Thursday, December 29, 2005

World Junior Championship notes (Dec. 28)

KAMLOOPS

Yes, as I'm sure you've noted, things have been quiet on the blog lately. Taking a much needed holiday break — although I'm far from taking a break from all that is hockey.

I took in Sweden's 3-2 win over the Czech Republic last night, the second World Junior tournament round robin game played in Kamloops (the Czechs defeated Latvia 5-1 here on Boxing Day).

It's somewhat bizarre seeing these various European clubs playing in front of nearly soldout crowds in a small city in the B.C. Interior, but I think that's really proof of just how nutty Canadians are for the game (and for this tournament, for that matter).

I had my head poked in for last night's postgame press conference, one that was covered mostly by local media. The language barrier's an interesting thing, one I haven't ran into so far in my fledgling career, and both coaches — Sweden's Torgny Bendelin and Czech assistant coach Jan Votruba — were a little uneasy speaking at the press conference. Since part of a reporter's role is to mine interesting quotes from their subjects, a less-than-total grasp of English can complicate things.

Team Russia arrived in town yesterday for tonight's game against the Latvians, and I'll be down at the practice rink in the morning to talk to head coach Sergei Mikhalev and a few of his troops, including wunderkind Evgeni Malkin. Although in Malkin's case, perhaps I should say 'attempt to talk to' as he has apparently been ducking any and all interview requests. It should be an interesting day.

I probably shouldn't sign off without noting that Team Canada had a scare from the Swiss yesterday, as the Canadians narrowly won 4-3 in Vancouver. It's a funny thing that a loss here would be a disaster, especially considering the round robin portion of these tournaments means very little. Kudos to Switzerland, however, for delivering a strong, tight-checking performance, the kind for which they're becoming known for in international play. I do find it a little bizarre they were able to score more goals against the Canadians than they did the night before versus lowly Norway.

Okay, that's all from me, perhaps until I return to Toronto this weekend.

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