January 4, 2012
Canada's Walk of ShameNo longer carry top billing at home
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
CALGARY - It was 11:30 a.m. when Team Canada was forced to suffer their first group humiliation of the day.
They had to make The Walk of Shame.
It was at the magnificent new WinSport complex at Canada Olympic Park, where the team held their selection camp in the 2,800-seat showcase rink, and where their state-of-the art dressing-room facilities are located.
The IIHF decreed the gold medal game teams have the use of the two feature sheets in the new four-rink, $345-million complex where all four practices were held simultaneously.
So the Canadian teenagers, who lost the gold medal game qualifier the night before, were forced to schlep past the Swedes in the feature rink, traipse past the Russians who beat them the night before, and even had to trudge past their bronze medal game opponents from Finland to reach the sheet of ice where beer-league and minor hockey teams are the biggest user groups.
Canadians, and particularly Calgarians who had invested in 21-game ticket packs in anticipation of watching Canada in the gold medal game, woke up to see the sun had come up on a spectacular 12 C Wednesday.
Some found it in their hearts to forgive these kids who gave them the near-miracle comeback, battling back from a 6-1 deficit in Tuesday's 6-5 loss to Russia. But others couldn't get past their failure to handle the pressure, the lack of discipline and the fact there appears to be a trend developing in which other countries are getting much more outstanding goaltending than Canada.
For the players, it was dealing with their own personal demons of knowing if they hadn't taken a penalty, if they had moved the puck off the boards instead panicking into plays like a two-on-none breakaway for the top two Russian players, if they hadn't ...
The regrets aren't too few to mention.
Virtually no player on the team woke up Wednesday morning unable find some major moment where they didn't rise to the challenge. And there were admissions of not having handled the pressure.
"I don't know if the word is regret," said goaltender Scott Wedgewood. "But a lot of players know they made bad decisions.
"I know it's the biggest learning experience of my career. It's the first time I had to deal with a crowd like that, knowing the entire nation was focused on the game. I thought I'd be ready for it, but until you get in it, you can't be ready for it.
"We had led every game. When they got the lead, we didn't know how to deal with it.
"I'm sure most of us realize today there were things we could have done better. We had a lot of problems with discipline when things weren't going our way.
"I know what I experienced, going forward to the rest of my career, will probably make me better."
The discipline, which included Jonathan Huberdeau taking a misconduct for slapping the boards, Boone Jenner's spear (which drew him a suspension for Thursday's bronze medal game) and the other losses of composure which resulted in Russian power plays, was probably the most unforgivable.
"It was the kind of game where you do things you will regret later," said coach Don Hay.
"When players get frustrated, they do things they'll regret. They take misconduct penalties and selfish penalties."
There's no need for a national inquisition into the state of hockey in our nation like the one a decade and a half ago, because these kids lost this game and left Canada in a bronze medal game for the first time in 11 year,s and the first time ever as host of the event. But it might be time for a national study of some sort on the status of goaltending.
While it would be insane to hang this on Scott Wedgewood, there are valid concerns.
Several of the international goalies who were so spectacular at this event play for Canadian junior teams. Indeed, 25 of the 59 CHL teams have European goaltenders.
And here's a stat: from 1996 to 2004, French Canadian goalies played 56 of the 60 tournament games. From 2005 through to today, French Canadian goalies have only played five of 50 games.
Kids in Quebec wanted to grow up to be Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur. But for some reason, the current generation doesn't want to be Roberto Luongo.
Hey that's the ticket. Maybe we can hang all this on Roberto Luongo.
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