Swedes get the points

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Uh oh! Get the crying towels out ... get the conspiracy theorists going ... get a new commission to investigate the state of affairs!!!

Yes, Canada could become quite the country of confrontations as its hockey fans face the reality that we are no longer No. 1 in international hockey.

You see, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) came to the conclusion that Sweden is the better men's hockey nation in its world rankings. I discovered it in the IIHF's newsletter Ice Times.

According to the publication, Sweden, the Olympic men's gold medal winner, is on top of the standings with 4,030 points and Canada, which placed seventh at the Turin Olympics, is in second place with 3,940 points.

This point system, which was inaugurated in 2003, is not a one-year assessment protocol, but takes into account a country's performance over a four-year cycle. The system is designed to reflect the long-term quality of a country's national team program.

The ranking for a given year is done by awarding points for the final placings at the previous four world championships and the most recent Olympic tournament. Thus, the current ranking includes the results of the 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 world championships, plus the 2006 Olympics.

The country that wins the world championship gold medal or the Olympic gold medal receives 1,200 points. Points are awarded to each successive country in descending order with 20-point intervals between two ranked positions except for the 40-point interval between gold and silver, silver and bronze, 4th and 5th and 8th and 9th positions in the top division. The 40-point interval exists to reward countries for reaching the quarter-finals, semi-finals, the final and for winning the gold medal.

Then, the point totals are weighted by the year of the cycle, with teams getting the full 100% value of its points for its performance in the most recent year, 75% of the points awarded for the previous year's performance, 50% for the year before and 25% for the first year of the current four-year cycle.

According to this, Sweden received the full 1,200 points for the gold medal in Turin, but Canada received only 600 points for its gold medal in the 2004 world championship in Prague.

Looking at this convoluted system, reminds me of the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, when the late IIHF president Bunny Ahearne dreamed up a system whereby Canada was deprived of a well-deserved bronze medal.

At any rate, according to the IIHF numbers of 2006, the Czech Republic finished third with 3,930 points, followed by Slovakia (3,805), Finland (3,765), Russia (3,725) and the U.S. with 3,575 points.

Canada fared well in the women's department where Hayley Wickenheiser led the women to a first-place finish with 2,970 points, followed by the US (2,890), Sweden (2,830), Finland (2,760). Germany (2,635) and Russia (2,585). Obviously our gals upstaged Wayne Gretzky's all-stars, but that won't stop the arguments in pubs over Sweden finishing on top of the men's competition ahead of Canada.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Ralph Krueger, the Winnipeg-born coach of the Swiss national men's hockey team, is not satisfied with his team's shocking Olympic triumphs over Canada and the Czech Republic. He is determined to shoot down three big teams at the next world championship in Latvia next month ... Peter Beresford, who is a senior executive of McDonald's and a great supporter of Canadian sports, is recovering in Toronto from bypass surgery. Get well, Peter, and maybe the Maple Leafs will,too ... After trying to figure out the IIHF point system, I'll need three weeks of R and R. My column will return on April 30.


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