Friday, January 06, 2006


Their coach hasn’t lost a game since he became involved in the program. This year’s team did not lose a game through an entire tournament. The Nation didn’t miss a game for two weeks. It was the perfect mix, with the perfect outcome for the land that lives and breathes hockey.

Thursday night a joyous crowd at GM Place and an exuberant nation cheered on their teenage heroes to another Gold Medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships.

A team which the “experts” had already suggested was too young to expect too much out of, settled in to hockey Sutter style and just went out and over two weeks took what they believed was rightfully theirs.

Led by a calm and collected goaltender named Justin Pogge, Team Canada held off an early Russian flurry of shots, time and time again Pogge stood his ground, refusing to yield a shot to the twine behind him. He faced fifteen shots alone in the first period, holding down the fort while his fellow team mates tried to get their legs. With each successive save, his team began to feed off of his strength and eventually wear they began down the Russian machine, playing their typically hard nosed, all for one and one for all style of play.

Scoring twice late in the first period the Canadians then began to take control of the play, the energy in the stands and the good vibes of a nation tuned in at home willing them on with every shift.

The Russians would battle back, refusing to sit down and watch the play and if not for a bit of unfortunate luck might have made a dent on the scoreboard. A goal which surely was in but not counted, certainly took a bit of steam out of the Russian squad, but championship teams can overcome such difficulties. The Canadians never really let the Russians get back into the game as time wound down. Yes that goal should have counted, but to suggest that the Canadians would fold after it and relinquish medals within their reach, is a disservice to the display of team work put on by those in the Red and White.

By the time the night was finished four Canadians would score five goals to seal the victory for the home side, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau and Kyle Chicpchura scored singles, Michael Blunden netted two to round up the scoring parade, Downie’s goal was the first and as things would turn out was the eventual winner,

The Canadian win was a fine example of team work over individual effort, checks were picked up, players taken out, and hits were taken in front of the Russian net, all in the cause of showing the Russians and by extension the hockey world that Canada understands the game better than any.

The 5 – 0 final score is probably not indicative of the play of the game, Russians hit crossbars and posts and probably should have been rewarded with a few goals, but the style of play from Canada dictated the game by the end of the first period. The Russians forced to play the more physical hockey that Canada showcased, could not adapt as quickly as they needed.

More importantly, the Russians became a team of individuals as the game progressed; the Canadians stuck with the Sutter plan and after sixty minutes of play were rewarded with a victory and their coach a place in the record books.

As Team Canada's Ryan O'Marra put it, "we had more emotion, more passion and more inensity. We played Canadian hockey". Sutters lessons, were learned well by these young men.

Sutter’s win was his twelfth straight victory as bench boss of the nation’s youngest and proudest. The win provided back to back championships for a country that now probably expects to win each and every time they step on the ice.

In his day job, coach Sutter is the guiding force behind a team called the Rebels, on this Golden January night in Vancouver he was the motivational guide of a band of Patriots. To a player, they saluted their coach at games end; a guy that it seems is much more than just a coach.

The job is his again next year should he wish it, the perfect candidate for what is becoming the perfect job in sport. Sutter understands his responsibilities quite well; he has a love of junior hockey that goes well beyond what happens between the boards and on the ice.

He not only makes individuals into a team, he shapes young teens into young men. He and his team embodied all that is good about sport in Canada, the dedication, the desire and yes the results. But you know nice as they are, the gold medals are merely the icing on the cake here.

No comments: