Hockey events worlds apart

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The decision came down to Davos, Switzerland, or Grand Forks. Rob Cookson knows most people would call him crazy but he's happier to have chosen the latter.

"This is better," the Calgary Flames assistant coach says, albeit not too convincingly. "It's higher profile and means so much to Canada."

With the NHL lockout giving Cookson plenty of time to twiddle his thumbs, the holidays have brought about a much-needed distraction.

His forte is breaking down video for the Flames coaches and players, so there were a couple of options.

One was to be with Team Canada's entry at the Spengler Cup. The other, the world juniors.

In essence, it's a return to his roots.

Having spent most of the 1990s working for Hockey Canada before going to Philadelphia for three seasons prior to the last four in Calgary, Cookson was part of several world junior, world championship and Olympic team coaching staffs.

It's his first world juniors since the 1998 eighth-place debacle that ended with a loss to Kazakhstan, which came on the heels of the all those gold medals -- including the three he was part of from 1995-97.

"Even in '98, we were really close to getting to the semifinals," Cookson recalls.

"We lost in overtime to Russia in the cross-over game (2-1) and then the wheels fell off the cart."

That much experience means he's one of very few who can give knowledgeable input into the debate which team's better, the squad that ran roughshod over everybody in the Red Deer tourney in 1995 or this one.

"That's not really fair to the teams of the past," Cookson says diplomatically.

"Canada's had a lot of pretty good teams.

"Plus, there's a pretty good Russia team, a pretty good U.S. team, a pretty good Czech team here."

For now, though, he's concentrating on doing what he can to make this year's entry as good as possible.


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