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World Cup Hockey

Mike Modano once again represented the United States in World Cup Hockey 2004
http://www.wch2004.com/.

Team USA began practice on August 20, 2004.


Mike in World Cup Action
against Russia 9-2-2004


World Cup of Hockey
August 26, 2004

Eight of the top hockey nations in the world battled in the second World Cup of Hockey with several teams having a definite Dallas Stars flavor. Training Camps opened up on August 20 in both North America and Europe, as Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States all prepared for what any hockey fan would consider a dream tournament.

There were nine Dallas Stars playing in the tournament, including four on Team USA alone (Bill Guerin, Mike Modano, Brett Hull, Jamie Langenbrunner). Team Finland hds three players with ties to the Stars (Niko Kapanen, Jere Lehtinen, Teppo Numminen), while Team Canada (Brenden Morrow) and Team Czech (Martin Rucinsky) each had one.

Below is a preview of the individual teams published prior to the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.


CANADA

Coach -- Pat Quinn
Training camp site -- Ottawa University/Corel Centre, Ottawa
Exhibition schedule -- USA vs. Canada, Corel Centre, Aug. 23; USA vs. Canada, Corel Centre, Aug. 25; Slovakia vs. Canada, Corel Centre, Aug. 28

Brenden Morrow
What to expect -- As the reigning Olympic champion, Canada is the team to beat. To make the team even more dangerous, Canada will be looking to avenge its final-series loss to the United States in the 1996 edition of the tournament. Team Canada is loaded with explosive playmakers on offense and possesses the best goalie, in many eyes, in New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.

Possible surprises -- It's hard to classify Mario Lemieux as a potential surprise, but he could well open some eyes in this tournament. The Hall of Famer spent the summer working out with noted fitness expert T.R. Goodman and is believed to be in the best shape since he started his comeback. That could spell trouble for opponents. Tampa Bay's trio of Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier is still flying high from winning the Stanley Cup and could be a dominating trio if reunited by Quinn, who coached Canada to the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

Stars Connection -- Brenden Morrow makes his first appearance on a Canadian National Team of this caliber, which is really telling about how far he has come as a hockey player. He is one of the players Wayne Gretzky and co. feel are the future of Hockey Canada.



CZECH REPUBLIC

Coach -- Vladimir Ruzicka
Training camp site -- Sazka Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
Exhibition schedule -- Finland vs. Czech Republic, Sazka Arena, Aug. 23; Czech Republic vs. Germany, Cologne Arena, Cologne, Germany, Aug. 25; Sweden vs. Czech Republic, Sazka Arena, Aug. 27

What to expect -- It's hard to pinpoint where this Czech team will be come tournament time after the tragic death of coach Ivan Hlinka in an automobile accident this past week. If they can pull together under the tutelage of the popular Vladimir Ruzicka, who replaced Hlinka, they will be among the toughest outs in the field. The Czechs are solid in all three areas of the ice, boasting three top-notch goalies, a solid and mobile defense and a potent offense led by Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Milan Hejduk.

Possible surprises -- In recent international play, the Czechs have made their name with offensive exploits. But in this tournament, the team is fielding perhaps its most competent collection of defensemen in recent memory. The stellar group is headlined by Roman Hamrlik. It also features speedy youngsters Jaroslav Spacek, Jiri Fischer and Marek Zidlicky, who had a breakout year for the Nashville Predators this past season.

Stars Connection -- Former Dallas Star Martin Rucinsky (2001-02) is one of the veterans on this team who have tasted victory at a high level in International play, having won the Gold with Team Czech in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.



FINLAND

Coach -- Raimo Summanen
Training camp site -- Finnish Sports Institute/Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland
Exhibition schedule -- Finland vs. Czech Republic, Sazka Arena, Prague, Czech Rep., Aug. 23; Finland vs. Sweden, Globe Arena, Stockholm, Sweden, Aug. 25; Germany vs. Finland, Hartwell Arena, Aug. 26

Jere Lehtinen
What to expect -- The Finns will be the hardest-working team in the World Cup of Hockey 2004. The team is populated with industrious players who make the most out of their talent and play an aggressive style that often drives opponents to distraction. Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, meanwhile, are all-world offensive talents who can carry the gritty Finns on their shoulders during such a short, intense tournament.

Possible surprises -- World Cup of Hockey 2004 could well be the coming-out party for goaltender Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers. If he can beat out Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff and San Jose's Vesa Toskala, the young keeper has shown the brilliance necessary to take the spotlight away from more experienced and established players. Lehtonen already has a stellar international resume at the junior level and is now looking to add to it at the senior level. Another young NHLer, defenseman Joni Pitkanen of the Philadelphia Flyers, could join Lehtonen in some spotlight-stealing behavior. Pitkanen had a monster rookie year with the Flyers and has all the skills to be just as dominant on the international scene.

Stars Connection -- Niko Kapanen has played for Team Finland before, but not at this level. He is the future for his native country and should represent Finland several times in the future. Teppo Numminen, on the other hand, has the International experience needed on the blueline to help solidify Finlands' defensive corps. Jere Lehtinen is still one of the best hockey players in the world. Don't be surprised if Coach Summanen reunites him with Koivu and Ville Peltonen, who plays in Switzerland. That line led Finland to the 1995 World Championship goal medal for Finland's greatest hockey success.



GERMANY

Coach -- Franz Reindl
Training camp site -- Cologne Arena, Cologne, Germany
Exhibition schedule -- Russia vs. Germany, Cologne Arena, Aug. 22; Czech Republic vs. Germany, Cologne Arena, Aug. 25; Germany vs. Finland, Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland, Aug. 26

What to expect -- The Germans are the clear underdogs in the tournament with just seven current NHL players on their roster. But that does not mean that the Germans will be outclassed by any means. Fielding a similar, if not weaker, roster at the Salt Lake City Olympics, the Germans advanced out of pool play and gave a hearty scare to Team Canada in final-round play before falling by a 2-1 score. With accomplished goalie Olaf Kolzig manning the nets this time around, the Germans could make a contest out of each of its pool-stage games in this tournament.

Possible surprises -- The Germans will most likely play the same conservative style they employed so successfully in the Olympics, blanking Slovakia and holding the Canadians to two goals. But, the Germans do have a few scorers who can provide the necessary offense. San Jose's Marco Sturm, back from an injury that sidelined him during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, could be among the surprising revelations in the tournament. He could well be joined Sharks' teammates Marcel Goc and Christian Ehrhoff in opening some eyes.



RUSSIA

Coach -- Zinetula Bilyaletdinov
Training camp site -- Kloten Arena, Kloten, Switzerland and Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.
Exhibition schedule -- Russia vs. Germany, Cologne Arena, Cologne, Germany, Aug. 22; Russia vs. USA, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 27; Russia vs. Slovakia, Corel Centre, Ottawa, Aug. 29

What to expect -- A team in transition best describes Russia's entry into this tournament. The Russians were especially hard hit with the injury bug in the months leading up to the tournament and struggled to put together a team well into August. Still, Russia has some of the most skilled players in the tournament, including youngsters Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Sergei Samsonov, as well as vets Alex Kovalev and Alexei Yashin. Alexander Ovechkin, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, also will be on the roster.

Potential surprises -- Despite the shakeup to the Russian roster, the team still presents challenges to its opponents in the North American pool. If Russia can find a goaltender to keep the team close, it may well be able to out-gun any team on any given night. The appointment of Bilyaletdinov as the team's coach suggests that we could see a different team style and new duties for individual players as Russia embraces its next generation of superstars.



SLOVAKIA

Coach -- Jan Filc
Training camp site -- Winter Arena, Bratislava, Slovakia and Ottawa University, Ottawa
Exhibition schedule -- Sweden vs. Slovakia, Winter Arena, Aug. 22; Slovakia vs. Canada, Corel Centre, Ottawa, Aug. 28; Slovakia vs. Russia, Corel Centre, Aug. 29

What to expect -- Expect Slovakia to score a lot of goals. The Slovakians have some of the most accomplished scorers involved in this tournament, including Peter Bondra, Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik, Ziggy Palffy and Miroslav Satan. The Slovaks may well be the fastest team, on the whole, in the tournament. Also, the team will be looking to improve on a disappointing preliminary-round showing in the 2002 Olympics, adding extra motivation to the campaign.

Possible surprises -- Goalie Jan Lasak is capable of getting hot and dominating a short tournament if things fall right. Although he played last season in Europe, Lasak has experience with the North American game while playing in the Nashville system. Slovakia's defense will also be better than expected, especially with Ottawa's Zdeno Chara anchoring the blue line corps.



SWEDEN

Coach -- Hardy Nilsson
Training camp site -- Globe Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
Exhibition schedule -- Sweden vs. Slovakia, Winter Arena, Bratislava, Slovakia, Aug. 22; Finland vs. Sweden, Globe Arena, Aug. 25; Sweden vs. Czech Republic, Sazka Arena Prague, Czech Rep., Aug. 27

What to expect -- The Swedes are unbelievably hungry for success after their spectacular crash-and-burn routine against Belarus in the 2002 Winter Olympics. They are eager to prove to the hockey world that they remain among the sport's elite teams, and they have the players to do just that. As should be expected, Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin will lead the charge.

Possible surprises -- Goalie Tommy Salo has never been the same since allowing the long-range goal to Belarus that cost the Swedes that epic quarterfinal match in Salt Lake City. He lost his starting job with Edmonton the following season and then was traded to Colorado to serve as a backup to the far less experienced David Aebischer. But, given the opportunity in this tournament, Salo still has the skill set to deliver a gold medal to the hungry-for-success Swedes.



UNITED STATES

Coach -- Ron Wilson
Training camp site -- Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Exhibition schedule -- USA vs. Russia, Monday, Aug. 23, Nationwide Arena; USA vs. Canada, Ottawa, Ont., Corel Centre; USA vs. Russia, Nationwide Arena

Mike Modano and Ty Conklin
What to expect -- The Americans will be looking to defend the title they claimed in the inaugural edition of this event back in 1996, but they will have to answer some serious questions during the quest. Most importantly, Wilson -- the coach in 1996 -- must find a new goalie to shoulder the load vacated by the retired Mike Richter. He has three untested options in Ty Conklin, Robert Esche and Rick DiPietro. Up front, the Americans are loaded with veterans from the 1996 championship campaign and will have the advantage of playing many of its games before pro-American crowds.

The team has a dozen players back from the team that won the last two games of the best-of-three championship series in Montreal in 1996 to stun Canada and win the title. The returnees include Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk, Brett Hull, Bill Guerin, Mike Modano, Chris Chelios, and Brian Leetch. It will be a veteran squad for the United States; a vast majority of the 23 skaters on the team are 30 or over.

Possible surprises -- Many eyes will be on center Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils, who was a last-minute replacement for the injured Jeremy Roenick. Gomez, who was the NHL's leading point-producer after the 2004 NHL All-Star Game, has a glittering international record as a junior, but has never played at this level of competition. Defenseman Jordan Leopold, who had an outstanding Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Calgary Flames, should find the more free-flowing play much to his liking, as well.

Stars Connection -- All four players with Dallas ties -- Hull, Guerin, Langenbrunner and Modano have experience playing in International hockey at this level, including winning the Silver Medal in the 2002 Olympic Games. And only Langenbrunner was not on the 1996 team that won the Inaugural World Cup. "That says something about our players in a positive way, that we have so many guys who experienced that and can share their experience with the new guys," says Coach Wilson. "We have a rallying cry now, '96!', and we want to defend our title. That's what this is all about, defending the title. The World Cup only comes around every two or four or eight years. So that's it, our World Cup team hasn't lost in eight years!"