MOSCOW (Reuters) - Every time Canada competes at the world championship it is expected to bring home the gold.
But the record 24th world title clinched with a 4-2 win over Finland on Sunday will be considered a bit of a surprise, coming from a team that overcame the absence of some top NHL players who said “no” to the chance to represent their country.
Hockey Canada has always taken great pride in fact that players regularly line up to answer the country’s call.
This year, however, the team received numerous ‘no thank you’ replies and rounded out their roster with 19-year-old university student Jonathan Teows and Finnish league defenseman Cory Murphy.
In the absence of a more skilled line-up, coach Andy Murray returned to the hard-working, blue-collar game that has come to symbolize Canadian teams, powering the country to a perfect 9-0 record and their third gold medal in five years.
“I don’t know how they (players who turned down invitations) feel, I think it’s disappointing, especially some of the young players,” Murray told reporters.
”The key thing for me is to focus on the guys who said ‘yes’.
”Those guys are feeling pretty good about themselves, their summer is going to be a little bit better then some of those guys who ended the (NHL) season on a bit of a sour note.
”I’ll do anything Hockey Canada asks me. If they want me to drive the bus or carry the sticks, I‘m a proud Canadian and I’ll be there if they ask me.
“I just think it’s your responsibility as a Canadian, if they ask you, you go.”
The next call Murray could be receiving from Hockey Canada could be one asking him to coach the team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Having guided Canada to three world championship titles, Murray was tipped as the top contender for the prestigious but pressure-packed Olympic job by Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson.
Murray downplayed his contribution to this year’s team but his experience and attention to small details made a big difference.
Despite the distraction created by the controversy surrounding Shane Doan’s selection as team captain following allegations that he insulted the country’s Francophone minority, Murray kept his squad focused on the task of bringing home gold.
“Our theme here was ‘Digging in for Canada’ and we were digging in there pretty deep until (Rick) Nash got that final goal,” Murray said.
”I always feel our emotional well as Canadian hockey players runs deeper than any other country in the world.
“If we have to dig deeper, we’ll go deeper.”
Like Canadians, there was also a time when Russia expected great things from their hockey team, but since the break up of the Soviet Union, their fans have come to expect only disappointment.
Loaded with NHL talent such as Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Russia had hoped to end a frustrating 14-year gold medal drought on home ice but the hosts once again came up short, settling for the bronze with a 3-1 win over Sweden.
Next year Canada will defend its crown at home when the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) celebrates its 100th anniversary by bringing the world championship to the sport’s birthplace for the first time.
But the IIHF left a dark cloud hanging over future world championships and Olympics when it failed to get Russia to sign a new player transfer agreement in Moscow, opening the door to years of legal disputes and chaos.