team, if I had one, any time.”
Andersson, who is 19-years-old and was a 2017 first-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, is not a child. He is the captain of his junior national hockey team and a role model not only for his team, but for young skaters worldwide.
Imagine for a moment, that a Canadian athlete has competed at the Olympics, competed well enough to finish in second place.
Perhaps they’re a luger who started tobogganing on the slopes behind their home, or a figure skater who spun circles on the community pond. They trained and put in the miles and the hard work and finished second. And as they receive their medal, they chuck it the crowd.
This is not an example we want our youth to follow.
By showing such a blatant disregard for his medal, Andersson has shown the world – and many actual kids watching the competition – that it’s OK to disrespect his competitors.
Some, even, are celebrating his actions. They say he is a passionate athlete.
Let me tell you, winning gold feels pretty good, but so does silver, and bronze. Sometimes just finishing is a reward unto itself.
As a Canadian kid who grew up in sport – I was a member of the junior national kayaking team for three years and competed provincially in a number of sports – I have seen athletes experience heartbreak many times.
But they handle it with class, not by throwing away a token of the competition immediately after receiving it.
That’s the mark of a true champion – holding their head high, even in moments of disappointment.
Triple Olympic medallist Elaine Tanner wrote a letter to the editor in the Toronto Star.
“I admire his tenacity and will to win, but I do not condone the timing of his petulant reaction in front of his teammates,” she wrote. “As team captain, Andersson has a responsibility to lead his team, not embarrass them. His disrepectful antics reflected poorly on the team and the competition as a whole, and should never have happened when and where they did.”
We need to encourage our young athletes to show good sportsmanship.
Congratulate your opponents when they best you. Congratulate yourself for not giving up.
Winning isn’t always everything.