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How Good Was the 1996 World Cup?

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01-01-2011, 03:28 PM
  #1
DisgruntledGoat
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How Good Was the 1996 World Cup?

I believe this tournament gets forgotten about a little, when classic best-on-best series are discussed.

For one, it ended with a heart-breaking loss for Canada, so the Canadian media tends to focus solely on that aspect. Secondly, its a tournament that doesn't really mean anything to most of the United States, so you don't hear about it south of the border that much anymore.

But that tournament producted more than its share of highlights:

* Sweden and Canada's double-OT semi-final game, highlighted by great chances at both ends (Johan Garpenlov rang one off the post) before Theo Fleury ended it.

* The last hurrah of the great Edmonton Oilers; Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Sather. It was the final time we'd see that group involved in high-level hockey.

* Speaking of Fleury, his performance in Game 1 of the finals should be a bigger deal than it is. He put Canada up 3-2 midway through the third period. Then, after John Leclair ties it to send it to overtime, Fleury springs Steve Yzerman for the breakaway game-winner.

* As much as Mike Richter is praised for his MVP performance (IMO, Game 3 of the finals is still the best single goaltending performance I've ever seen), Team USA were full marks for their victory. They beat Canada in the Prelims, beat the Russians in the semi's, and then took two of three from Canada in the finals. They had a young, fast, agressive team with Chelios and Leetch both playing some of the best hockey of their careers on the blueline.

There's countless other highlights (I really didn't touch on the European teams) because my main purpose was to comment on the insane level of hate and animosity that developed between Canada and the United States in the finals.

IMO, that's the biggest flaw in the Olympic tournaments; the single-game elmination format, while dramatic, doesn't allow for serious rivalry to blossom like it did in the Canada/World cup format.

The second biggest flaw? Ending games with shootouts instead of sudden-death. Another thing that the World Cup did right.

I don't believe we've seen hockey played with as much skill and ferocity since 1996. When have you ever seen stuff like this in the Olympics:


Line Brawl


Lindros and Chelios, looking ready to kill each other


Foote and Tkachuk carving each other up. Tkachuk would probably get a 20-game suspension for this slash in today's NHL


And Lindros would get the same for this one on Tkachuk!


Lindros, Richter and Tkachuk fighting for the puck:


We'll never see hockey like this again. Hell, you can barely hit in today's NHL. As much as I loved seeing Canada win in 2002, 2004 and 2010, I believe this tournament remains the best hockey played in the last 15 years.

As it seems unlikely that the Olympics would ever move away from a single-game elimination final and since the same format was used in the 2004 World Cup, it could very well be that the 1996 tournament is the last time we will ever see a best-on-best series between countries. When you consider how much great hockey the Summit Series, Canada Cups and World Cup provided, you can't help but feel we're missing out.

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01-01-2011, 05:05 PM
  #2
connellc
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
I believe this tournament gets forgotten about a little, when classic best-on-best series are discussed.

For one, it ended with a heart-breaking loss for Canada, so the Canadian media tends to focus solely on that aspect. Secondly, its a tournament that doesn't really mean anything to most of the United States, so you don't hear about it south of the border that much anymore.

But that tournament producted more than its share of highlights:

* Sweden and Canada's double-OT semi-final game, highlighted by great chances at both ends (Johan Garpenlov rang one off the post) before Theo Fleury ended it.

* The last hurrah of the great Edmonton Oilers; Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Sather. It was the final time we'd see that group involved in high-level hockey.

* Speaking of Fleury, his performance in Game 1 of the finals should be a bigger deal than it is. He put Canada up 3-2 midway through the third period. Then, after John Leclair ties it to send it to overtime, Fleury springs Steve Yzerman for the breakaway game-winner.

* As much as Mike Richter is praised for his MVP performance (IMO, Game 3 of the finals is still the best single goaltending performance I've ever seen), Team USA were full marks for their victory. They beat Canada in the Prelims, beat the Russians in the semi's, and then took two of three from Canada in the finals. They had a young, fast, agressive team with Chelios and Leetch both playing some of the best hockey of their careers on the blueline.

There's countless other highlights (I really didn't touch on the European teams) because my main purpose was to comment on the insane level of hate and animosity that developed between Canada and the United States in the finals.

IMO, that's the biggest flaw in the Olympic tournaments; the single-game elmination format, while dramatic, doesn't allow for serious rivalry to blossom like it did in the Canada/World cup format.

The second biggest flaw? Ending games with shootouts instead of sudden-death. Another thing that the World Cup did right.

I don't believe we've seen hockey played with as much skill and ferocity since 1996. When have you ever seen stuff like this in the Olympics:


Line Brawl


Lindros and Chelios, looking ready to kill each other


Foote and Tkachuk carving each other up. Tkachuk would probably get a 20-game suspension for this slash in today's NHL


And Lindros would get the same for this one on Tkachuk!


Lindros, Richter and Tkachuk fighting for the puck:


We'll never see hockey like this again. Hell, you can barely hit in today's NHL. As much as I loved seeing Canada win in 2002, 2004 and 2010, I believe this tournament remains the best hockey played in the last 15 years.

As it seems unlikely that the Olympics would ever move away from a single-game elimination final and since the same format was used in the 2004 World Cup, it could very well be that the 1996 tournament is the last time we will ever see a best-on-best series between countries. When you consider how much great hockey the Summit Series, Canada Cups and World Cup provided, you can't help but feel we're missing out.
Good analysis. There were some problems I found with the tournament though. I did like the best of 3 final and thought it was a nice touch to see who the best team was rather than a single elimination game. It was a nice touch.

There were a few main problems

1. I don't think the Euros cared very much, especially the Russians. If memory serves me correctly, I’m not entirely sure that they put 100% effort into the games. They probably thought the games were rigged to have Canada or U.S in the finals. Needless to say, the result the NHL wanted they got.


2. Best players weren't there. I believe Bourque was going through a contract dispute that nullified him for the tournament. I think Roy was in the same situation too. There were probably others I'm not thinking of either. Where was Mario?

3. The selection of nations. How was it made? Honestly, it probably wasn't a problem back then, but let's be honest here. Switzerland would probably be there instead of Germany.

4. The cup looked ridiculous. Honestly, it was a complete joke when it was presented.

The tournament itself was great hockey though, and it's too bad that Canada couldn't hold the lead in the final few minutes. Yzermans OT goal in the finals is totally overlooked with regards to Yzerman's career and the history of hockey Canada. Fleury's OT winner is also often overlooked.

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01-01-2011, 07:00 PM
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1.

2. Bourque, Roy and Lemieux were invited and declined. Lemieux for health reasons, to give his back a rest. Bourque didn't participate in the '91 Canada Cup either, despite efforts by Gretzky and Messier to recruit him. As I recall there was no contractual reason he couldn't, he just didn't want to. Roy probably declined for the same reason he'd declined every other invitation to participate in an international tournament he got except the '98 Olympics: he wanted unequivocally to be the starting goalie.

3. They were the top eight teams in the world at the time. Yes, if it was today we'd probably replace Germany with Switzerland, but the Germans were far better than the Swiss at the time. Switzerland was in IIHF "Pool B" at the time (13-20 in the world); they didn't qualify for or chose not to participate in the '94 and '98 Olympics.

4.

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01-01-2011, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
my main purpose was to comment on the insane level of hate and animosity that developed between Canada and the United States in the finals...I don't believe we've seen hockey played with as much skill and ferocity since 1996. When have you ever seen stuff like this in the Olympics:
You rave about "skill" and then post videos of line brawls and high stick incidents? Insane indeed... Thank god more and more people realise that it's sport, not war, so that this kind of, ehm, animosity has vanished from the international scene.

Quote:
Originally Posted by connellc View Post
1. I don't think the Euros cared very much, especially the Russians. If memory serves me correctly, I’m not entirely sure that they put 100% effort into the games.
Russia defeated Slovakia (7-4) and Finland (5-0), hardly a sign that they didn't care. And Sweden, as we know, took Canada into overtime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by connellc View Post
The selection of nations. How was it made? Honestly, it probably wasn't a problem back then, but let's be honest here. Switzerland would probably be there instead of Germany.
The selection was fine. Can't argue against the "Big Six" plus Slovakia, self-evident choices. And Switzerland instead of Germany? No way. Switzerland wasn't even an A-Nation at that time. It was one from 91-93, then again in 95, but it got relegated again in 1996. Only in 1998 did Switzerland manage to finally establish itself in the A-Group.

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01-01-2011, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
You rave about "skill" and then post videos of line brawls and high stick incidents? Insane indeed... Thank god more and more people realise that it's sport, not war, so that this kind of, ehm, animosity has vanished from the international scene.
The animosity is what made it such great hockey. Not any brawls or stick incidents but good, clean, hard, intense hockey. USA vs Canada was a matchup of two great teams playing with maximum intensity, it was like seeing two all star teams in the Cup Finals.







I wish my video length was unlimited when I posted these, I would've just posted the full games.

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01-01-2011, 07:39 PM
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It was good but the two conferences were unequally divided:

The top 3 teams (including Russia) were in the "North American" pool, whereas the rest were in the European pool.

I mean #3 (NA pool) Russia beat #2 (Euro pool) Finland 5-0, there was a huge gap in talent difference. The Czech Republic would have been romped in the North American pool so badly, in fact they had a -13 goal differential in 3 games in the Euro pool.

The Euro pool teams went 0-3 in the playoffs and were outscored 12-3. Sweden basically got a buy into the semis and were an OT goal away from playing for the championship.

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01-01-2011, 08:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
You rave about "skill" and then post videos of line brawls and high stick incidents? Insane indeed... Thank god more and more people realise that it's sport, not war, so that this kind of, ehm, animosity has vanished from the international scene.
Hockey is at its best when there's something on the line, and when there's some genuine animosity between the parties involved.

I posted those particular clips because they illustrate the difference between the physical intensity of the World Cup and the Olympics.

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01-01-2011, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by TheGoldenJet View Post
It was good but the two conferences were unequally divided:

The top 3 teams (including Russia) were in the "North American" pool, whereas the rest were in the European pool.

I mean #3 (NA pool) Russia beat #2 (Euro pool) Finland 5-0, there was a huge gap in talent difference. The Czech Republic would have been romped in the North American pool so badly, in fact they had a -13 goal differential in 3 games in the Euro pool.

The Euro pool teams went 0-3 in the playoffs and were outscored 12-3. Sweden basically got a buy into the semis and were an OT goal away from playing for the championship.
Its always going to be like that, though. There's a handful of teams that dominate hockey, and there are the also-rans. Every tournament (Olympics, WJCs) has a few snoozers where Canada or Russia beat up on Belarus or Germany for 60 minutes.

And I don't think you are giving Finland and the Czech Republic enough credit! Two years later, both those teams medal'ed in Nagano. I don't think the talent pool changed that much. They deserved their spots.

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01-01-2011, 09:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
Its always going to be like that, though. There's a handful of teams that dominate hockey, and there are the also-rans. Every tournament (Olympics, WJCs) has a few snoozers where Canada or Russia beat up on Belarus or Germany for 60 minutes.

And I don't think you are giving Finland and the Czech Republic enough credit! Two years later, both those teams medal'ed in Nagano. I don't think the talent pool changed that much. They deserved their spots.
Thats not the critique. The critique is Russia should have been in the Euro pool for better balance.

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01-02-2011, 02:45 AM
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This is what I recall. Mario was injured and chose not to play. Bourque was perfectly healthy and chose not to play. To this day Bourque gets off the hook for that and I never understand why. Kariya was injured. MacInnis was injured. Francis made the team but never played. Roy wasn't even asked if I remember correctly.

Yes that tournament was poetry. As a Canadian I even liked it. The double overtime Canada/Sweden game was a classic. Garpenlov hit the post, then Forsberg and Alfredsson had chances after that right at the side of the net. I thought for sure Alfie would bury the shot into a yawning cage but a stick got in there (prior to the goal). Coffey did an end to ender and Fleury wristed a shot home.

The best of 3 was the best. I hope that the 2012 World Cup has a best of 3 in the final. That provides some great hockey. Yes there was a couple fights, but there was a physical war between Lindros and Tkachuk and you could feel the hate between the two. There was a war of words too. There was the hatred for Hull. Then Richter played out of his mind. I have said to this day that it is very arguable that Richter played better in a single game than any goalie at any time in Game 3 of the World Cup final.

It was really a remarkable tournament. I watch the old games on tape and even knowing the outcome I still cheer. It was just not imagined that we could lose. We hadn't lost in a top end tournament since 1981. USA had a talented team but we had the old Oilers, nothing could stop us.................

If I did it over again I'd have made some different picks for sure but what can you do? Claude Lemieux might have cost Canada the win though. With 4 minutes left in the game and Canada holding a 2-1 lead he went in on a 2-on-1 clean. He was staring Richter down and fanned on the shot. He fanned on it! 20 seconds later Hull tied the game, the rest is history.

Considering Zach Kassian at the 2011 WJC got a two game suspension for a clean hit it makes you realize how terrible the reffing can be in some tournaments and how much better it can be when they let men play the game like men. For example the Sweden/Canada New Year's Eve game last night was a perfect example of how you should let two teams play. A little chippy, no worry. Well, if you like that then you'd have loved the 1996 World Cup.

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01-02-2011, 03:22 AM
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Good analysis. There were some problems I found with the tournament though. I did like the best of 3 final and thought it was a nice touch to see who the best team was rather than a single elimination game. It was a nice touch.

There were a few main problems

1. I don't think the Euros cared very much, especially the Russians. If memory serves me correctly, I’m not entirely sure that they put 100% effort into the games. They probably thought the games were rigged to have Canada or U.S in the finals. Needless to say, the result the NHL wanted they got.
I wouldn't say Russia 'didn't care', but that team was in shambles because of the disconnect between NHLers and old school Soviet coaches (Boris Mikhailov was head coach and I believe Tikhonov was a team advisor). Because of the bad experience it was the last time players like Mogilny, Slava Kozlov, Zubov, etc. chose to play for Russia. In addition Bure and Konstantinov were out due to injury. All in all a very forgettable tournament from Russia's perspective.

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01-02-2011, 03:48 AM
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I think it's the ne plus ultra of American hockey. Our proudest moment.

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01-02-2011, 06:52 AM
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I remember all of those games and in my opinion Canada vs USA, Canada vs Russia and Canada vs Sweden were as entertaining and tough as hockey goes, but rest of the games were nothing to write home about.

Russia, Finland and Czechs were all poorly coached bunch of boring all star teams. However, Russkies had a sick talent level and they did put a good round robin fight against Canada and her homer referees.

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01-02-2011, 01:38 PM
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I think it's the ne plus ultra of American hockey. Our proudest moment.
People might disagree with me, but I felt that the World Cup was when Team USA really established its own identity. Suddenly, 'American hockey' meant something more than just, 'they play like Canadians but they're not as deep'. It may have started a bit earlier with their strong showing at the last Canada Cup, but I felt 1996 was when 'US hockey' came to be defined by the kind of brash, aggressive, fast-paced hockey that we saw again in 2002, 2010 and at many of the subsequent World Junior tourneys.

You had all those young player like Guerin, Weight, Tkachuk, Deadmarsh, who were really still just establishing themselves in the NHL, but refused to show any deference to the big names on Team Canada. They yapped, threw punches after the whistle, and just generally refused to back down from Canada's largely Hall-of-Fame roster (and I mean all that in good way, BTW), and I think that attitude has been passed down ever since.

It was great as Canadian, too, because it made them that much easier to hate

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01-02-2011, 01:51 PM
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One of the best goaltending performances I've seen. Richter was just amazing. I think that tourney started the Canada/US rivalry bigger than the Canadians and Russians.

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01-02-2011, 01:59 PM
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Another thing that I found strange in the tournment was that the Czechs had an AWFUL tournament, even with the Dominator in net. They got smoked by Finland 7-3and then by Germany 7-1 to be knocked out! Two years later, they win the Gold medal in the olympics. Combined socre of 14-4 against non-superpower hockey nations.

Also, team USA wins world cup, only to play lousy two years later with essentially the same core team....Strange to think no?

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01-02-2011, 02:24 PM
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Absentees already mentioned: Mario Lemieux (back issues), Paul Kariya (abdominal muscle strain), Ray Bourque (declined invitation), Patrick Roy (not invited? not interested?). Then you've got the players who pulled out just before the World Cup tournament started:

Allan MacInnis: Attended training camp and played in exhibition games, but had to pull out late in August due to an infection that reportedly caused him lose 12 pounds weight in one week.

Ron Francis: Attended training camp and played in exhibition games, but decided to pull out with his effectivity limited due to an injury (rib? knee? I've read different causes). Francis stated: "If it was the NHL playoffs, you'd play with it, but you don't know how effective you'd be."

Defense:
Coffey, Stevens, Niedermayer, Desjardins were no brainers. With Bourque and MacInnis missing, Rob Blake and Adam Foote slipped into the lineup, while Ed Jovanovski (20), Lyle Odelein (28) and Sylvain Côté (30) acted as substitutes. The inclusion of Odelein was labeled as a "mystery" even back in 1996.

Offense:
Gretzky was past his prime and Lemieux was sorely missed, but the depth is impressive nevertheless: Messier, Sakic, Yzerman, Lindros, Fleury ... the roster speaks for itself.

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01-02-2011, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
Absentees already mentioned: Mario Lemieux (back issues), Paul Kariya (abdominal muscle strain), Ray Bourque (declined invitation), Patrick Roy (not invited? not interested?). Then you've got the players who pulled out just before the World Cup tournament started:

Allan MacInnis: Attended training camp and played in exhibition games, but had to pull out late in August due to an infection that reportedly caused him lose 12 pounds weight in one week.

Ron Francis: Attended training camp and played in exhibition games, but decided to pull out with his effectivity limited due to an injury (rib? knee? I've read different causes). Francis stated: "If it was the NHL playoffs, you'd play with it, but you don't know how effective you'd be."

Defense:
Coffey, Stevens, Niedermayer, Desjardins were no brainers. With Bourque and MacInnis missing, Rob Blake and Adam Foote slipped into the lineup, while Ed Jovanovski (20), Lyle Odelein (28) and Sylvain Côté (30) acted as substitutes. The inclusion of Odelein was labeled as a "mystery" even back in 1996.

Offense:
Gretzky was past his prime and Lemieux was sorely missed, but the depth is impressive nevertheless: Messier, Sakic, Yzerman, Lindros, Fleury ... the roster speaks for itself.
Why was Bill Ranford picked over Ed Belfour?? Also, look at the roster, Pat Verbeek was picked too. Who were the scratches for the games?

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01-02-2011, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
Absentees already mentioned: Mario Lemieux (back issues), Paul Kariya (abdominal muscle strain), Ray Bourque (declined invitation), Patrick Roy (not invited? not interested?). Then you've got the players who pulled out just before the World Cup tournament started:

Allan MacInnis: Attended training camp and played in exhibition games, but had to pull out late in August due to an infection that reportedly caused him lose 12 pounds weight in one week.

Ron Francis: Attended training camp and played in exhibition games, but decided to pull out with his effectivity limited due to an injury (rib? knee? I've read different causes). Francis stated: "If it was the NHL playoffs, you'd play with it, but you don't know how effective you'd be."

Defense:
Coffey, Stevens, Niedermayer, Desjardins were no brainers. With Bourque and MacInnis missing, Rob Blake and Adam Foote slipped into the lineup, while Ed Jovanovski (20), Lyle Odelein (28) and Sylvain Côté (30) acted as substitutes. The inclusion of Odelein was labeled as a "mystery" even back in 1996.

Offense:
Gretzky was past his prime and Lemieux was sorely missed, but the depth is impressive nevertheless: Messier, Sakic, Yzerman, Lindros, Fleury ... the roster speaks for itself.
If I recall correctly, Sather didn't initially plan to coach. They had asked Scotty Bowman, but he declined as his daughter was getting married that summer.

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01-02-2011, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by connellc View Post
Another thing that I found strange in the tournment was that the Czechs had an AWFUL tournament, even with the Dominator in net. They got smoked by Finland 7-3and then by Germany 7-1 to be knocked out! Two years later, they win the Gold medal in the olympics. Combined socre of 14-4 against non-superpower hockey nations.

Also, team USA wins world cup, only to play lousy two years later with essentially the same core team....Strange to think no?
This illustrates just how good of a coach Hlinka was. Bukac was coach in 1996.

Relative to talent level, I don't think there's ever a better team than 1998 Czechs.

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01-02-2011, 04:56 PM
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Why was Bill Ranford picked over Ed Belfour?? Also, look at the roster, Pat Verbeek was picked too. Who were the scratches for the games?
Pat Verbeek was hot at the time. He just came of an 82 points in 69 games season for the rangers.

I agree however that the Ranford pick was questionable at best. If they had asked Roy and Belfour and they'd said no I would have picked Osgood over him. Didn't matter though as Joseph was picked.


Forsberg at 3.33 is incredible.


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01-02-2011, 05:56 PM
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Another thing that I found strange in the tournment was that the Czechs had an AWFUL tournament, even with the Dominator in net.
Not really. Hašek didn't participate in the World Cup, he declined the invitation. It was Roman Turek who got scored on.

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Who were the scratches for the games?
Game 1 (08/29, Vancouver, 5-3 against Russia)
Verbeek, Côté, Odelein, Jovanovski and Ranford plus Yzerman (sprained knee).

Game 2 (08/31, Philadelphia, 3-5 against the USA)
Côté, Odelein, Jovanovski, Ranford plus Yzerman (knee) and Shanahan (suspended for highsticking). Verbeek replaces Shanahan.

Game 3 (09/01, Ottawa, 3-2 against Slovakia)
Odelein, Jovanovski, Ranford, Verbeek and Brind'Amour plus Blake (pulled groin muscle). With Yzerman and Shanahan back, Verbeek and Brind'Amour are scratches. Côté replaces Blake.

Game 4 (09/05, Montréal, 4-1 against Germany)
Odelein, Jovanovski, Ranford, Verbeek and Graves plus Blake (groin muscle).

Game 5 (09/07, Philadelphia, 3-2 OT against Sweden)
Côté, Odelein, Jovanovski, Ranford, Verbeek, Primeau. With Blake back, Côté is out again.

Game 6 (09/10, Philadelphia, 4-3 OT against the USA)
Côté, Odelein, Jovanovski, Ranford, Verbeek, Primeau.

Game 7 (09/12, Montréal, 2-5 against the USA)
Côté, Jovanovski, Ranford and Verbeek plus Messier (needs a rest) and Blake (this time plagued by an infection). Primeau in place of Messier, Odelein in place of Blake.

Game 8 (09/14, Montréal, 2-5 against the USA)
Côté, Jovanovski, Ranford, Verbeek and Primeau plus Blake (infection). Messier in, Primeau out.

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01-02-2011, 06:54 PM
  #23
Slapshooter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by connellc View Post
Why was Bill Ranford picked over Ed Belfour??
Probably because of his international success. He was part of 1991 Canada Cup's winning team. Ranford was also the goalie when Canada won the 1994 World Championships in shootouts against Finland.

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01-02-2011, 07:04 PM
  #24
MountainHawk
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I had a ticket package to the three Philadelphia games. Such a great tournament.

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01-02-2011, 10:22 PM
  #25
TheGoldenJet
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
Its always going to be like that, though. There's a handful of teams that dominate hockey, and there are the also-rans. Every tournament (Olympics, WJCs) has a few snoozers where Canada or Russia beat up on Belarus or Germany for 60 minutes.

And I don't think you are giving Finland and the Czech Republic enough credit! Two years later, both those teams medal'ed in Nagano. I don't think the talent pool changed that much. They deserved their spots.
The Czechs were terrible, they lost 7-1 to Germany who really shouldnt have even been there. Hasek was missing and that was a big part of the reason, also Jagr never really had an impact at international level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nalyd Psycho View Post
Thats not the critique. The critique is Russia should have been in the Euro pool for better balance.
Thank you, and yes this would have helped. Sweden Russia in one pool and USA Canada in the other. That way there would have been some parity (instead we got...parody).

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