Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Devils - Kings Stanley Cup Final Preview

The Stanley Cup Final will get under way from New Jersey tomorrow when the number six seed out of the Eastern Conference the New Jersey Devils host the number eight seed out of the Western Conference the Los Angeles Kings.

It isn’t the Stanley Cup Final that most hockey fans would have predicted. Nevertheless, it should hold the same amount of intrigue from a national perspective. The Devils are challenging for their fourth Stanley Cup in seventeen years, while the Los Angeles Kings are trying to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history when it was founded in 1967.

Both teams took their own ways of getting to the Cup Finals. The Kings took a miniscule fourteen games to win the Western Conference. Their only blemishes were in Game 4 against the Canucks in the Western Conference Quarter Finals and to division rival Phoenix in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. It’s an astonishing achievement for a team that fired their coach midseason and was a very mediocre 500. hockey team before March. The hire of head coach Darryl Sutter may have been the best coach available. In fact, in 2004, Darryl Sutter took the Calgary Flames on a Cinderella type run. Unfortunately for him, the series ended in disappointment when the Lightning edged the Flames in a tough seven games.

In contrast, the Devils who took eighteen games to win the Eastern Conference and had a different road to the Stanley Cup. They didn’t play as tough of teams as the Kings did; however, they had more difficulties getting to the Cup Finals. In fact, twice the Florida Panthers pushed New Jersey to the verge of elimination; in both games, New Jersey needed an overtime goal to keep their season alive.

Both of these teams are deserving of being in the Stanley Cup. The Kings have gotten here with everyone chipping in at different times and a strong will to win, while the Devils have gotten here with puck luck and experience.

No player on the Devils roster has more experience than Martin Brodeur. The 40-year-old net minder will be appearing in his fifth Stanley Cup Final. In his playoff career he has posted a 2.04 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a 919. Save Percentage. At the age of 40, it would be safe to assume that this will be his last time in the Cup Final. It’s extremely hard to get to the Stanley Cup finals once, let alone do it in back to back years. Brodeur is a class act, therefore, it would be awesome to see the Canadian add a fourth Stanley Cup ring to his resume.

 Whether or not the Devils win the Cup is anyone’s guess. We still don’t know how the Kings will fair if they face some adversity and get behind in the series. On the other hand, we still don’t know how much gas the Devils have left in their tank. For my pick, it would be very easy to pick the Kings in 5 or 7 games. Why? The last four Stanley Cup Champions have hoisted the Cup on the other teams ice. However, I see that streak ending this year.

My Pick: Devils in 7  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alain Vigneault Gets Two-Year Contract Extension

The General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks Mike Gillis ended all speculation on Wednesday by giving Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault a two-year contract extension. 

Many people thought that there was a good chance that he would be shown the door following the Canucks early exit out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Winning the Presidents Trophy is no consolation prize for a hockey market like Vancouver. The expectations of the Vancouver Canucks are to compete for the Stanley Cup every year. Realistically the Canucks won’t make the Cup Finals every year, however, it’s still unacceptable to lose in the first round to a number eight seed.

Alain Vigneault has the fourth longest tenure in the NHL currently.  He’s behind Barry Trotz in Nashville, Lindy Ruff in Buffalo and Mike Babcock in Detroit. Vigneault is a year removed from taking the Vancouver Canucks within one game of winning the franchises first Stanley Cup. The harsh reality of coaching the Vancouver Canucks is that it isn’t about what has happened in the past, it’s all about what has happened in the present.

Even if the Canucks lose in the Stanley Cup finals next year, there will be people out there that will want him fired. Canucks fans might be the hungriest fans in the NHL right now for a cup, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fans and media turn on this team it bit more then we should sometimes.

On the flip side, if the Vancouver Canucks can win a Stanley Cup with this current core of players with Alain Vigneault as head coach, the fans would allow him to stay the Canucks coach forever. It becomes a hero vs. goat type a deal. However, that’s what its like when you’re the coach of a Stanley Cup contending team. You can go from goat to hero, or hero to goat very quickly.

Personally, I can live with the decision by Gillis. The big reason is because there are not many worthy candidates out there right now. I believe this upcoming season is huge for not only the ownership but also the players on the ice. With the current core the Canucks have two maybe three years to be very strong Cup contenders. Therefore, if the Canucks believe that the “window” on this team is just a myth then the Canucks need to find the right players to keep this team competitive for years to come. Same thing could be said with the coach, it would be unwise to have a revolving door of coaches going in and out for the next few years.

At the end of the day, this is a wait and see move by Gillis. If the Canucks play far into May next year it will be the right move. In contrast, if the Canucks have another first round exit next year, we’ll be having the same discussion about whether Vigneault is the right guy to win the Canucks their first Stanley Cup. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Whitecaps Seek Canadian Championship Against TFC: A Flashback to May 25th 2011

The Whitecaps will be searching for their first Canadian Championship in franchise history tonight when they travel to BMO Field to take on their cross-country rival Toronto FC. Tonight’s match will be the second leg of the Canadian Championship Final. The winner of the Canadian Championship not only wins the Voyageurs Cup; they will also get Canada’s one and only berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.

Last week at B.C. Place, both teams traded chances and also traded single goals as the two combatants played to a 1-1 draw. The result favors TFC slightly. If both teams are tied on aggregate after ninety minutes tonight then the club with the most away goals wins the title. The only way the game goes into extra time and then a shootout is if the game is tied 1-1. Toronto has their one away goal Now Vancouver will need at least one tonight.

Despite Toronto FC’s pitiful start to the MLS season, TFC has managed to put up a 2-1-3 record in Cup games this year. (2012 CONCACAF Champions League and 2012 Canadian Championship). Tonight’s game is virtually Toronto’s season. MLS playoffs are extremely unlikely let alone climbing out of the basement of the Eastern Conference. In addition, TFC might be playing for Aron Winter’s job tonight. A loss, could spell the end of Winter’s brief tenure with Toronto FC.

The whitecaps have their own doubts coming into this game. Since the start of the Canadian Championship in 2008, the Vancouver Whitecaps have been the runners up in this event the last three times including last years heartbreaker to Toronto. The reason why it was a heartbreaker is because Vancouver was in control of the game leading 2-1 aggregate, as I flashback to May 25th 2011.

May 25th 2011

The Whitecaps were one game away from capturing their first Canadian Championship in club history. Not very many Vancouverites were aware of what their team was even playing for that night. The team was getting no publicity whatsoever because of the Canucks magical Stanley Cup run. In fact, the city was in frenzy as the day before, Kevin Bieksa’s Overtime goal had sent the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals.

That morning, I had only found out what the away goal rule actually was. The away goal rule meant that Vancouver had more of a challenging task up ahead of them that night. The game had calm start to it. Rain was falling but it wasn’t heavy nor was the field in bad condition. Vancouver opened the scoring in the 17th minute by a goal by Eric Hassli. The Whitecaps were controlling the play and lead 1-0 at Halftime. After halftime, the rain was pelting down along with some lightning. The game was delayed awhile but resumed later that night.

However, the game only resumed for 15 more minutes. By this time, the field was getting dangerous. There was one more bolt of lightning and then the official finally postponed the game.

Even though the field was in a harsh condition, it was the same conditions for both teams. The conditions were so harsh that the ball would just die in a huge puddle of water consistently. After I found out that night that the game was going to start over at 0-0, I felt that it was unfair. The game realistically could have started 1-0 at halftime when they were going to finish the game. The game was made up a month later and Toronto ended up winning 2-1.

As it turned out, if the game would have resumed, I would have not been able to see the end of the game. That day, I had to go into Vancouver to do some personal things. I PVR’d the game but the time would have ran out.

That day, the soccer gods and certainly Mother Nature was not on the Whitecaps side. Tonight the Whitecaps can erase the painful memory if they can get the right result. For the Whitecaps to win the title tonight, they’ll have to score at least one goal. A 2-2 would win them the title along with any win. The key will be to score early. Getting a 1-0 lead would put a lot of pressure on Toronto to come back. In contrast, the longer the game remains 0-0 or even 1-0 TFC, would put the pressure squarely on Vancouver.

Tonight’s game is a 5pm kickoff and it will be televised on Sportsnet One.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

IIHF Release Groups for Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Tournament

With the completion of the 2012 IIHF World Championships in Finland and Sweden on Sunday, the IIHF didn’t hesitate to release a portion on their groups for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The format for the Men’s Hockey Tournament will be the same format they used in the 2010 games in Vancouver. There will be twelve teams competing in three groups of four. Every team will make the playoffs where they will be seeded 1 through 12. The winner of each group along with the team with the best second place finish will go directly through to the Quarter Finals.

Here are the groups as follows:

Group A                                Group B                        Group C
Russia                                    Finland                          Czech Republic
Slovakia                                 Canada                       Sweden
United States                        Norway                        Switzerland
(Projected Germany)        ( Projected Latvia)       (Projected Demark)

At first glance, it may seem like Canada has an easy group. While that might be true, I wouldn’t say that there going to run the table just yet. In 1998 Nagano and 2006 in Torino, Canada failed to pick up a medal. Both those years were the only times NHL players participated at the Olympics with the wider European ice surface. For Canada to pick up a medal in 2014 they will have to beat a very strong team or two regardless if they have an easy group or not.

In 1998, Canada won their first four games of the tournament outscoring their opposition 16-4. Despite their early dominance, Canada lost a heartbreaker in the Semi Final and a heartbreaker in the Bronze medal game to Finland.

In 2006, Canada struggled to score goals the whole tournament. The Canadians were upset by the mighty Swiss 2-0 in their third game of the tournament.. That upset forced them in a tough Quarter Final game with Russia. Canada and Russia traded chances traded chances the whole game. With 8:30 to go in the game, Alex Ovechkin scored the eventual winning goal on the power play to give Russia the lead. I remember that day watching the game at school. I really never had a good feeling about that game the entire game.

When Canada goes to Russia in 2014 to defend their gold medal. Canada will have hopes of winning another medal. Even though we are a long ways away, the standard will remain the same. Therefore, if Canada is to get at least a bronze they will have to win four or five games. In other words, with Canada not living up to expectations in past Olympics overseas, don’t expect anything to come easy for the Canadians this time around.

It is unclear whether the NHL players will participate in the upcoming Olympics. However, the NHLPA feels quite confident that they’ll be able to get a deal done so that NHL players can continue competing in the Olympics.

As the Winter Olympics nears, I will go in depth with these groups from a global perspective. As of now, Furthermore, I’ll explain why the way the Olympics choses its groups is flawed and needs to change.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

UEFA Champions League Final - Bayern Munich Against Chelsea

Very few sporting events over the course of the year are watched worldwide. Certainly the Super Bowl, World Series and FIFA World Cup every four years are on that list. Arguably, the UEFA Champions League is right up there as well.

Whether it is at 11:45am in Vancouver Canada, 10:45pm in Moscow Russia or 3:45am on a Sunday morning in Sydney Australia, bundles of people will be glued to their TV at home or at a bar. The majority of them will be getting set to watch the UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea.

It has basically become the “European Super Bowl”. That is without the commercials the Super Bowl in February offers because of their advertisement opportunities. The UEFA Champions League is an annual soccer tournament between soccer teams all around Europe. Teams will qualify for the Champions League through their respected leagues the previous year. The 76-team tournament takes around eight months to find the UEFA Champions League winner. In fact, the winner has the honor in representing Europe in the FIFA Club World Cup.

This year they’re quite a few storylines that this years Final has. For the first time since 1984 the game will be played in one teams home field. Bayern Munich will enjoy that benefit today. The powerhouse club from Germany will try to thrive on under pressure. Surprisingly, in 1984 Roma was unable to do that when the game was held in Rome that year. Liverpool edged Roma out in Penalty Kicks. Bayern Munich is coming off an upset win over Real Madrid and will look to do something that Roma couldn’t do.

Chelsea has some major pressure of their own. Chelsea is coming off a disappointing sixth place finish in the EPL standings. Therefore, if Chelsea wants to take part in the UEFA Champions League next year, winning todays game is a must. Chelsea failed to qualify for the Champions League next year as they had to place in the top four but were unable to do so. By winning the Champions League it would give them an automatic berth. Therefore, it would give them the potential to win back- to- back titles.

What will make this game so exciting is that even if you’re not the biggest soccer fan, everyone will have a preferred team they want to win. Personally, I hope Chelsea wins their first UEFA Champions League title. When I was little I thought it was really cool that there was a soccer team that had a girls name. Secondly, I grew up with my favorite color blue. In addition, in 2008 I felt sorry for Chelsea fans when they were beat by their bitter rival Manchester United in Penalty Kicks. Therefore, I hope Chelsea spoils Bayern’s big party in Munich tonight.

If I had to make a pick on this game I would have to go with Bayern Munich. Chelsea has significant players disqualified because of too many yellow cards in their historic win over Barcelona. I believe Chelsea will take a 1-0 lead into halftime however, Bayern Munich will score two second half goals to break Chelsea’s hearts yet again.

The game is not only being played in Bayern Munich’s home. It will also be the stadium that hosted six FIFA World Cup games when Germany hosted the event in 2006. Two of those games Germany were in, including the opening match between Costa Rica and the Round of 16 match between Sweden.

Here is a list of all the TV broadcasters for the game today, along with their country it will broadcast in

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eric Hassli's Injury Time Goal, Sets up a Thrilling Second Leg Match Next Week

The 2012 Canadian Championship final got under way last night at B.C. Place. The Vancouver Whitecaps hosted Toronto FC in the first leg of the two leg series. The highly anticipated first leg was an entertaining affair. The two teams traded chances for the majority of the match. The end result was a 1-1 tie between two bitter rivals.
The tie was only possible after Eric Hassli’s brilliant volley found top shelf past TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic. The goal ignited the B.C. Place crowd after it became rather nervous when Ryan Johnson headed home his second goal in as many games in Canadian Championship competition.

The result favors Toronto FC for the most part. The 1-1 draw gives TFC the opportunity to sit back next Wednesday at BMO Field. However, Whitecaps fans should be breathing a sigh of relief that they salvaged a tie last night.

Despite TFC’s 0-8-0 record in MLS play, Toronto FC showed that their team is better than their record shows. The Whitecaps are currently competing for a playoff sport in the MLS Western Conference but Toronto FC played like they were just as capable of competing for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The way the Canadian Championship is formatted, it is a two-legged series where at the end of the two games both results of the two games will be added up. The team who has more goals combined will win the Championship. If the two teams are tied, the club with the most away goals will win the title. That is why TFC ‘s goal in the 66th minute is so crucial. When the Whitecaps go to BMO Field next Wednesday they will have to score at least one goal. A 0-0 draw would give Toronto the title despite the teams tied 1-1 on aggregate.

 The entertaining match will just set up an amazing return leg. Pretty much any scenario is still in play. A win for either the Whitecaps or Toronto FC is still quite possible, while the thought of Extra Time and Penalty Kicks still remains a significant possibility. The only way the return leg goes into Extra Time is if the score is tied 1-1. Any other score-line and there will be a winner after the ninety minutes.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Aron Winter the Toronto FC coach and Martian Rennie the coach of the Whitecaps handle their league matches this Saturday.  Both teams have very tough games on Saturday. The Whitecaps will host I-5 rival Seattle, while Toronto will travel to Washington D.C. to take on D.C. United. My guess is that the Whitecaps will rest a few starters for Wednesday’s second leg. There will still be a lot of regulars in the lineup as the Seattle Sounders will be a great measuring stick for this Whitecaps club. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wondering of What Could Have Been if The Grizzlies Stayed in Vancouver

On Sunday afternoon the Memphis Grizzlies hosted their first Game 7 in franchise history.  The Grizzlies were flat the whole game and the Clippers won 82-72. It wasn’t the result the Memphis fans were looking for. A sell out crowd was in attendance at the FedEx Forum with everyone in white T-Shirts. It was a disappointing ending to the season with a team with so much hope.

One part of North America that had no symphony for the upset fans is in Vancouver, British Columbia. Ironically, Vancouverites are still feeling the pain from their five game defeat from another team that calls the Staples Centre home. The L.A. Kings quick work of the Vancouver Canucks was quite shocking.

The irony would have had a deeper hole if the Memphis Grizzlies never left Vancouver. The Grizzlies called Vancouver home from 1995 until 2001. During that time the Grizzlies experienced six losing seasons and some very complicated issues off the court. The Grizzlies were dealt no favors when crybaby Steve Francis demanded a trade after being the second overall pick in the 1999 NBA entry draft. The Grizzlies also were victims to the 1998 NBA lockout that shortened the season to fifty games and maybe the worst factor of all was the Canadian dollar.

Quite possibly if a few off court issues in the late 90’s went the Grizzlies way the Grizzlies would still be in Vancouver. If that were the case it would have been Rogers Arena hosting the Game 7. Who knows if there would be the same passion for the Grizzlies there is for the Canucks? Nevertheless, with the Canucks being eliminated it would have been a perfect chance for the Grizzlies to grab some attention of a city. Whether the NBA would have been able to thrive in the long term is impossible to tell and something that could be explored at a later date..

Currently in the NBA right now there are a lot of franchises losing money. Buildings are half full and hope of one day competing with top tier teams from a finical standpoint is next to nothing. Not surprisingly, Memphis is one of those cities. Even though the crowd had a playoff atmosphere for all for games. Memphis is not a great sports town. They were twentieth in NBA attendance in a thirty-team league. Memphis is a college basketball town that isn’t really suited for Professional sports.

On the other hand Vancouver is a world-class city that has proved they are not the city they were when the Grizzlies left. When the Grizzlies left in 2001 the Canadian dollar was very weak. Right now however, the Canadian dollar has sky rocketed to where it would be easier for the NBA to succeed in Canada. Vancouver has shown it can support major events. The 2010 Winter Olympics were a great success and so are the Vancouver Whitecaps who are in their second year of Major League Soccer (MLS) competition.

At the end of the day, whenever the Grizzlies are on TV it is always bittersweet. I really have no time to curse Michel Heisley’s name around the living room wishing that the Grizzlies were still in Vancouver. They left cause no one attended the games. It’s hard to blame the team for moving when the team is terrible and isn’t supported by their city. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Canada Names Steve Nash General Manager of Canadian Basketball

 When it comes to Olympic sports for Canada, they have often had underachievement after underachievement. The only exceptions to that would be Curling, Speed Skating and Hockey in the Winter Olympics, and Rowing and Athletics in the Summer Olympics.

 When it comes to the Canadian Men’s Basketball team, underachievement is a major understatement. They have failed to qualify for the past five out of the six Olympics, haven’t had a top ten finish at the World Championships since they hosted them in 1994 and haven’t won a medal at the FIBA AMERICANS in over a decade.  

The team is currently ranked 24th in the world. For those who aren’t familiar with the FIBA World Rankings, 24th is nothing to smile about. Teams such as Iran, Lebanon and Nigeria are ahead of them. No offence to those countries but Canada has no place to be mentioned in the same sentence. Its not like Iran is a basketball power or Nigeria has an amazing team.

Part of the reason Canadian Basketball hasn’t had the greatest success is because top players like Steve Nash have opted not to participate in at an international level.  The last time Nash played was in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Canada placed 7th and had a bittersweet 4-2 record. The reason it was bittersweet is because the team had a 4-1 record in round robin play but lost a heartbreaker to France in the Quarter Finals.  To this date that game was the last Olympic game Canada has played.

On Monday it was announced that Steve Nash was appointed GM of the Canadian Basketball team. The Men’s basketball team is coming off a disappointing sixth place finish in the 2011 FIBA AMERICANS in Argentina. The Canadians goal was at least to place in the top five where they would get a second opportunity this July to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in a back door tournament. Team Canada finished one game back of fifth and one more game back of fourth. That put into account they lost two games they shouldn’t have lost. One was to Venezuela in overtime and the other was to Panama.

Steve Nash has a lot of work to do in the aftermath in Argentina. Following the 2011 FIBA AMERICANS Canada decided to fire head coach Leo Rautins. Nash’s first job will be to name a new head coach. He has over a year until the 2013 FIBA AMERICANS however; I’m assuming he will be naming one sooner rather then later.

As of now, it is anyone’s guess who Steve Nash will hire. TEAM 1040 through out the name Jay Triano today however I will believe that hiring when it happens. If your going to hire Triano back then why did Canada fire/let go of him in the first place? I could throw out any basketball coaches’ name that plays an up-tempo style of play but what it comes down to is, who wants to put in the extra time to coach Canada.

Canada is a very young and athletic team. I believe Nash needs to hire a coach who plays an up-tempo style that the players can fit into quickly. This team is so young that if Canada changes the way this team plays it would be the wrong idea.

After Nash finds a coach, he can work on the biggest thing (and toughest) that is building a winning culture. It is the toughest thing to do because it is easier said then done. Canada in the past few years have lacked winning close games that are winnable. Those games are the type that can get a team over the top or help the teams’ confidence in future close games. It might take a couple of years but before Canada can get where it needs to be, they have to prove to this country that the team has a winning environment.

Realistically, Canada will likely miss the 2014 World Championships. It will take a while for this team to jell with the new coach. It’s a long ways away but that is what I see when I look through my crystal ball. However, I see an opening for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. The way Qualifying works, the winner of the 2014 World Championship and the host (Brazil) qualify for the Olympics. If USA or any country in North or South America can win the 2014 World Championship, it would free up two extra spots to FIBA AMERICA that they would not usually get. This would give Canada that much more of a chance to qualify for the Olympics.

As Steve Buffery notes in the The Toronto Sun this hiring is a "slam dunk". For the first time in a few years, it feels that there is a little bit of air under Canadian Basketball. It is a chance to rebuild this program so that it can start competing with a higher tier teams that they have in the past lost to. Hopefully, May 8, 2012 is a day Canadian Basketball fans look back on for years to come. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

IIHF 2012 World Championship Preview: Team Canada

Almost every Canadian when they are a kid has something in conman. They dream about one day playing hockey for Team Canada. The majority of these kids will never reach the goal. Very few will reach their goal. They all spend their childhood having five in the morning practices and picture themselves scoring the winning goal on their backyard ice rink.

Canada has thrived on hockey talent for decades upon decades. They dominated the sport until post World War II years. Despite the rest of the world catching up to Canada, the Canadians still are tied for the most IIHF World Championship titles with 24 (tied with Russia/USSR).  Nevertheless, the IIHF rankings say that Canada currently isn’t the top team in Canada. According to the rankings, Canada is fourth next to co-hosts Sweden and Finland. Russia is on top of the rankings.

Canada opens the 2012 World Champions against Slovakia. It’s a game Canada should win if they expect to come claim gold for the first time in the tournament since 2007.  It is the third longest drought in Canadian hockey history. It is something that the 22 players wearing the red and white want to change.

You can view Canada’s roster right here.

It should be noted that these are not the best players in Canada right now. It is obvious that there are still great players still playing for their club team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Furthermore, there are also players that have finished their NHL season and have either declined an invitation from Team Canada or their General Manager of their respected teams don’t want a few players playing in the tournament.

The coach of the Canadian team is Brent Sutter. It is an interesting choice however I believe it is the right choice.  Despite his recent failures with the Calgary Flames, Sutter has had great success with Team Canada at the World Junior level. In addition, he has accomplished many goals with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels as he coached them to a Memorial Cup title in 2001.  Sutter won’t have junior kids to be able to relate to this time, which is the only reason I question Hockey Canada’s choice. My first pick would have been former NHL coach and current TSN annalist Marc Crawford. However Brent Sutter would have been my second pick so I really can’t complain.

My gut feeling for Canada in this tournament is a Bronze medal finish. They’ll get past the Quarter Finals this year. The past two years Canada has not had very good luck in the Quarters. In 2010 the Canadians fell to the eventual silver medalists Russia and last year they lost to Russia again in a 2-1 heart breaker. For Canada to take home gold its going to take an amazing effort. Russia is always poised to win the gold and Sweden and Finland will not be easy out playing on home ice. Canada will also have to adjust to the big European ice surface.

In every sports tournament there is always a Cinderella that surprises everyone. The last few years it has been Germany and Switzerland.  Germany surprised hockey fans around the world with a fourth place finish in 2010 and Switzerland has always played Canada tough ever since they upset Canada in the 2006 Olympics.

This years tournament has a different format to it. Instead of having four groups of four, IIHF has gone to a two groups of eight format. After the round robin is completed, the tournament goes right into the Quarter Finals. In previous tournaments, after the round robin was completed the top three in each group of four to the second round where there would be two groups of six and more round robin play. I don’t mind the change. The IIHF had the same format for eleven years in a row. The change is worth a try and hopefully it increases the competitiveness of the tournament.

Canada’s first game is today at 6:00AM and its on TSN.