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Canada Wins World Cup With a Perfect Record

By September 14, 2004

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"Practice is cancelled tomorrow. No one else left to beat."

So read the sign posted in Team Canada's dressing room as they celebrated their 2004 World Cup victory. After a tense 3-2 win over Finland in the final game, the Canadians now hold the World Cup, world championship and Olympic hockey titles.

The excitement generated by the tournament will likely dissipate in a hurry, as the NHL is expected to lock out its players beginning Thursday. But there is no denying the brilliant display put on by the Canadian team over the last two weeks, or the equally impressive showing by the Finns.

Canada played without four of its top defensemen - Chris Pronger and Rob Blake declined because of injuries, while Wade Redden and Ed Jovanovski were injured in the tournament's first game. The team also lost starting goaltender Martin Brodeur for the crucial semifinal against the Czech Republic.

Despite those problems, the Canadians rang up a perfect record of six wins in six games and never trailed a game. The team won with balanced scoring - among the regular forwards, only Dany Heatley did not score a goal. It also showed its depth with what turned out to be an unbeatable blend of experience and youth - names like Lecavalier appeared on the scoresheet as often as Lemieux.

Vincent Lecavalier, the 24-year-old Tampa Bay center who not invited to the team until Steve Yzerman pulled out with injury problems, was named the tournament MVP. Other young forwards who stood out included Brad Richards, Shane Doan and Joe Thornton. Among the defensemen, Robyn Regehr, Scott Hannan and 20-year-old Jay Bouwmeester were handed nearly half of the ice time.

Canada's most spectacular and creative line consisted of Joe Sakic centering Mario Lemieux and Jarome Iginla. They threatened to score on almost every shift. But the most consistent line in recent games had Thornton at center, with Doan and Kris Draper on the wings.

Assigned the job of defending the opposition's top scorers, the line also contributed goals as the tournament went on. So it was fitting to see Doan score the winning goal against Finland 34 seconds into the third period. After taking a pass from Thornton, who was behind the net, Doan slid across the crease and tucked the puck around Finnish goaltender Miikaa Kiprusoff.

The Finns ultimately did not create enough offense to win. But the 2004 World Cup surely ranks as their best ever international showing. An incredibly resilient team, they staged a third-period comeback to beat Team USA in the semifinals and erased two Canadian one-goal leads before falling a lucky bounce short of forcing overtime in the championship game.

The final will not go down as a classic - Canadian fans will remember the overtime win against the Czechs as a game for the ages - but it was a great testament to what happens on a rink when elite skill and coaching combine with fierce determination.

Canada scored on its first shot of each period, with a sublime Lemieux-to-Sakic combo in the first, an ugly one by Scott Niedermayer in the second, and Doan's power forward move in the third. Finland replied to the first two - an ugly one in the first period and a brilliant solo rush by Tuomo Ruutu in the second. But the Canadians made key adjustments in the third period to shut down the Finnish attack, always a sign of good coaching.

Celebrations were tempered by the knowledge that NHL owners were expected to lock out the players within a few hours, with the expiry of the league's collective bargaining agreement.

"Tonight we'll celebrate the sacrifices we made all summer to become world champs," Kris Draper told reporters. "Probably the disappointment will hit everyone tomorrow."

"It wasn't the Olympics, but it was pretty darn close," added Joe Sakic, a veteran of international hockey showdowns.

"Amazing," said Doan, a newcomer to the team. "This is the most special day of my life."

"It is bittersweet in a lot of ways," said head coach Pat Quinn, reflecting on the pending lockout. "A wonderful experience and a great thing occurred for our players and the World Cup is a tremendous feat, and yet a little sour."

More on the 2004 World Cup Final

The View From Finland

About Ice Hockey's Fatally Inaccurate Prediction

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