By Alan Adams
VIENNA – Ryan Smyth, a.k.a Captain Canada, said it best.
“There is no better feeling in that dressing room right now,” said Smyth.
The reason Smyth was all smiles was for the fact that Canada will play for a third straight world title on Sunday.
It’s been 50-plus years since Canadian won the world crown in three consecutive years and Smyth didn’t have to be reminded of that piece of Canadian hockey history.
“It was the 1950s,” he said.
The Edmonton Mercurys won the world title in 1950 and 1952 while the Lethbridge Maple Leafs took the ’51 crown.
And if Canada wins the title on Sunday, it will be its 24th world championship and that would put them one up on Russia (a.k.a the Soviet Union) on the all-time list.
Coincidentally Canada beat Russia 4-3 in the semifinal on Saturday to advance.
In season which saw the NHL season cancelled, the Canadians are shooting for a world title. They are playing for the right to call themselves world champs.
“This is why this team is here,” said Joe Thornton. “
“It is exciting to play hockey and to win a championship would be awesome,’ said Smyth, who is one of three Canadians on the roster to have played in the last two world tournaments. The other two are Dany Heatley and Roberto Luongo.
“The thing is you work to get to this, the final game. This is where we wanted to be. We wanted to play in the quarter-finals, semifinals and final and this is exactly where we want to be.”
Team Canada got to the Russians early.
Wade Redden jammed a rebound for a goal at 1:38 and Sheldon Souray, who was benched in the quarter-final against Slovakia, made it 2-0 at 5:46. Dany Heatley then gave Canada a three-goal lead at 10:37 and when Ed Jovanovski bloated the difference to 4-0 at 1:40 of the second, the Canadians looked in complete control.
But the game changed. The Russians came on strong and the Canadians sat back and the combination almost cost the two-time defending world champs the game.
Alexander Semin at 14:22 of the second and Alexei Yashin scored 19:18 to cut the lead in half. When Ovechkin scored at 6:27 of the third, the Russians were within striking range but Marty Brodeur – who else – was the difference.
“At the end of the day, I just want to say I did my best, I did everything I could and most of the time we will come on top,” he said.
The Canadians knew the game was a lot closer than it should have been.
“We have all seen it before, when teams have a lead, you tend to stay back and that is when you get bitten,” said Dan Boyle. “We played that way and it almost backfired. It’s a lesson learned. We got the win and that is all that matters.”
And one more victory is all that separates them for being champions of the world.
NOTES: Prior to the Canada-Russia game, Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson announced that Canada has been awarded the 2009 and 2012 world junior hockey championships. “The key to it is they really wanted to come to Canada because of the experience of the number of people,” said Nicholson. “When you look at Germany when they came out in Halifax (and played in front of a packed house at the Metro Centre) it was a little intimidating but that is a situation that would never happen in any other country.” Nicholson said he plan is to do both bids together. “We will move as quickly as we can (on a bidding timeline). It is going to be huge. We saw what happened with Vancouver (i.e. the bidding war) and the time and money people put into it is fabulous. As I said here, it will be the biggest hockey event, the No. 1 event, in Vancouver. The World Cup or none of that will be close to that in terms of a success.”
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Brad Pascall Vice-President, Hockey Operations