Quinn defends Canadian hockey

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Pat Quinn stopped short of belting out his own leather-lunged rendition of O Canada yesterday in recognition of this country's lofty hockey accomplishment.

But the veteran coach pulled no punches when it came to addressing those critics who not-so-long-ago claimed Canada was not consistently producing enough young skilled hockey players.

Quinn specifically pointed to the Open Ice Summit, a conference held in Toronto back in August 1999 in which hockey types from the NHL down to the grassroots levels met to discuss the alleged declining talent pool in Canada.

"I didn't agree with that position at that time,"Quinn said. "Maybe a lot of people who participated in that thing should not have been there talking.

"At the 1996 World Cup, the American goaltending (Mike Richter) probably was the difference. I was with the Canadian team when we won the world championship in 1997. And yes, our juniors had gone a couple of years without gold at the time but they still were winning medals. We were competitive back then but that was being ignored."

Ah, but Quinn would have the last laugh.

Less than six years after the Open Ice Summit spread an air of gloom and doom through the country, Canada sits atop the hockey world with an unprecedented six titles -- men's and women's Olympic gold (2002); men's and women's world championships (2004); the World Cup (2004); and the world junior championship, which Canada captured Tuesday with a 6-1 humiliation of the Russians.

"Right now this country is on a crest that is unbelievable," said Quinn, who coached Canada to championships at the Salt Lake Olympics and the World Cup. "The kids we are producing are big, strong, very talented and compete hard.

"(The juniors) did a great job. As a Canadian I was proud how they performed. And look at all the young guys we had at the World Cup -- (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Jay Bouwmeester, etc.), there are just too many to list.

"With Bob Nicholson at the helm of Hockey Canada, we're in good hands. Look at all the clinics being run. Look at the Centre of Excellence. The bottom line is, it seems we've gotten away from systems and concentrated on skills at the youth level, and I think that's a good thing."

So was this, in fact, the greatest Canadian junior team to ever step on a sheet of ice? The Maple Leafs' Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe, who were teammates on the 1995 team that also went undefeated en route to the title, certainly were in awe of the 2005 edition.

"This team has got to be up there," McCabe said last night. "They dominated from start to finish.They did a great job.

"What makes me proud of our ('95) team is how many guys went on to play in the NHL. Off the top of my head I think it was 18 of the 22 guys -- guys like Darcy, Jeff O'Neill, Eric Daze, Jason Allison, Wade Redden and Ed Jovanovski."


Videos

Photos