Here's Hoping for a Finn Win

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:59 AM ET

Most World Cup teams have a moratorium on labour talk. So when Team USA slunk out of the World Cup in St. Paul, Minn., a joshing reporter belatedly put it to Mike Modano that the Dallas star could probably fetch $400 a week playing in the minors.

"That wouldn't pay for my dog's food for a month," Modano told Newark Star-Ledger reporter Rich Chere.

Tomorrow the padlocks go on the game.

Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out, Mike.

Modano's dogs won't go hungry, which is a relief. Neither will he, which isn't, especially when you consider how many working people in Texas would gratefully use $400 a week to feed their kids, not their dogs.

Now that a work stoppage is a certainty, wouldn't it be grand if the last skates to cut into the painted ice belonged to an indomitable collection of Finnish hockey players?

Come on, wouldn't it?

Twenty or so Finns constitute the only discernible demographic who figure that an NHL lockout wouldn't be so bad.

It would give them more time for the party.

I do not count the American public in this, because to feel bad or good about something you have to notice it first.

POKER IS HOT

The quarter-final game between Russia and the U.S., the resumption of that cold war rivalry, drew a 0.4 rating on ESPN2 compared with 2.1 for, are you ready ... poker.

Yes, the World Series of Poker, an event that gives every carnival worker and social outcast a chance to be on national television, kicked the living beejeezers out of the World Cup right in the hockey heartland.

Nearly two million households watched the poker. Total number of households tuning into the hockey: 318,000.

They weren't shouting U-S-A, U-S-A. It was "Inside Straight, Inside Straight."

The game drew fewer viewers than the BMX Cycling Championship and the PGA Deutsche Golf Championship.

Luckily, the contest wasn't pitted against more wicked competition like the National Soap Box Derby or the U.S. Skeet Shooting Challenge.

Here in Canada, the afterglow from a Canadian victory would last less than a day.

Come Thursday, the players will be greedy, owners will still be stupid and the game, or at least the one the owners and players share, will be in profound disrepute.

But in Finland, the game will never have been better, truer, more worthy of affection.

This is the Finn's Summit Series, their Miracle on Ice. All a lockout will do in Finland is extend the party from days to weeks and months.

The Finnish mantra: Lockout? What lockout?

Finnish centre Tuomo Ruutu was asked for his plans in view of the expected shutdown at Wednesday midnight.

"I plan on playing Tuesday," he said.

"When the tournament first started, I found it hard not to think about it. To be honest, I haven't thought about it much at all."

Added winger Antti Laaksonen: "It's a little like the playoffs. You really don't think about anything except the game in front of you."

Finnish coach Raimo Summanen noted that Finland is a small country, just 5.1 million people, one-sixth of Canada's total.

"Now, with this thing, we have the chance to do something big," he said.

Something really big. I say good on them. Give me the team from the tiny country playing in a hostile arena, first in St. Paul, now here in Toronto. We have one more day before endeavour and achievement is overtaken by avarice and stupidity.

Winter starts tomorrow.

I hope they party it away in Finland. 


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