Laverty’s notes from the Sportsdesk

Losing the gold is a tough pill to swallow for every Canadian but what makes it worse is that the team that won was a bunch of cocky, disrespectful and disdainful cheaters. It was a Russian squad that actually spit on Canadian players in their round-robin game earlier in the World Junior Hockey Tournament. This is also a Russian team that instigated a fight with Switzerland during their tournament matchup–a scrap that ended with a sucker punch to the back of a Swiss national’s head. Not to take away from the on-ice performance of the Russians in the gold medal game–they clearly were the better team on that day–but when goaltender Serguei Mylinkov pushed the net off its moorings during a last ditch Canadian offensive with five seconds left on the clock my feelings about this Russian squad were solidified. As much as this tournament is about winning, it’s also about sportsmanship. It’s a travesty a team so deviant could take home gold.

Is it just me, or are we witnessing a return to the heart and soul of what hockey was supposed to be? The National Hockey League is still chock full of highly skilled players (which should make both Mr. Bettman and any Finnish contingencies happy), but there seems to be a trend towards the fists to settle disputes. At the same time there has been a noticeable pattern away from the stick work that permeated the game for the past few seasons, which had effectively killed the tempo of the game and increased the level of danger for the players. What’s even better is that while there are the policemen duking it out, they’re not the only ones dropping the gloves. Key guys like Jarome Iginla, Brendan Shanahan, and Joe Thornton–three of the best players in the game today–are out there taking care of their own business. The 2001/02 NHL season would make the Broad Street Bullies proud.

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