Mon May 19 11:36am EDT
They take their hockey pretty seriously in Russia. "We're really dying and hungry to see a championship finally?" Goodness, it's IIHF Worlds -- not the tournament that really matters. In fact, two inmates at a Russian prison camp actually timed their escape attempt to the championship final, when they figured all the guards would be glued to the tube.
It's hard not to get caught up in the euphoria over Russian hockey, and not just because Chris Simon is taking his baseball skills over to Vityaz Chekhov; which sounds like an arms dealer in a Bond movie but is actually a Russian pro team. The victory Russia had over Team Canada was thrilling, especially with moments like Ilya Kovalchuk's goal celebration (video) -- climbing the glass like Domi going after a Flyers fan. "God was on our side a little more than them," said Kovalchuk after the game; which is sort of amazing, because the only previous documentations of God's hockey biases were at the start of the lockout and when the Sabres went with the Buffaslug.
According to PJ Swenson of Battle of California, who provided the wicked movie poster featured here, "The defending champion Canadian squad wilted under sustained offensive pressure from the Capital Offense line of Ovechkin-
Semenov Semin-Federov, and Kovalchuk scored a power play goal 2:42 into extra time to ice the gold medal."
While some Canadians labeled the World Championship final as a battle between good and evil prior to the game, their reaction is a bit more subdued in the wake of the defeat.
OK, not all of them were subdued. In fact, Don Cherry was pretty darn snarly about the way the game ended.
Rick Nash's delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass handed the Russians a power play and, in turn, the game-winning goal by Kovalchuk. A moment like this allows those who bash the relatively new rule a chance to sound-off. Soapbox, meet Don Cherry:
"The National Hockey League, the reason they put this in, this goofy stupid rule, is because they said players were tired and they were shooting it in the stands," an emotional Cherry said during his Coach's Corner segment on the CBC. "If the guy knows he's getting a penalty, would he shoot it in the stands? Some fool in the National Hockey League had nothing to do (but) come up with that stupid rule and it's cost series."
Cherry went on to say that those who created to rule are "too stupid to get rid of it." But that's because defenseman are too smart to stop doing what's already illegal for a goalie to do, which is decrease offensive pressure by hurling the puck into the stands. A lot of us are probably on the fence about this rule. In a perfect world, there would more discretion from officials when it comes to the intent of a defensive player; sometimes a player is trying to delay the game, but other times it's a simple muffed pass or clearing attempt. But that would be asking an NHL referee to rule on "intent"; and as I wrote back in 2006, when there was talk about tweaking the "over the glass" rule:
I hate "intent." I hate it every time I strain my eyes to witness a "kicking motion" on a goal off a skate. I hate it when a sure-fire icing call is waved off because the player "intended" to pass to a teammate down-ice. And I hate it now that a simple delay of game penalty can be turned into a prolonged debate because one official sees the offending player's "intent" differently than the other three.