By Alan Adams
PRAGUE – There will be a little sense of deja-vu when Canada plays Germany on Sunday at the World Hockey Championship.
Olaf Kolzig will get the start in goal for the Germans. That’s the same Olaf Kolzig that members of Team Canada know as the goalie for the Washington Capitals.
Kolzig was born in South Africa and his parents are from Germany. His dad was in the hotel industry and lived in a handful of Canadian cities. Kolzig’s parents now live on Vancouver Island.
The German national team has been after Kolzig to come to the world tournament for years. Three years ago, his son was diagnosed with autism and hockey was the furthest thing from his mind. Two years ago he had knee problem and was not able to come. Last year, after the Capitals blew a 2-0 lead to Tampa Bay and were eliminated in the playoffs, Kolzig just wanted to forget about hockey.
But when the Germans called this time, Kolzig jumped on a plane and hasn’t regretted his decision.
" The way our season went in Washington, we basically were out of the playoffs from February on and it was just a good opportunity to play some meaningful hockey again and feel that pressure," said Kolzig.
Kolzig has never faced Canada at the world tournament, and he’s anxious to test his skills against theirs.
" It will be a challenge," he says. "Every time Germany plays Canada they always seem to give them a hard time. "I think it's because we play more of a North American style of game. We respect who they are and what they have but I don't think we're intimidated by them. I'm excited to play them."
The Germans beat Canada 5-1 at the 1996 world championship, tied 3-3 in 2001 before losing 3-1 in 2002. Then there was last year's quarter-final in Finland, when Canada blew a 2-0 lead and needed overtime to finally dispose of the Germans en route to a gold medal.
The game against Germany is the first of two straight for the Canadians. On Monday they face the Czech Republic in the final qualifying round game. The medal round starts Wednesday.
" We know he’s a good goalie," says Daniel Briere about Kolzig. "We know him and he k nows us."
The Canadians had Saturday off to enjoy the sites of the Czech capital.
" We’re getting better day by day," says coach Mike Babcock.
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