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When he coached in Vancouver, Willie Desjardins was referred to by some of the local wags as "Real Good" Willie.

The 1977 Montreal Canadiens? "Real good."

The fourth-line of the Phoenix Coyotes? "Real good."

Nuclear annihilation? "Real good."

So how was Canada against the Czech Republic on Saturday in their first Olympic loss since Vancouver 2010?

"I thought we played a real good game," Desjardins said.

Well, that's one opinion. I'm not sure the "real" applies, but Desjardins does get to watch from ice level.

A neutral viewer would probably say Canada played decently, and that the Czechs did not play a whole lot better. But it was good enough to get them into overtime and a shootout.

This was where you began to realize that Canada's roster, especially its best players, is old. Not just peeking-over-the-wrong-side-of-30 old, but Methuselah old.

Chris Lee is 37. So is Chris Kelly. Rene Bourque isn't far behind at 36. Derek Roy is 34.

That's human years. Considering all the miles travelled, all the grinding, all the itinerant striving, in hockey-player years these guys are about 70.

So while they are often the steadier (if not necessarily classier) team on the ice, it's a peak-in-the-second-period sort of competence.

It ended 2-2 after regulation. The last few minutes featured nearly uninterrupted Czech dominance, including a crossbar hit with a minute to go.

By the time the time they began the three-on-three, Canada was exhausted. Not just slower, but appearing to give up on plays owing to fatigue.

In the shootout, Canada demonstrated that it should do everything in its power to avoid shootouts. They were outscored 4-1. Wojtek Wolski – a spry 31 if you don't count the broken neck – was the team's only scorer.

So not especially skilled, not especially fit, not especially capable of scoring against five-on-five competition (both Canadian markers came on the power play) and not especially strong in net (goalie Ben Scrivens' work had a Toronto Maple Leafs feel on Saturday).

Everyone knew this coming in, but it's still discombobulating to see it happen. The Canadian Olympic hockey team is not elite any more. They're just good hockey players like everyone else has good hockey players.

This year's Olympic competition is one of those European-style efforts at Participaction. Twelve teams qualified. All 12 teams will move on to the playoff round.

The carrot for Canada was winning Group A and moving straight to the quarterfinal stage. That automatic advancement may still happen, but let's call it much less likely now.

(You could do the permutations on whether Canada may still be the sole second-place group finisher to automatically advance, but we suggest you do so in a hospital waiting room. That way someone will be on hand quickly to treat the resulting brain aneurysm.)

So the bad news – Canada may have to play four games to get a medal. The other "favourites" will play three.

The good news – on the early evidence, nobody here is real good.

The U.S. lost to Slovenia. The Russians lost to Slovakia. These same Czechs only narrowly defeated Canada's next opponent, South Korea, the other day.

The Swedes and Finns have looked sharp, but against hockey pretenders Norway and Germany. We'll see on Sunday how they look against each other.

That won't be Canada's concern right now. They've got more imminent problems to deal with.

"We can expect a tough game from (South Korea)," Desjardins said.

In years past, that would be a polite lie. The onus would be on us not to embarrass the host nation too much. But now Desjardins is serious. Canada probably can expect a tough game against South Korea. With all due respect, that's a little depressing.

It's difficult to remember back, but I suppose this is what Olympic hockey felt like when Canada didn't expect to win at the Olympics. Every game is an emotional paint shaker. You don't know what to believe because you aren't sure who's capable of what. There is no reputational effect. Most of these teams think they can win on the day, regardless of the competition.

If the Czechs had beaten Canada at this same point four years ago, it'd have been a small, national moment.

This time around, they came off the ice looking like it was the first home win of a season – pleased with themselves, but a long way from elated. They looked ready for more.

It was hard to tell if Canada looked that way or not. They didn't seem rattled. More annoyed with themselves.

All in all, I'd call their hockey attitude real good.

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