WIf the world title doesn’t work out, the dialogue between Nick Paul and Conor Brown likely won’t be made public. But this way the story can be told nicely. Paul and Brown, two Canadian ice hockey professionals, trained together before the World Cup final in Latvia. Then Brown predicted to his colleague: The final match against Finland will be extended and it will be decided by us, the two attacking senators in Ottawa. “It’s crazy that it really happened that way,” Paul said a few hours later while sitting in the press room at the Riga Arena with the gold medal on his chest.
It was the seventh minute of extra time, and it was 2-2 when the Canadians started a counterattack. Paul against Brown, and Brown returned to Paul, pushing the ball into the goal. Seconds later, batons, gloves, and helmets flew through the air. Like when the ice hockey team wins a title. Especially if it is historic, as in the case of the Canadians, the 27th World Cup gold. For the first time since 2008, the motherland of ice hockey has returned to the top of the world rankings. Until then, the Russians were in front, who also managed to cheer 27 times, but since the Canadians took silver more often (15:10), they are now back again.
‘No one gave us a chance’
It is not uncommon for Canada to win the Ice Hockey World Cup. However, there is now talk of a “surprise”, with the Canadians sending a C-to-D team to Latvia. It’s now normal in ice hockey that not every country sends its best to the annual World Cup, where the NHL Elite League play-offs take place in parallel, but the pandemic added in 2021. So of the 427 Canadians who played in the NHL this year, it’s been found Only 17 regular players want to wear the jersey with the maple leaf. The rest were talents who mostly play in the AHL or junior leagues.
Twelve players aged 22 years or younger. And nobody’s a star, two of the top 50 Canadians on the NHL’s scorers list have flown across the Atlantic. “No one gave us a chance,” said striker Maxime Comtoua. Especially after the historically bad start with defeats against Latvia, the United States and Germany. “Not good goalkeepers. Nobody hits the gate. Team chemistry? not available. Canada’s first matches in the World Cup were a disaster,” Hockey News commented.
But no one got nervous, Comtois reported: “Whether you start with three wins or three defeats, being Team Canada always has pressure.” Instead, criticism at home and isolation in the “bubble” weld the team together. “There was nothing else that could be done,” said Nick Ball, the winning scorer, noting that the two cling to each other “24/7.” Coach Gerard Gallant also knew that his team would improve: “Otherwise we would come a week early and have two test matches. This year we had to go into quarantine, we only trained three times and then we had to play right away.”
The first days of the tournament were a kind of preparation: “From the third match onwards, we played the way we wanted to play.” This was followed by victories over Norway, Kazakhstan and Italy. Because the strikers finally met. Above all, the front row with eventual top scorer Adam Henrique, top scorer Connor Brown and Andrew Mangyapan, who followed him, is the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals in seven matches, and later named the tournament’s most valuable player. “He was the difference player, there’s no doubt about that,” Gallant said.
However, the Canadians had to shiver again, at the end of the preliminary round they lost to Finland after a penalty shootout, and only because Latvia went empty-handed against Germany did the Canadians drop to fourth in the round of 16. There they were unstoppable, eliminating group winners Russia and the United States and defending champion Finland in the final.
“Everyone lied and played really well when it came to it,” Comtoa said afterwards. He was asked if the prospect of winning the 27th title was an additional motivation. The striker replied: “I didn’t know that, for Canada it is always about gold. Number 27 is a great number, next year it will be 28.” In between that there is still the Olympics – and perhaps again with the big names from the NHL. Those who are now world champions in Riga will watch them from the sofa at home.
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