Journal Entry: December 31st, 2001
Practice got better as it went along today and that's a good sign. We had a shoot-out competion at the end and it came down to our two guys from the Windsor Spitfires Jason Spezza and Steve Ott. Steve ended up winning and he made the most of it, being our holler guy. It was a nice light note to end on.
You never want to dwell on a defeat but especially when you're finishing the opening round at this tournament and going into the elimination round. This is the "hump" game ... win it and you're playing for a medal. Our guys have to get past the tough loss to the Finns and start worrying about Sweden. A lot of people will suggest that we ended up with a good or easy draw even though we finished second in our group. I think that's jumping to a big conclusion and not giving our opponents the credit they deserve.
The Swedes played us very tough last year in the bronze medal game before losing in overtime on a goal by Raffi Torres. They have a lot of players back from that team and they've had to be thinking about a rematch against us for a year. I get a sense from watching them around the rink today that they're confident if not overconfident that they can beat us.
There was a big cheer on the bus when we told the players that we were taking them to McDonald's. That's how it was last year in Moscow where the food at our hotel was just terrible. It's better this year but the players still like the food they know.
We'll give them some down time in the afternoon and after watching some tapes and a meeting and dinner we'll give the kids a chance to see their families for New Year's. Not something long or a big party or anything but just a chance to catch up. We can't let them ring in the New Year with their parents but the reality is we're here to win a tournament and there are going to be a lot of other New Year's for them, a lot of chances to pop corks. The last thing they'll do this year will be sitting in on a meeting to go over tomorrow's schedule. They'll be listening to the coaches and staff not Guy Lombardo. By midnight tonight they're going to be in their beds.
I hear that the Swedes were going into Prague for the day after their practice. Hey, if they presume that a walk around the city and three hours on a bus is good preparation for tomorrow, good for them. We think hockey players are creatures of habit and that our players do best when they have a routine. When you get away from the routine you can run into some trouble. You can even make a case that happened last night against the Finns ... that was our first night game here and the kids just didn't have a lot of energy, maybe over-sleeping. We can't afford to have that happen again and I think our kids know what's at stake.
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