Perfect for the 'Peg

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

So we're sitting around the sports office yesterday, watching -- I mean, researching -- Team Canada's game against the U.S. at the World Hockey Championship in Halifax.

For some reason, probably to avoid a potential TV conflict with the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the game was on in the afternoon.

But while watching former Canadian junior hero Jonathan Toews of Winnipeg score yet another big goal for his country in a thrilling 5-4 Canada win, you couldn't help but think you'd rather watch this than another NHL playoff game, anyway.

I mean, Detroit vs. Dallas doesn't exactly get the juices flowing.

And while Philly-Pittsburgh should provide plenty of emotion for fans in the Keystone State, for those of us in the Keystone Province, not so much.

Which brings me to the point of today's diatribe.

Now that this event has finally touched its skates to Canadian ice, it's time to start thinking about bringing it to River City.

The fit would be perfect.

After losing the Jets 12 years ago, international hockey has slowly wormed its way into the consciousness of the majority of puck fans in these parts, to the point where many have attached their emotions to the Maple Leaf.

Whether it's the world junior tournament, the world women's championship or even a measly exhibition game, it'll draw fans like a night light draws moths.

Heck, we'll drive two hours south and cross an international border -- in a snowstorm, no less -- to cheer on a team of Canadian juniors.

Imagine a Team Canada with NHL star power, and you've got the World Championship.

Get a load of this year's team: Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Jason Spezza, Martin St. Louis, Shane Doan, Eric Staal, Toews -- the list goes on and on. Every player dressed, for both the Canucks and the Yanks, was an NHLer.

That's saying nothing about the skilled Russian, American, Swedish and Finnish teams.

Good Canadian players don't say no to this event, anymore. Certainly not when it's in Canada.

There's always been a fear of putting the worlds head-to-head against the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's why Europe has almost been the exclusive home of this tournament.

But it appears Halifax and Quebec City, site of the medal round, are going to erase those fears.

Based on the raucous atmosphere at the sold-out Metro Centre yesterday, and knowing how rabid hockey fans in Quebec are, this thing is going to leave its mark on the country.

Yesterday's win over the U.S. was everything you'd want in a hockey game, and more than you'd expect in most NHL games: the early Canadian lead, the gutsy American comeback and the last-minute game-winner by the good guys.

I hope the folks at Hockey Manitoba and True North Sports were taking notes.

Because if Halifax can sell 9,192 tickets to a Canada-U.S. preliminary round game, Winnipeg can sell 15,000, guaranteed.

This event has taken on a real party atmosphere over the years, too, with fans from all over the world taking it in.

As colleague Terry Jones put it the other day, it has the feel of a Grey Cup festival.

You know, Winnipeg has always had a special place for the international game, going back to the Summit Series, the '76 and '81 Canada Cups and a memorable exhibition game between the WHA's Jets and the Central Red Army in '78.

Right now, the 2010 world junior is in our sights, an event that would no doubt leave an indelible stamp on our hockey psyche.

But after that, the target should be the men's World Championship.

Now that it's proving it can work north of the 49th, it's a no-brainer for a city that doesn't have the NHL, but continues to have the passion for the game.


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