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THN at the World Championship: Canada still team to beat

Canada after losing 5-4 in overtime to Russia (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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Canada after losing 5-4 in overtime to Russia (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

QUEBEC CITY – Canada may have lost the gold medal at the World Championship Sunday, but it wasn’t a total loss.

By finishing second in the tournament, Canada earned enough points in the world rankings to be the No. 1 ranked country in the world, which means it will be the No. 1 seed for the Olympics in 2010 and will have the lowest-ranked opponents of any team in the round-robin portion of the tournament.

With their gold medal win, the Russians are tied with Sweden for the No. 2 ranking. Finland is fourth, Czech Republic fifth, USA sixth, Switzerland seventh and Slovakia eighth.

KOVIE NOT A NO-GOVIE
The Canadian team could have attempted to keep Ilya Kovalchuk out of the gold medal game if it, or anyone else in the tournament, demanded a supplementary discipline hearing.

But nobody did and Kovalchuk ended up receiving the one-game suspension that kept him out of the semifinal after his misconduct for charging in the quarterfinal against Switzerland.

Had any other team or any member of the International Ice Hockey Federation called for a hearing, there would have been one and a decision would have had to be made on whether to suspend Kovalchuk for the gold medal game.

No one did, Kovalchuk played and was the hero.

Good call by everyone involved. It would have been cheap for Canada to lobby for a further suspension and Kovalchuk paid a steep enough price by missing the semifinal.

BLOC MENTALITY
There was no shortage of political opportunists on hand to cheer on Team Canada in the gold medal game at the World Championship, but the one who was most conspicuous by his presence was Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

Duceppe said he sees nothing contradictory or politically opportunistic about being among the supporters for the Canadian team, despite the fact he is the leader of a political party whose primary goal is to facilitate Quebec’s separation from Canada.

“I would have to say that this is the kind of mentality that I hate,” Duceppe said. “That’s your problem. It’s not a problem to me at all. For many years, a lot of people don’t understand what is going on. That’s their problem, not mine.”

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Duceppe did not elaborate on what he felt people did not understand about the situation. One that is totally clear is Duceppe and his party are intensely focused on separation.

“The Bloc Quebecois affirms the existence of a Quebec nation, requires recognition and defends the interests of its citizens and their right to freely choose their future,” the Bloc Quebecois says on its website.

“We’re in Quebec, why would it be surprising that I am here?” Duceppe said. “Why not? There are Quebec players on the team.”

Goalies Pascal Leclaire and Mathieu Garon and right winger Martin St-Louis are the native Quebeckers on the Canadian team.

WAIT TILL 2010
Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t think the Russians should be considered the No. 1 hockey power just because they won the World Championship.

“We’ve got good players on the horizon and we all know the Olympics are the measuring stick,” Hitchcock said. “If you’re talking about world power and you’re talking about supremacy in hockey, you talk about the Olympics. They’re missing players for this tournament – there’s a player playing in Detroit (Pavel Datsyuk) who’s not bad - and we’re missing players in this tournament. When you get it together at the Olympics and everybody is there, that’s the measuring stick. We all know that.”

Ken Campbell is at the World Championship in Quebec and will be filing daily reports through to the final day.

Read THN's gold medal game analysis HERE.

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