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Eight Nations Vie For International Supremacy

Wednesday, 12.05.2004 / 10:50 AM / News
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Eight Nations Vie For International Supremacy
 
 
John Iaboni has been covering the Maple Leafs and the NHL for nearly 30 years. For the last 12, he has been the managing editor of the team's game-day magazine and now you can share his exclusive inside access.

May 12, 2004

(TORONTO) -- After serving as head coach for Canada's first Olympic gold in men's hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake City in 2002, Pat Quinn has been asked to be head coach of Team Canada 2004 at the World Cup of Hockey. In fact, Canadian Hockey Association president Bob Nicholson opted for the same management group that earned success at the '02 Olympics -- executive director Wayne Gretzky, assistant executive director Kevin Lowe, director of player personnel Steve Tambellini, head coach Quinn along with associate coaches Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Martin and Wayne Fleming.

The World Cup of Hockey 2004 is a joint effort of the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL), in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

The eight nations are divided into the North American pool (Canada, Russia, Slovakia and USA) along with the European Pool (Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Sweden).

The tournament begins on August 30 and ends September 14. The North American Pool will play its games at three venues: Bell Centre in Montreal, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota and Air Canada Centre.

The World Cup of Hockey 2004 opens with round-robin play within the four-team European and North American pools August 30 to September 5.

All teams will qualify for the single-elimination playoff games, beginning with the quarterfinals, September 6 to 8 (two games each in Europe and North America). Semifinal games will be played in St. Paul on September 10 and Toronto on September 11. The championship game will be played September 14 at Air Canada Centre.

In total, Toronto hosts a five-game package. On Saturday, September 4 -- 32 years to the day of the classic Game 2 of the Canada-Soviet showdown at Maple Leaf Gardens -- Canada meets Russia at Air Canada Centre. The following day at Air Canada Centre, Russia plays Slovakia with the slate then to include quarterfinal (September 8), semifinal (September 11) and championship (September 14) games. Limited seats for the Toronto games are still available and further information can be obtained online at www.ticketmaster.ca or by phone at 416-872-5000.

The European Pool games will be played at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Cologne Arena in Cologne, Germany and Sazka Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.

Mats Sundin, who was selected to the all-star teams for the Canada Cup in 1991 and the World Cup in 1996 as well as the Olympics in 2002, is expected to lead Sweden. Brian Leetch, who captained the USA to the World Cup title in 1996 and was part of his country's silver medal team at the Salt Lake City Olympics, is another Leaf who could figure prominently at this year's World Cup.

But they, along with any other prospective Leafs, are in the same category as Quinn for the time being as playoff fever grips Toronto

Still representing one's country is always special. Quinn, for example, calls it "terrific" to be asked back as head coach for Canada.

"When they decided that they'd use the same group of guys I was really excited and certainly proud to get asked again and we'll start out with the same goal: We're going there to win," says Quinn.

OK, then, but how difficult was it to handle your NHL battles with Martin, Hitchcock and Fleming, then have to put them aside when you all handle Team Canada?

"I think that's just part of our makeup," Quinn says. "You grow up as a competitive person. You actually learn about competing -- that's not a gift. You have to learn how to do that and when you want to compete hard then you don't pull out the plugs. Even when you're competing against your brothers or whatever it is you compete as hard as you can and when the contest is done you're brothers again.

"So if you respect the men involved here -- which I do -- I'll give them everything I've got when we're playing against each other and when we're playing with each other I expect everything they've got to try and accomplish the same things all of us fought for other reasons. We can put those things aside for the common good of the team. We're as important to be team men as the players are in that situation.

"I knew who they were and I'd met them but I didn't know them going to Salt Lake. But it was one of those fortunate comings together of a group of people as I've ever been involved with and it just worked out tremendously. And I expect it'll happen again. One thing is we have a group whose egos don't demand that they're the man. I think that worked really well with us from Gretzky and Nicholson right on all the way through our off-ice organization."

Quinn knows Canadian players will be expected to win and they'll have to overcome the fear and pressure that comes with that.

"We took a motto that we kind of grabbed from Father Bauer that was: Pay attention to detail and let the spirit prevail," Quinn says of Canada's approach at the '02 Olympics. "We wanted that spirit that we feel we have as Canadians to burst through but not overwhelm the attention that we needed to pay to what we were trying to do. And that helped us on the pressure side of it because after that first loss (to Sweden) everybody was saying the same sort of thing. But we got through that very well and we'll have to face that again."

Rosters will be comprised of 20 skaters and three goaltenders. Each team will conduct a 10-day training camp beginning on August 20 and play two exhibition games prior to the start of the World Cup.

While it'll be fun to speculate on the final rosters, there certainly are an abundance of names that come to mind. Canadians who had standout seasons this year include Martin St. Louis, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour. Czech Republic stars are headed by Milan Hejduk, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Havlat, Robert Lang and Patrik Elias.

Slovakia's best include Marian Hossa, Pavol Demitra, Ziggy Palffy, Miroslav Satan, Zdeno Chara and Marian Gaborik. USA candidates feature Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano, Brett Hull, Bill Guerin, Tony Amonte and Brian Leetch. Sweden should once again be led by the likes of Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom. Russia's leaders include Sergei Fedorov, Sergei Gonchar, Ilya Kovalchuk and Nikolai Khabibulin. Finland brings Saku Koivu, Olli Jokinen, Jere Lehtinen while Germany's prominent NHLers are Olaf Kolzig, Marco Sturm and Jochen Hecht.

NHL referees and linesmen will officiate World Cup of Hockey games using NHL rules.

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