November 06, 2008
During Tuesday's World Junior A Challenge in Cambrose, Alberta, a tournament featuring the best under-19 players from the Canadian Junior A Hockey league -- as well as teams from the United States, Russia, Belarus and Germany -- proved that the rivalry between Russia and Canada isn't dead yet.
The Canada West team defeated the Russians 5-2 thanks to five power-play goals; clinching first place in Group A and giving the Canadians a berth into the semifinals. But the trouble started during the second period, when Russia was whistled for a parade of penalties.
Not happy with what they deemed was biased officiating (an issue which may be hurting the tournament), the Russian team skated off the ice after the game, not sticking around for the postgame ceremony. You'll see in the video below that as they left the ice, players mock-cheered the Canadian team; and then Russia's goaltender got his "Rock Band" on and pretended to be Aerosmith's Steven Tyler with a microphone stand.
But that's not all: There's a brewing controversy between the media covering the tournament and Hockey Canada when it comes to access to angry Russians.
Cam Tait wrote in his blog, "Coffee with Cam":
When reporters gathered for their post-game interviews, Hockey Canada officials said the Russians weren't going to talk to the media. We were basically told that Hockey Canada wasn't allowing the Russians to speak to us.
Hang on. Isn't this Canada where we only read or see censorship in the movies, rather than living it first-hand?
This is Camrose. Not Moscow. Nonetheless, it would have been a totally different story -- and blog, for that matter -- if the Russians had told us they didn't want to talk to us.
But to have the organizing body of the World Junior A Challenge making such a hasty decision is wrong on several levels.
Tait went on to say that later an interpreter in front of the Russian locker room finally told waiting reporters, "No comment."
After some of us (Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun, Cam Tait of the Edmonton Journal and myself) raised a bit of a fuss, Hockey Canada changed it's story and said it was the Russians that didn't want to speak, which was kind of funny since Hockey Canada member Jason Larose had earlier mentioned to me that he hadn't asked the Russians about it, and that it was his decision.
After the game, head coach Vladimir Pluschev vented his anger with Russian newspaper Sport-Express (translated) about the game:
"We came to play hockey, but not to witness some theater play. What referees did on the ice is impossible to describe with Russian language. The referee was making calls one-sided and in most cases penalized our guys without any reason. I have not seen anything like that in a long time."
Can you say that the referee completely broke the game?
"That is what happened. Moreover, the referee started this when he understood that without him Canadians would not be able to win. Because of the referee, we not only lost the game, but lost defenceman Anton Kavera, who got a concussion in one of the game episodes. The tournament is over for him. Plus some others players got injured, but, fortunately, not that hard."
The Russians face off against the U.S. this afternoon in a quarterfinal game. Canada West will play the loser of today's other quarterfinal, Belarus and Germany. Should Russia win today, they will play against Canada East (and the refs in their minds) on Saturday in one semifinal.