The Russian team celebrates victory in the IIHF World Championship final. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
BERN – Canada wanted revenge, Russia wanted to stay on the throne. In addition, the winner of the 2009 World Championship final would also claim the top spot in the history books. Canada and Russia (together with Soviet Union) both had won the world championship gold medal 24 times.
Until tonight. Now Russia has 25.
Canada took the lead with its second shot of the night when Jason Spezza tapped in Shane Doan’s pass at 5:37. Russia tied the game on power play and the mostly Russian crowd got even more enthusiastic.
In the semifinal, Kovalchuk gave us the windmill-arm, today, Radulov introduced a blade-a-copter, spinning the blade of his stick like the propeller in a helicopter, after his goal on an odd-man rush gave Russia a 2-1 led in the second period, sealing the final score halfway through the game.
“I thought that the first 20 minutes, they were the better team, but we controlled the game the last 40,” Team Canada head coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had some great opportunities, and we didn't make many mistakes. We carried most of the play the last 40 minutes, but hockey can be a cruel sport. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov didn't make any mistakes and we got a silver and they have the gold.”
“Stamkos laid the puck on top of the net; a Heatley shot hit the goalie in the head. We had some opportunities.”
For Ruff, his first World Championship was also an adventure.
“I talked with a lot of people about playing on a bigger ice surface and I take this as a big learning experience,” he said. “It's a little bit of a different game on the big ice and teams played differently. It was a tremendous experience that will hopefully make me a better coach.”
MEETING THE OTHER MR. MEDVEDEV
While KHL president Alexander Medvedev was one of the first people out on the ice when the celebrations began, the Russian players may just get a date with the other Mr. Medvedev - Dmitry, the president of Russia.
“We don’t have any plans yet, but of course there will be celebrations,” said Denis Grebeshkov, smiling. “Last year we met the president, and he told us to come back next year, so he's waiting for us.”
THEY’RE ALL RIGHT
And this is who the accredited media voted to the tournament all-star team:
Goalkeeper: Andrei Mezin, Belarus
Defensemen: Shea Weber, Canada; Kenny Jonsson, Sweden
Forwards: Martin St-Louis, Canada; Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia; Steve Stamkos, Canada
Tournament MVP: Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia
Team USA lost the last game of the tournament, leaving the festivities empty handed. Sweden’s Carl Gunnarsson, a first-time in the worlds, sent a slapshot from the blueline past Robert Esche in the U.S. goal, with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
“I put this bronze really high on my list of accomplishments,” Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv said after the game.
Sweden had lost two bronze games in a row and a loss Sunday had meant a three-year streak without a medal, the first since the 1980s (1982-1985).
Liv made 37 saves and was the first star of the game.
“I’ve never been this tired after the game,” he told the reporters, with a hoarse voice. “It was really warm and I had lots to do. All in all, this was my best game with the national team ever, even if I say so myself. It was an important game for us. I even took the warmup seriously.”.
Coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson summed it up, with the bronze medal around his neck a good half hour after the game was over:
“There's a huge difference between winning the bronze and finishing fourth.”
Gustafsson was impressed with the American style, bringing it up several times after the game.
“We played a team that plays great hockey, they're a tough team to meet,” he said. “We got our power play to work and that was the difference today.
“I must say that the U.S. plays helluva fun hockey, they come down like rockets, all the time, flying down the ice.”
ONE STRONG GUSTAVSSON
Jonas Gustavsson, Sweden’s starting goalie in the semifinal, left Switzerland after the game to be with his ailing mother, something that also kept him from joining the team early in the tournament.
“I’ve never known anyone who’s that strong mentally and is able to block out everything else,” said Liv. “It was nice that we could win the medal for him.”
Even if Team USA didn’t have anything tangible to bring home, the experience was invaluable, said coach Ron Wilson, who will also be the head coach of the team in the Vancouver Olympics next February.
“I came here because of the Olympics and I wanted to have a general idea of what the teams are doing,” he said. “My focus is on the Olympic Games. I'm an NHL coach and my primary goal in life is to win the Stanley Cup, but I'm proud of the young team, which probably deserved a better fate in the last two games.”
Wilson last coached in the international stage a decade ago and the snapshot on European hockey may be useful for him in Vancouver, even if the teams will not have the same rosters.
“For me, it was a matter of getting to know some of the young guys, who may be candidates, and to reacquaint myself with European hockey even if the Olympics will be an extension of the NHL, played with NHL rules.” he said. “Also, we'll have the NHL referees and that's what the best players need: NHL officiating and its consistency, so that players know what to expect. It's rather difficult at times here.”
HAWKS MEET LIONS
The NHL, the NHLPA, and the IIHF announced the NHL challenger team for Victoria Cup next fall. Zurich Lions, the reigning European club champion as the winners of the Champions Hockey League, will take on the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks will open their regular season in Helsinki, Finland, together with the Florida Panthers.
CHAMPS IN ROPES
The Champions Hockey League - a European club competition that’s played alongside domestic leagues - is in dire straits. The IIHF announced that it has set a June 10 deadline for different investor groups to present their cases after the original investors have pulled out of the CHL.
According to Rene Fasel, the IIHF president, the NHL is interested in investing in the CHL, which would give it a foothold in the European hockey market.
However, Russian KHL president Alexander Medvedev, representing one of the original investors, says he wants to be involved in the future as well.
“The first season was a success,” Medvedev said. “We know the NHL is willing to participate in it, but I don’t think it’s right to fight off all the previous investors. We have invested a lot of money in it.
“I still believe in it and we’re committed to spending money further on.”
See you in Germany in May 2010! Oh, Vancouver will be hosting a hockey tournament in February 2010, too. That should be interesting.
Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen. You can email him at email@example.com.
Go to THN's World Championship Central HERE.