No matter the colour, you pull on a uniform with a Maple Leaf on its front and something special happens. Tuesday night’s debut for Canada and the USA at the World Cup of Hockey came as advertised, a hard hitting, competitive affair that saw both teams battle to the very end. Dressed in what was called an Antique Gold motif, Canada donned a uniform in tribute to the Winnipeg Falcons of the 1920’s who first competed internationally for Canada. For those collectors of Pepsi cans it would have been the first offering of their current advertising campaign, HockeyNation now wonders if we’ll be treated to a new sweater every game? For Memorabilia collectors, this could quickly become a very expensive series of hockey.
Back on the ice, Canada contained the veteran American line up for most of the game, out shooting the Americans 19-6 in the first period, and gaining a goal from Martin St. Louis on the power play in the first twenty minutes. Coming out fast again in the second, the Canadians added a second goal off the stick of Joe Sakic, the marker once again coming while an American player sat in the penalty box.
The two to nothing lead served as a bit of a wake up call for the Americans, who battled back in the second and third periods to keep things close and keep Canadians worrying. Bill Guerin brought them to within one goal with his second period goal, lifting the American spirit and giving them some new life and some new jump in their legs. In the end the two Canadian goals would be enough as the Canadians edged the Americans 2-1 in a thoroughly entertaining affair at Montreal's Bell Centre.
Both teams suffered potentially disastrous injuries in the game, the nature of which are being guarded as closely as any military secret. Canada’s Ed Jovanovski caused the Vancouver Canuck brass to swallow their hearts, as he left the ice in the first period after being wrestled to the ice at the side of the American net. Described as a lower body injury, it appeared it could be a knee or thigh injury. His departure left the Canadians a little shorthanded on the blue line, an area of concern before the Canadians even travelled to training camp.
Over in the American dressing room the loose lips; sink ships argument, was being used on the nature of Mike Modano’s departure from the game. Modano left the game with a knee injury and was last seen dressed in street clothes watching from the distance. Officials of the American team are not in any hurry to inform the media about the Modano situation, or if it will last for any length of time.
The game was intense and rough at times, a particularly rugged period was when Canadian goaltender Martin Brodeur was knocked to the ice in his crease area, as Steve Konowalchuk bowled him over. For his troubles Konowalchuk found himself on the receiving end of a few well placed shots by Mario Lemieux, the intensity of Lemieux’s reaction to the crushing of his goaltender, is a good indication as to the passion the Canadians are bringing to the series. At the other end of the rink the USA's Rober Esche had an amzing game, standing off the Canadian scorers time and time again. In a sport that depends on big time goaltending for a shot at a championship, the Americans may have their ace in the Flyers product.
With the series utilizing NHL size rinks and featuring the NHL rulebook as its bible, the physical nature of the games is more to the liking of the North American fan. So far even the European games have had a more North American feel to them, as the NHL refs in Europe keep the play flowing, allowing the pace of the game to move along quickly.
Canada plays again on Wednesday as the Slovaks provide the competition for Pat Quinn’s lads, the game once again taking place at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The USA heads back to St. Paul, Minnesota for a match up with the Russians on Thursday night. Not wanting to look too far ahead, they still no doubt will be hoping for a return match with the Canadians a little later in the tournament. As the defending champions of what became the World Cup of Hockey, they still want to show their northern neighbours that the road to victory will run through a uniform Red White and Blue.