Poll

Who is your most valuable player?
Brent Burns (CAN)
Sergei Fedorov (RUS)
Mike Green (CAN)
Dany Heatley (CAN)
Tomas Kaberle (CZE)
Evgeni Nabokov (RUS)
Rick Nash (CAN)
Alexander Ovechkin (RUS)
Alexander Semin (RUS)

Blogging away in Quebec City and Halifax

Welcome and bienvenue to the IIHF Worlds 2008 blog. Throughout the championship you will be able to read about our impressions behind the ice in Quebec City and Halifax.

Love is in the air

May 18 / Risto Pakarinen

Climbing the 89 stairs up to the Colisée Pepsi press box for the last time today, thinking about going home, two cute events from the past few days occurred to me.

On Saturday, after the bronze medal game, all of a sudden, the two Finnish Koivus became four when Mikko Koivu joined his brother, Saku, at the mixed zone, carrying a blonde kid on each of his arms. Both children wore blue "Suomi" shirts with the name KOIVU on the back, but with two different numbers. One had 11 for Saku, the other 9 for uncle Mikko.

Quite a few reporters sighed longingly when the kids leaped over to Saku's arms, shouting "Daddy, Daddy!"

Then we had Vladislav Tretyak on Kiss Cam, receiving a nice kiss from a female friend, Tretyak beaming with happiness.

And today, when Russia had clinched gold medals, Alexander Ovechkin hugged Ilya Kovalchuk, and gave him a big kiss on the cheek, proclaiming his feelings for the hero: "I LOVE THIS GUY!"

Gotta love it.

Brothers in arms

May 17 / Risto Pakarinen

With the playoff format in place, and especially this year when even the quarterfinals were played within the qualification round groups, there was a chance Finland and Sweden wouldn’t have played against each other at all.

For somebody - me - who’s grown up with the rivalry, and with Sweden being about the ONLY big nation Finland could even dream of beating, a World Championship without a Finland - Sweden game, is not a World Championship.

Like in 2006. So, I’m not sure if Sweden's historic gold medal counts. (Of course it does, just kidding).

But this year, thanks to Canada and Russia beating Sweden and Finland, respectively, in the semifinal, we will see the Battle of the Baltic again.

Being a Finn who lives in Sweden, I figure I’ll just lean back and enjoy the game. Or, actually, lean forward and enjoy the game. I'll end up on the winning side anyway. 

 

Gold medal breakfast chatter

May 17 / Andrew Podnieks

QUEBEC CITY – The talk at the breakfast table this morning was tomorrow's gold-medal game. There is no doubt that Sweden is a great hockey power and the Finns highly talented, that the Czechs were close this year but not of the usual calibre, and the Slovaks presented a dismal team this year. Yes, the lesser teams must be respected for doing their best, but let's face it, the two winningest hockey powers in the game's history have also been far and away the best teams in Quebec City and Halifax. Canada and Russia simply defines international hockey.

Think 1954, when the Soviets stunned Canada in their first international tournament. Think 1955 when Canada won gold with Foster Hewitt broadcasting what at the time were the most important games Canada had ever played. Think Summit Series in 1972, Canada Cup in '76 and '81. Think Gretzky to Lemieux with less than two minutes to go to win the 1987 Canada Cup, truly the finest three hockey games ever played. Think 1992 Olympics when this "new" country called Russia beat Canada in the finals.

No two countries can boast as much great history. And tomorrow another chapter will be written. Will Ovechkin create more goals than Nash? Will Ward or Nabokov be the hero in goal? Can Canada shut down Russia's Washington line of Ovechkin-Semin-Fedorov? Can Russia handle the extraordinary power of Nash-Getzlaf-Heatley?

Breakfast today was all history and anticipation. It's really almost too much to take. Let's drop the puck now and get 'er going!

Hopp Schwiiz apple

May 14 / Martin Merk

QUEBEC CITY – It’s neither cheese, nor chocolate. But is this apple below Ralph Krueger’s secret behind the unusual offensive power of the Swiss team this year? At least, it’s told to be healthier than the Swiss prototype food. And, important, it has not only the Swiss cross on it but also the battle cry “Hopp Schwiiz” (Go Switzerland!) Of course, Thomas Oswald, who’s in Quebec City as the photographer of a popular Swiss website, is presenting his creation proudly. Will the apples also help the Swiss against the mighty Russians?

Le beurre avec des fleurs

May 14 / Lucas Aykroyd

QUEBEC CITY - How do you know if you’re a true hockey fanatic?

When you’re dining at Le Beffroi, reputedly Quebec City’s finest steakhouse, and little pats of butter are served with fresh bread, and you immediately exclaim upon seeing that the butter has little fleur-de-lis crests: “Look, just like the old Quebec Nordiques jerseys!” (As opposed to, say, “Just like the Quebec provincial flag!” or “Hey, it’s the traditional flower of the French monarchy!”)

IIHF Communications Director Szymon Szemberg is a true hockey fanatic.

Bulletin board material for the Swiss

May 14 / Lucas Aykroyd

QUEBEC CITY - Yesterday, the IIHF staff got a little time off to wander the picturesque, curving streets of Quebec’s Old City, and couldn’t help noticing that some of the locals seemed a bit confused about which European nation would face Russia in today’s second quarter-final.

How on earth did this come up?

Pure happenstance. You’re enjoying nachos and salad on the sun-drenched patio of the Pub St. Patrick on Rue St-Jean when you overhear a conversation from a nearby table: “Oh yeah, let’s see, the Czechs are playing Sweden, and, uh, Russia is playing Belarus.” “Are you sure about that?” “Um, um...oh no, wait! They’re playing the Swiss.”

Later you stop in the Rue de Tresor, an alley dedicated to local artwork, and peruse a lovely selection of watercolors depicting the Chateau Frontenac. The artist, intrigued to hear that the IIHF is based in Switzerland, comments on the fine pair of brothers the Swiss team has this year. “Brothers?” “Oh yes, they play for the Canadiens.” Who knew the Kostitsyns had acquired Swiss citizenship?

You’d almost think it was Belarus that had placed eighth at the IIHF World Championship year after year.

A simple act of kindness

May 14 / Andrew Podnieks


HALIFAX – By now, everyone knows that Canada's captain, Shane Doan, loves the song Barrett's Privateers, made famous by Stan Rogers. But now you'll find out why.

Last night the IIHF staff in Halifax had its annual dinner. We went to a nice pub down by the water. Our waitress, Lauren, asked us about our role with the tournament, and we, in turn, asked if she had seen any games. She had. Her sister's boyfrind, she told, was the lead singer in a very popular local band called Signal Hill.

When Canada first arrived in Halifax, Doan had heard the band and its rendition of Barrett's Privateers. He loved it and requested that the Signal Hill version be played in the Metro Centre during games. Additionally, he left the band with tickets to several games.

That's how waitress Lauren got to see Canada play, and that's how Signal Hill's version of Stan Rogers' song has become the unofficial anthem for Canada here in Halifax.

From Russia with love

May 12 / Lucas Aykroyd

QUEBEC CITY – So you pop into the washroom in the “Secteur Nord-Ouest” on the upper level of the Colisée five minutes before Russia-Switzerland starts. And what do you find? Nine schoolboys painting “O V E C H K I N 8” on their bare chests and chattering away in excited Quebecois French. It takes some vigorous forechecking just to get to the sink.

At first glance, it’s surprising how much the crowds in Quebec City seem to love the Russians. It’s not only fans who’ve flown in from Moscow that are leading the chants of “Rossiya!” and “Shaibu!”

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s, here in Canada, the Russians always filled the role of archrivals, the Darth Vader figure that had to be defeated at any cost. (Paul Henderson, Mike Bossy, and Mario Lemieux kept having to blow up the Death Star.)

But there are a few reasons why the vibe is different here now in Quebec City.

First, Ovechkin. Fans love him. It doesn’t matter if they’re Russian, Canadian, whatever. When you have a guy who wins the NHL scoring title with as much as excitement as he generates, and also brings a gregarious, fun-loving personality that he doesn’t try to hide (unlike most players), it’s really no wonder.

Second, Alexander Radulov is a folk hero as the former superstar of the 2006 Memorial Cup champion Quebec Remparts. They actually retired his sweater here. That means for many locals, Russia is probably their #2 favorite team after Canada this year.

Third, it’s been so long since the Russians have won anything at the senior level, or hurt Canada’s hopes (the 2006 Olympic quarter-final being a notable exception), that they just don’t feel as threatening to Canadians anymore. And they’re still a lot of fun to watch on the offensive side, even though their defensive lapses remain cringe-worthy. There’s an element of nostalgia for the era when the Russians were consistently kings of the hill.

So don’t be too taken aback if, inside the Colisée, it occasionally sounds more like the Luzhniki Sports Palace.

Holy Grail, Batman!

May 12 / Risto Pakarinen

QUEBEC CITY – Last week, Prince Albert of Monaco, today, the Stanley Cup that had traveled from Halifax to Quebec City. Where will this end? Stanley stood at the fanfest all day, greeting hockey fans from all over the world.

It’s a very solemn moment for many, getting so close to the Holy Grail. They step up to the Cup, carefully place their hand on it, then look at the camera. No smiles.

Maybe everybody’s afraid of not winning it if they misbehave.

Even Anders Pettersen who afterwards was confident enough to proclaim that he absolutely will see the Cup again, and when he does, he’ll get to hoist it above his head. Anders is on a three-week trip in Quebec City with his uncle Jan, cheering on Denmark, and especially goalie Patrick Galbraith, who plays for Soenderjyske Vojens, as does Anders, also a goalie.

At least he now has a visual of his big goal. Anders is the one with the black Sidney Crosby sweater.



French-Canadian cuisine II: Poutine mania

May 11 / Martin Merk

QUEBEC CITY – Were you pondering while reading part one of the story about food in Quebec and in particular about the most popular specialty here, the poutine? Fair enough, you’re not the only one and IIHF.com’s Quebec City crew did the culinary test exclusively for our loyal blog readers!

The poutine is the probably most popular fast food of the province, probably even part of the regional identity of the everyday life. It is so popular, that even the global fast food chains, as the one with the clown and the yellow M, is offering poutine in the whole province. And of course, the smell of the poutine goes around the Colisée. Asking the Québécois about the best place to eat poutine, they answer, of course, not with one of those global restaurants but with a fast food chain only present in Quebec City. Unanimously!

Some Québécois warn visitors that poutine could have an unusual taste for them despite of the popularity here. And, to tell the truth, most visitors call poutine tasting a once-in-a-lifetime experience afterwards. As, unbelievably, mentioned in part I, poutine are French fries topped with cheese curds and a sauce – usually gravy. Or, for example, the less classic poutine italienne with tomato sauce. You think it’s a mess? Maybe you’re right. The oral tradition says that poutine was invented in the mid-fifties in Quebec’s countryside when a guest asked for a similar French fries combination and got the answer: “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (It will make a damn mess!)

There are two possibilities to not oversee this famous, local fast food chain. At first, you can go out at noon and look for a long queue covering the pavement, for example in the Old Town, the Grande Allée or down the hill. Yes, they’re all waiting, and waiting, and waiting for Quebec’s “fast” food number one! The second option is to go out at 3am when the bars are forced to stop selling drinks. It’s told to be a popular routine for Quebec City clubbers to eat a poutine before going to bed. Bon app, beloved stomach!

Stanley’s in the House

May 11 / Jenny Wiedeke

HALIFAX – Today in Halifax, we had our biggest VIP yet…the Stanley Cup. The good folks from the Hockey Hall of Fame brought hockey’s royalty to the World Championship fans. The keepers of the cup had a solid lesson in Latvian as hundreds of fans from the Baltic country lined up to see the NHL trophy. The Cup spent the day at the fan fest and was the definite center of attention before the Norway-Latvia game.

 

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, this has been a busy year for the historians at the Toronto-based museum. Since it is the IIHF’s 100-year anniversary, the Hall of Fame has been working very closely to archive this year’s historic championship. Generally after key games, a Hall of Fame official will approach teams to ask for various artifacts to display in the Hall. They also gathered three game-worn jerseys from each team’s vintage jersey program for display. So far, they have a bag full of artifacts that rivals Santa’s haul…and judging by the stench coming from the bag, every item is indeed game worn!

 

Street smart

May 10 / Risto Pakarinen

QUEBEC CITY – Yes, it’s an honor to get to represent your country in the World Championships, and yes, all the best players are here, and yes, there’s some glamour to that. But, for players and coaches, a lot of the time it’s the same old, same old, going to the rink, back to the hotel, play a game, and go to bed.

In Quebec City, the players usually get on a bus that takes them from the practice rink to the Colisée Pepsi, but Switzerland’s Julien Vauclair likes to keep it real: He walked from the practice rink, through the Fanfest area, around the arena, through the corridors, down to the dressing room, wearing skates and all.

And because he’s a great dude, he did pose for photos with the fans on his way, enjoying the sunny Quebec spring day.

But wait. Have we ever seen him anywhere not wearing his equipment?

Spreading the love

May 10 / Lucas Aykroyd

This “Kiss Cam” thing is just getting out of hand.

During the second intermission of the Russia-Sweden game, the roving camera at the Colisée suddenly fixed on Russian Ice Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak. Taken by surprise by his appearance on the Jumbotron, Tretiak nonetheless smiled like a good sport when the official next to him gave him a quick cheek-to-cheek hug.

Actually, the legendary former goalie of the Soviet national team has a history with kisses in Quebec City. His 1987 autobiography, Tretiak: The Legend, includes an account of his visit during Rendez-Vous ’87, and he mentions receiving a smooch when meeting a group of lovely young local ladies and acknowledging their beauty.

Trailer Park

May 9 / Jenny Wiedeke

The team area behind the scenes at the Metro Centre is a true North American trailer park. Since the lockerroom space is very limited in the building, the host organizers had to come up with a creative way to accommodate all the teams. It seems someone must have spent time in the American south, and had the genius idea of installing trailers outside each team lockerroom. Generally, the coaching staffs have claimed the trailers as their turf, where you can see the T.V. glowing through the windows as they hold their analysis paralysis video sessions. Out front, the rest of the team staff sits on the ‘patio’ and greets everyone as they walk by. It is like one big happy neighborhood – complete with flags, and other decorations, identifying which nation’s trailer is which. So far, the Finns have set the trailer standard with an enormous flag that announces the Nordic nation’s home turf. Meanwhile, the Germans are proving to be the most hospitable, as they drew the short straw and have the first lockerroom that all teams must pass by…at least everyone now knows how to say hello in German.

 

The joy of jersey-shopping

May 8 / Lucas Aykroyd

Stroll into the souvenir shop near the main entrance of the Colisée, and one thing jumps out at you quickly.

Amid the ball caps, pennants, and stuffed mascots, the national team jerseys hold pride of place. But while you can scoop up the colours of Italy, Sweden, Belarus, and so on at $160 or less a pop, if you want a sweater with a player’s name on the back, you’re limited to two choices: Canada’s Martin St. Louis or Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin ($225).

Rumor has it among the staff that more Canadian jerseys are on the way with the emblazoned names of Dany Heatley and Rick Nash.

Unfortunately for Belarus fans, they seem to be completely sold out of Stepan Goryachevskikh.

"I still get paid, right?"

May 8 / Risto Pakarinen

QUEBEC CITY – Remember as a kid when sometimes the teacher would get sick suddenly, and there’d be no substitute, either? We used to have a fifteen-minute rule where, if nobody showed up within 15 minutes from when the class was supposed to begin, we were free to go.

I bet this guy felt kind of like that when Switerland upset Sweden (4-2) on Wednesday. Home free! No work today!

He was the one taking care of the Swedish flag for the post-game ceremonies.



She, on the other hand, had some work to do, getting that Swiss flag back into shape.



A confused tale of two brothers

May 8 / Andrew Podnieks


HALIFAX – Confusion begat comedy last night in the mixed zone after the Finland-Slovakia game. There are runners in this area whose job it is to ask members of the media which players they’d like to interview after the game. The runners mark a sheet of paper for each team, and indicate whether the interview is for TV, radio, or print. One TV reporter asked the runner for number 9 (meaning Mikko Koivu), and she dutifully marked this down. She got busy, so the reporter asked a different runner a couple of minutes later for Koivu again. The second runner hustled back to the Team Finland dressing room, only to be greeted by general manager Jari Kurri and Saku Koivu, who was in streetclothes because he hadn’t been officially registered to play yet. The runner said a reporter wanted Koivu. Saku beamed, but she clarified this and said, “number 9, Mikko.” Saku’s shoulders sagged, and he remained in his chair. After several minutes, Mikko finally appeared. The runner rushed ahead to tell the TV reporter that Koivu was on his way, and in the distance he could, indeed, see number 9. But he said that he had wanted Saku! The runner declared that she had just spent several minutes getting Mikko out of the dressing room, and instructed the TV man to interview Mikko first. Acquiescing, he spontaneously interviewed Mikko, and in the meantime the runner returned to the dressing room to get Saku, who was happy to oblige!

Mini-glaciers in Quebec City

May 6 / Martin Merk

QUEBEC CITY – After cold days with temperatures of seldom more than 7°C and freezing nights, the Québécois could enjoy kind of a summer day with pleasant sunshine and 19°C. Even though there were days like this before during the last weeks, snow hasn’t completely disappeared and some perpetual packing of snow is covering humps around Quebec City and even the centre. The frozen and hard snow can make cool down people who aren’t ready for the summer yet, and it reminds on glaciers. Unlike the real ones, the ice here might be melted by the silly season.

Clowning around

May 6 / Risto Pakarinen

QUEBEC CITY – No disrespect to goalies, none whatsoever. I think they’re great athletes, wonderful people, charmingly eccentric, and so calm, cool, and collected. I love goalies. My son wants to become one. So when I say what I’m about to say, I don’t want to upset any goalies.

But, don’t you think they’re kind of like the clowns of the show?

How they jump around, and roll on the ice and all that. But mostly they make me think of clowns because they have those huge skates and big pants. All that’s missing is the hair and the red nose.

 

Some of them actually have those, too.

Growing up golden

May 6, 2008 / Lucas Aykroyd

QUEBEC CITY – Eight players from three of the perennial junior hockey powers have a chance to complete an interesting hat trick at the 2008 IIHF World Championship: winning U18, U20, and senior Worlds gold.

Here’s the list of candidates.

Canada

Ryan Getzlaf (2003 U18 gold, 2005 U20 gold)

Russia

Denis Grebeshkov (2001 U18 gold, 2003 U20 gold)
Fedor Tyutin (2001 U18 gold, 2003 U20 gold)

United States

David Booth (2002 U18 gold, 2004 U20 gold)
Patrick O’Sullivan (2002 U18 gold, 2004 U20 gold)
Zach Parise (2002 U18 gold, 2004 U20 gold)
Mark Stuart (2002 U18 gold, 2004 U20 gold)
James Wisniewski (2002 U18 gold, 2004 U20 gold)

ATTENDANCE RECORD…?

May 5 / Andrew Podnieks

HALIFAX – Canada hopes that the first time it hosts the World Championship it breaks the attendance record set by the Czechs in 2004. In 56 games that year, some 552,097 passed through the turnstiles of Sazka Arena (Prague) and the CEZ Arena in Ostrava. Canada holds all important attendance marks for the World Junior Championship (U20) and World Women’s Championship and now wants to make it a clean sweep. How’s it going so far at the Halifax Metro Centre and Le Colisee? Well, the 12 games have attracted 102,883 fans, an average of 8,573. At that pace, Canada 2008 would fall well short. The attendance is sure to pick up next round when the competition intensifies, and will increase even more when the schedule provides for more games at the larger Colisee. But will it be enough….?

Polyglot performance

May 5 / Lucas Aykroyd

QUEBEC CITY – Colorado Avalanche star Paul Stastny won’t play for Team USA at the 2008 IIHF World Championship due to a torn knee ligament, and his legendary father Peter is no longer the GM of Slovakia, a position he filled through 2005. But the premier Slovak hockey family still has a presence at this tournament.

Marian Stastny is serving as an interpreter at press conferences at the Colisée Pepsi. The 55-year-old Bratislava native scored 294 points in 322 career NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques and Toronto Maple Leafs after defecting to Canada with Peter and his other brother, Anton. He also won gold with Czechoslovakia at the 1976 and 1977 IIHF World Championships. Marian currently owns and operates the Hotel & Golf Marian Stastny in St. Nicolas, near Quebec City.

During Sunday’s post-game powwow with Russian coach Slava Bykov and Czech coach Alois Hadamczik, Marian comfortably negotiated the ins and outs of Czech, French, English, and Russian. It was an impressive stickhandling job, so to speak.

French-Canadian cuisine

May 5 / Martin Merk

QUEBEC CITY – The famous French cuisine also left its marks in the province of Quebec. Dining in Quebec City seems to be more European than elsewhere in North America, the food often healthier and greener, and the dishes look more playful – French cuisine is not only a treat for the appetite but also for the eyes. At an event of the organizer at the Colisée, the arty food was even combined with hockey: prawns cooled on an ice sculpture same as the skates, frozen inside the artwork. Of course, there’s also more home cooking-like food as poutine, kind of French fries topped with cheese curds. As the name indicates, the origin of that Canadian specialty is from Quebec and the poutine smell is omnipresent around the food stands of the Colisée.

We've got spirit...

May 4 / Jenny Wiedeke


The European fans in Halifax are doing their best to bring a special flare to the World Championship. Of course, the Latvian fans always set the standard and did not disappoint the other day, when a group of supporters rented a limousine and treated Halifax residents to a drum concert played through the sunroof of the limo.

 

Also rumored is the generosity of one German fan, who bought up every German jersey in the metro center for last night’s game and distributed them to his fellow countrymen in the stands. In general, the Germans brought an impressive number of fans as they filled up nearly an entire end zone for yesterday’s game against Finland.

 

Finally, in the category of complete rumors is the report of two ‘European fans’ who took the chance to go for an early morning fishing trip in a small pond in a closed and locked park about five minutes from the Metro Center. No word on if they caught any fish – or if there were even fish living in the pond.

Good mourning, Quebec

May 4 / Risto Pakarinen


QUEBEC CITY – It takes a big man to show up at Colisée Pepsi in a Philadelphia Flyers sweater, the day after the Flyers have eliminated the Montreal Canadiens from the NHL Playoffs. Well, actually, as you can seen in the photo, it takes a man and a half, but these Simon Gagne fans didn't have a problem with that.

However, they did sit all alone at the table.

Eyes wide open

May 4 / Andrew Podnieks


HALIFAX – It’s a good thing people are born with two eyes, not one. Last night in the Press Centre, journalists had one eye on the Slovakia-Norway game and the other on the Montreal-Philadelphia matchup. While Slovakia was taking it to Norway, the Habs and Flyers fought a dramatic final game of their playoff series, ending in Montreal’s elimination. When the Habs went up 3-1 early in the second period, everyone focused on the World Championship game. But when the Flyers struck for three quick goals to take the lead, eyes shifted back to the NHL. Both games wound down at the same time, and as it became clearer that Slovakia would win, the game at the Bell Centre became the focus. Then, in a flash, the night came to a close. The Flyers scored a late goal that Montreal couldn’t match, and the Slovakian anthem filled the Metro Centre, the warning bell for journalists that it was time to go to the mixed zone to talk to the players. Today, a big game for Canada, and talks about whether Koivu, the Kostitsyns, and who else would take the short flight to the World Championship.

Genius GM

May 3 / Risto Pakarinen

QUEBEC CITY – “Hey,” he says, “what did you think about our line last night?”

He, Petri Skriko, former NHLer and a three-time World Championship player for Finland, flashes a very happy smile. As he should because “their line” was simply amazing the night before. The line is Russian’s Alexander Semin - Sergei Fedorov - Alexander Ovechkin, the “Washington line”.

Skriko is the Washington Capitals’ pro scout these days, and in Quebec City to scan the best of the international hockey before heading out to Halifax to check out the rest of the teams.

Ironically, when Skriko himself was drafted to the NHL - as 157th player, on round 8 - by the Vancouver Canucks, he was never scouted. By a pro scout, anyway.

“I had a teammate called Stu Ostlund on my team, SaiPa, in the Finnish league. He was finishing up his career and when he went back home after the season, he told the Canucks about me, and they just went ahead and picked me.

“The year after, I was elected tournament MVP in the World Juniors. When I then signed my first contract, the GM took me to his office and showed me a sign he had had made. On it, was my face and a text, ‘I AM A GENIUS’,” Skriko told me, laughing.

“Too bad he wasn’t there anymore when it was time to renegotiate my contract.”

Belarusian gloves

May 3 / Martin Merk

QUEBEC CITY - High noon for Belarus. After having had back luck in the 5-6 loss against Sweden, some members of the Belarusian crew might watch the Stanley Cup game Montreal Canadians vs Philadelphia Flyers – either after a 3-hour ride to Montreal or in the hotel room. Three players from their country are with the Canadiens. While Mikhail Grabovksy, known as a dangerous sniper within the national team, is scratched, the brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn belong to the best scorers of the “Habs”. What would have happened if the Belarusians had their Montreal trio, or even their NHL quartet with Colorado’s Ruslan Salei? God alone knows.

Or maybe it was the spirit of the dreadfully-missed hockey heroes, which gave their compatriots wings? At least, the Belarusian federation has left four spots open to be able to add players before game two against Switzerland or game three against France. And of course, they are in contact. “They like the national team and contribute to the development,” head coach Curt Fraser told journalists. “The Kostitsyn brothers and Grabovsky have even bought hockey gloves for all national team players. It would help us extremely to have them with us.”

Maybe they will be ready for the most important game against World Ranking neighbours Switzerland (8th) as Philadelphia could down the Canadiens to win the series 4-1 tonight.

Minor mishaps

May 3 / Lucas Aykroyd

QUEBEC CITY - Despite Team Denmark’s youth and energy, you’d still expect them to get outskated by the Czechs, and that’s what happened in yesterday’s 5-2 Czech win. But did the Danes have even less in the way of legs than they’d have liked? Apparently, two of the three elevators at Denmark’s team hotel stopped functioning yesterday due to a blown fuse, which led to a lot of people traipsing up and down the stairs at the 18-floor venue. Feel the burn, baby!

It was a nice gesture by the game presentation folks at the Colisée Pepsi to flash “Radu, Radu” on the Jumbotron during Russia’s victory over Italy. Alexander Radulov was a popular member of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, leading the Patrick Roy-coached team to the 2006 Memorial Cup and capturing MVP honours. However, the Nashville Predators forward unfortunately wasn’t on the ice yesterday - he’s been consigned to the Russian reserves along with Fedor Fedorov by coach Slava Bykov - which made chanting his name a tad superfluous.

And at Friday’s pre-tournament gala in the VIP tent outside the Colisée, the only sour note was struck by the Attack of the Killer Exploding Microphone. Massive bursts of feedback periodically interrupted speeches by tournament organizers. (At least Jean Beliveau was able to tell the audience that seeing all these great players made him wish he was playing again without getting zapped.) The invitees consoled themselves by quaffing Molson Export and noshing on canapés by the chef of the Chateau Bonne Entente, one of the official Quebec City tournament hotels.

If these are the biggest hitches the 2008 IIHF World Championship has to confront, then it’s going to be a major-league success.

May 3 / Andrew Podnieks

HALIFAX - The mixed zone was relaxed after last night’s 4-0 USA win over Latvia. One of the stars of the game was goalie Tim Thomas (born in Flint, Michigan) who made several big saves when the game was close. We talked after about the retro USA sweaters honouring the 1960 gold medal team. Thomas is one of only three Americans who was born when his country won in 1980, the famous Miracle on Ice game. He was five years old, and it was goalie Jim Craig’s performance that motivated him to become a goalie. Tim was at home watching the game with his dad, but during the second intermission his dad gave him some money and asked him to go to the store and buy some milk. Tim ran all the way there and back, and even tripped and fell into a prickly bush. To this day he remembers the scrapes from the fall, and getting back in time to hear Al Michaels’s famous incantation, “Do you believe in Miracles?”

May 3 / John Sanful

HALIFAX - Slovenia goaltender Robert Kristan was the focus of attention after facing 65 Canadian shots last night. He earned attention not only for his performance but also his pads. Kristan wears brown leather pads that look well worn and about twenty years old. But, in fact, his pads are new. "They just look like they’re old,” he said. "Everyone is asking me about them."

May 3 / Jenny Wiedeke

HALIFAX - Generally at a World Championship after about the first week it starts to feel like the movie Groundhog Day when Bill Murray must re-live the same day over and over. But here in Halifax, after just one day, we are living a whole different kind of Groundhog Day. Underneath the very compact city is a series of tunnels that take you city blocks from building to building. You can walk from the Metro Center to right down by the water’s edge without stepping foot outside.

 

Of course, the peril of the Groundhog system, is you’re not always clear just where you will emerge. It has already happened more than once, that like the furry critters, the folks associated with the tournament have peeked their heads outside only to scurry back down to the tunnel in hopes of finding the right building. It’s one of the rare cities where is can pour rain, and you don’t see a single wet person walking around.

Danes, Danes, Danes

May 2 / Risto Pakarinen

QUEBEC CITY – If you drew the map of the world according to the energy levels of different fans, how they sound and behave, Denmark would be the size of Africa. Which is pretty spectacular, considering that there are only five million of them in the world, a world of six-some billion, and that there are only 4,000 active players and 21 rinks in the country.

In the World Cup and the UEFA Euro tournaments of soccer, the red-and-white Danish dynamite fans have been a phenomenon for years, with their chanting, and singing, and positive and happy-go-lucky attitude towards life in general. No wonder the Danish were the happiest people in the world in a recent British study.

In Quebec, the Danish hockey fans are just that: happy. A little nervous before the first game against the Czechs, sure, but still happy. It takes a big man to carry a viking helmet with style. Fortunately, Frank is one.

Frank and his buddy Ole are in Quebec City, with approximately 150 of their fellow countrymen, to cheer for their team. That may not sound like much, but somehow, wherever you turn your head, you see a Dane.

“It’s a big party,” says Frank, and Ole nods. “It’s a big party for us, we’re here to have fun, watch hockey, and well, to have fun,” Frank adds.

Denmark lost their first game against the Czechs, but that didn’t slow the Danes down. No, no. This was just a starter, a game neither Ole or Frank expected the team to win. The big game is on Sunday when Denmark takes on Italy.

“It’s huge. We have to win that game, it’s a must-win,” says Ole, then smiles. “I’m sure the Italians think the same. But if we win, we’ll stay in the top division and that’d be great.”

Not least because the friends have been to all World Championships since 2003 when Denmark returned to the top division after a 54-year absence. And they’d like to continue to do so.

“This is our sixth tournament, and we’re here with our sons for the next two weeks,” says Ole.

Wait. Two weeks..?

“Yeah, we don’t expect Denmark to go to the final,” he explains, laughing.

Here’s a forecast for Sunday. The stands behind the Italian goal are packed with red-and-white Danish “roligans” - fun and well-behaving fans instead of hooligans - chanting “olé, olé, olé” and singing “Der er et Yndigt Land”, the country’s national anthem, cheering on Peter Regin (22), Jennik Hansen (22), and 18-year-old Lars Eller – the future of Danish hockey.

A win on Sunday and Frank and Ole can book tickets to Switzerland. To another party.

They bring it with them.

Quebec City's celebrating

May 1 / Martin Merk

QUEBEC CITY - It’s not just international hockey that’s celebrating an anniversary this year, as the IIHF and several national associations were founded in 1908. Quebec City is also celebrating its 400-year anniversary, making the World Championship twice the party.

Founded on July 3, 1608 by the French settler Samuel de Champlain, Quebec’s capital is one of the oldest North American cities. It’s not necessary to explain how proud the Quebecois are of this. The anniversary can hardly be overlooked. “Fêtons nos 400 ans!” is the slogan – or: let’s celebrate our 400 years. And even if one ignores those numerous anniversary flags in town, or the night is darkening them, there’s even a skyscraper with a sparkling, colour-changing 400.

Quebec’s long tradition can be seen in many places, whether it’s the picturesque old town or the classic Colisée Pepsi arena, where the Quebec Nordiques hosted their NHL games until the relocation of the franchise to Denver in 1995.

Quebec City defined American history

April 29 / Szymon Szemberg

QUEBEC CITY - IIHF staff starts to establish presence in La Belle Province. The city is pure history. The battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 between the British and the French, just outside the walls of Quebec City, determined the history of North America. British commander General James Wolfe defeated the French troops under Marquis de Montcalm and this eventually paved way for the British domination of North America. Who knows – if Montcalm had won the battle, maybe all hockey players in the NHL today would be named Guy, Jean-Claude and Pierre.

The first Monday in Canada was a great day if you are hockey fan. Russia played Canada at the Colisee in the last exhibition game prior to the tournament and at the same time you could watch the provincial heroes, the Montreal Canadiens played in Philadelphia against the rugged Flyers. Both Canadians and Canadiens lost, 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. The exhibition game was pretty unimportant, while the Stanley Cup contest was vital – and very strange. Montreal is clearly the better team, but Philly scores the goals. And Martin Biron has outplayed Carey Price by a wide margin so far. Russia will be big fan favourites in Quebec City (at least until Team Canada artives). The reason: Alexander Radulov, who was a huge star here while playing for Patrick Roy’s junior team, the Quebec Remparts. Radulov will sell at least 5.000 tickets per game by himself.

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