INGOLSTADT – Canada can win its second inline hockey gold medal after 1998 today. IIHF.com talked (inline) hockey with Max Grassi before tonight’s final against Germany.
Talking about hockey is quite common in Canada, but few people would think about a sport played with rollerblades on a court instead of using skates on an ice surface.
But especially at the mild West Coast, there’s a big community of players who want to use their hockey sticks also in summer and cultivate the sport.
Max Grassi, one of Canada’s top inline hockey players, is one of them. The Vancouver native grew up playing ice hockey as many others and is still doing so for the University of British Columbia which hosted the women’s ice hockey tournament of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Canada was quite successful in inline hockey in the late ‘90s when the first InLine Hockey World Championships were organized, but has fallen off as of late.
For the last few years the National Inline Hockey Association in partnership with Hockey Canada have tried to bring Canada back on the map. And after last year’s bronze medal win, Team Canada strives for even more.
“After the quarter-finals and those upsets that happened, we kind of knew as a team that this tournament is anyone’s,” said Grassi after his two-goal performance in Canada’s semi-final win over Slovenia.
“We’re looking forward to this gold medal game and we’re giving everything to win this gold medal.”
For Canada it’s the fifth tournament after rejoining the competition. And Grassi thinks it’s the experience that has made Canada stronger year by year.
“We have one more year and I think we know the pace from last year from the semi-final we had against the U.S. We know how it felt to lose that game and we didn’t want to feel it again,” the forward said after defeating Slovenia 5-3 in the semi-final. “And here we are playing for the gold and it feels great. We’re not going to be satisfied until we win that.”
Playing in the final is also a chance to make the sport better known across the country, especially as all Canadian games have been streamed live on IIHF.com including today’s gold medal game against Germany that starts at 19:00 local time (1pm EDT, 10am PDT).
“Obviously ice hockey is the main sport in Canada, but inline hockey is growing there,” said Grassi. “For us to be playing in this gold medal game is going to get the sport out there in Canada. People are going to start hearing about it and I think it’s going to be more and more popular.”
“In hockey there’s passion over there for any kind of hockey and we’re going to make the best out of it.”
The Canadians succeeded at this tournament with powerful hockey, a compact team and toughness within its boundaries.
Despite physical play, the Canadians managed to take an average number of penalties while being the most efficient team on the man advantage. 56 per cent of Canada’s power plays ended with a goal. But in Germany they will face the strongest team on the box play. The host nation killed off 80 per cent of the penalties.
“They have a great crowd behind them,” Grassi said about the opponent. “You never know what they can do. I think they’ve shown in this tournament that they’re capable of winning this. We played them once and we know that it’s difficult meeting them.”
In a few hours we will know more when the puck will be dropped for this year’s gold medal game. In the preliminary round it was a head-to-head race with two goals from Grassi that Canada won 4-3 thanks to the game-winner with 13 seconds left in regulation time.