Vancouver Games hockey preview
This could be it, the long goodbye for NHL players in the Olympics -- at least for the foreseeable future. NHL commissioner
The hockey world rarely offers a best-on-best tournament, albeit one as truncated as the Olympics. The annual world championships are held in May, unfortunate timing that keeps the marquee players still involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs out of the event. The World Cup, successor to the Canada Cup, has been held just twice -- 1996 and 2004 -- in September, prior to the scheduled start of the NHL season when players aren't in peak shape. No excuses now. The Olympic men's hockey tournament is the real deal, played in winter in hockey-daft Canada on the smaller (200 feet by 85 feet) North American rink.
Although general manager
The Sweden-Finland replay of the '06 gold-medal game (Feb. 21) always devolves into stereotypes -- not to get crude here, but basically the Swedes think the Finns are tipplers and the Finns think the Swedes are wusses -- but the hockey world most eagerly awaits a grudge match, in the knockout round, between historic foes Russian and Canada. Russia beat Team Canada in the '06 Olympic quarters, then toppled it in overtime in '08 World Championships final in Quebec City and triumphed again last year in Switzerland. Since the Summit Series of '72, Russia-Canada has been at the apex of international hockey.
In the three Olympics with NHL players, six different nations have met in the gold-medal game. After stunning Canada in a semifinal shootout -- inexplicably,