Taking a silver bullet

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

VIENNA, Austria -- As they left the ice and trudged, heads down, to their dressing room, the players on Team Canada began removing the silver medals from around their necks.

When they returned to the mixed zone, not one of them had one on.

"The silver medal is losing. It's not something we're really proud of," said Martin Brodeur, who had his removed the second he stepped off the ice after losing the gold- medal game 3-0 to the Czech Republic.

"It was exciting to be part of this, but it's all about winning."

Canada failed in the final, failed to generate any offence, failed to find the famous fire and emotion, failed to even compete towards the end, as the Czechs shocked them by turning into the Checks.

They checked Team Canada at every turn.

"They didn't do much offensively," said Brodeur after the 3-0 loss and the end of the chance for Canada to three-peat at the IIHF World Hockey Championships for the first time since 1950-'51-'52.

"They scored a lucky first goal and then beat me on that long shot in the third. They sat back. They beat us like the New Jersey Devils win Stanley Cups," said the New Jersey Devil.

"European teams are supposed to be more offensive teams. That's not the game we expected them to play. They're supposed to be an exciting offensive team, but they just sat back there.

"Tomas Vokoun saw every single puck we threw at him. You have to give these guys credit. They put their working boots on and their egos aside."

THAT EMPTY FEELING

One by one they came, minus their medals, to talk about the empty feeling of spending five weeks together and ending up going home to life as locked-out NHL players.

The public will go back to loathing them, along with everybody else in the only major sport to ever lose an entire season and maybe more.

"Second is not good enough. It was disappointing. It was frustrating," said Ryan Smyth, one of three players on the team who would have become the first Canadian ever to win three consecutive golds.

"I'm not so much disappointed for me as the other guys who had never won gold medals. Marty Brodeur could have done something real special," he added of the hockey grand slam of Stanley Cups, Olympic gold and World Cup gold he already owns.

"He's usually in the Stanley Cup final," he added.

"It was pretty disappointing," said Dan Boyle, who hoisted the Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay last spring.

THEIR STANLEY CUP

"We didn't come here for a silver medal. We came here for the gold. This year, this was our Stanley Cup.

"The last two periods against the Russians and throughout this game, no red-line and the bigger ice surface were really used against us. They just shut us down. We don't feel like we created anything."

It was one of those rare games at the world championships where almost nothing happened. Indeed, after two shootouts, an overtime and three one-goal games in the playoff rounds - so many great games to get to the medal games - only to have two which weren't worth watching.

The Swedes lost 6-3 to Russia in the bronze-medal game.

It was a garbage goal at 4:13 to give the Czechs the 1-0 lead, a shot off Brodeur's shoulder and glove which plopped down in front for Vaclav Prospal to bang into the net. The garbage goal stood up for gold.

Martin Rucinsky drilled a shot from just inside the blue-line under Brodeur's glove. Josef Vasicek fired the empty-netter.

"I am so happy I don't know how to celebrate," said Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka of the team which lost the crossover game at the Worlds last year in Prague.

The Czechs, who last won the championship in 2001, also won it the last time it was held here.

"They can't win everything," said Jaromir Jagr.

"They won the last few years.

"Beating Canada is always a big thing. They have the best hockey players and nobody else can say that. This year we had more luck than them. I think it's all luck."

Puck luck, they call it.

And Canada had none.

"We didn't have a lot of luck around the net," said Marc Habscheid.

"We created opportunities but we didn't get the second and third shot. We needed those."

Maybe if it was a best-of-seven series ...

And there's none of those to go home to.


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