CANADA'S NET RESULT
Patrick Roy sidled up to Martin Brodeur at Canada's first
practice in Nagano last week and asked his fellow goaltender to
offer suggestions about how to play angles or when to come out
to handle the puck behind the net on the international ice
surface, which is 15 feet wider than NHL rinks. "I told him
don't be afraid to share," Roy says. "He's played international
hockey. I'm the rookie here."
Canada coach Marc Crawford, who's also Roy's coach on the
Avalanche, said he will play Roy in every Olympic game unless
disaster strikes. "In this tournament you have to have a Number
1 guy," Crawford says. True. But in choosing Roy over the
Devils' Brodeur, Crawford left no doubt he was looking out for
number 1: He and Roy have to coexist in Denver long after the
Olympics. Roy is a high-maintenance goalie whose disposition is
ill-suited to being a backup. In contrast Brodeur is an
easygoing guy who has idolized Roy since meeting him as a
teenager. "Hey, I can get mad too," Brodeur says with a smile.
"Of course I wish I could be the guy, but Patrick's the man now,
and he deserves to be. He's been the best goalie in the NHL for
a long time."
Czech Republic and Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek might demur, and
Brodeur, who leads the NHL in goals-against average this season,
has his backers--Sweden's Mats Sundin, who plays with the Maple
Leafs, said last week he was surprised Roy was playing ahead of
Brodeur--but Roy was an excellent choice. He has won three
Stanley Cups, and he usually plays his best in the biggest
games. (See: 10 straight overtime wins in the 1993 playoffs.)
He's also charismatic, one of the rare goalies who is a team
leader. As Crawford said in explaining his choice of Roy to No.
3 goalie Curtis Joseph, "It's Patrick's time."
THE HIGH FIVE IN A PINCH
Six or seven months ago U.S. forward Tony Amonte began composing
his list of the American players he would like to see in an
Olympic shoot-out: Doug Weight, Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Brian
Leetch and John LeClair. No Amonte? "No, I'm 0 for 2 in penalty
shots, and I missed one just before I came over," the
Blackhawks' Amonte said. "You know, I've been having dreams
about this stuff."
In the single-elimination round, which was to begin on
Wednesday, games that are tied after regulation go to a
10-minute sudden death overtime period (20 minutes in the gold
medal game) and then, if necessary, to a shoot-out, in which the
teams alternate in taking five penalty shots each. Sweden won
the 1994 gold medal in a shoot-out when Peter Forsberg scored on
an audacious move he had seen Sweden's Kent Nilsson use in the
1989 world championships. Forsberg almost went past the net
before one-handing a shot past Canadian goalie Corey Hirsch. The
Swedes promptly commemorated the goal with a postage stamp.
Last week U.S. coach Ron Wilson said he had drawn up a top 10
list from which he will choose his five shooters but wasn't
tipping his hand. "I'm not going to give a goaltender on another
team more time to prepare," he said. "I hear Patrick Roy's a
real student of the game, and I don't want to give him any
The Canadians planned to rely on input from goalies Roy, Martin
Brodeur and Curtis Joseph to pick their shooters. "They face our
guys all the time," assistant coach Andy Murray said. "They
would probably know better than anyone who's the toughest to
handle on breakaways." Canada's Theo Fleury, who's 3 for 3 on
penalty shots during his NHL career, has been lobbying for a
spot. "I want it," he says. "Absolutely. I want to be the fifth
guy. I want that pressure."
Said Russian general manager Alexei Kasatonov, "We may have a
[list], but then in the tournament great players have a scorer's
walk. They move like, Oh, I'm going to score. That player will
be in the shoot-out for us."
The Double Block
With 10 minutes remaining in Canada's 5-0 victory over Belarus
last Friday, center Joe Sakic swooped behind the Canadian net to
pick up the puck while defensemen Chris Pronger and Adam Foote
headed up ice and impeded the Belarussian forecheckers, who,
typically of the trap, were positioned in the neutral zone.
Pronger and Foote looked like pulling guards from the 1965 Green
Bay Packers. Skating behind his blocking defensemen, Sakic
reached the offensive zone virtually untouched and fired a
40-footer just over the net.
Canada was using the double block, the latest in trap-busting
techniques. The strategy was developed in 1996 by Canadian
assistant coach Andy Murray. "We're trying to make the other
team forecheck," Murray says. "If they don't sit back because
they're afraid of the double block, then we're making them play
Team USA coach Ron Wilson says the double block constitutes
interference, and he complained about it in a meeting with
officials before the Americans' first game of the tournament.
But interference is called less frequently in international
hockey than in the NHL. Early in these Olympics, Canada employed
the double block with impunity, although Pronger and Foote were
the only defense pair comfortable enough to use it regularly.
Of course, the double block was nearly as new to Canada as to
anyone else. In the NHL, only Montreal uses it. On the flight to
Japan, between screenings of Titanic and the 1972 Canada-Soviet
Union Summit Series, the coaches ran a 35-minute tape of
breakouts that highlighted the double block. "The first time I
saw it [before the 1997 world championships], I was giggling,"
Canadian winger Keith Primeau says. "This time I looked around
on the plane and saw that everyone was serious. To leave the
puck behind the net is a bizarre concept. For those three or
four seconds, until the center gets it, your heart is in your
throat. I guess it's closest to the Flying V from The Mighty
Ducks movie. The first game I played with the double block
[before the worlds], I mentioned the Flying V to the guys, but I
must have been the only one with kids because no one else knew
what I was talking about."