On top of the World

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:37 AM ET

In a lot of ways, the wild celebrations following Team Canada's World Cup victory last night were the storm before the calm. And when Mario Lemieux and Martin Brodeur and all the rest raised their glasses to toast a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Team Finland, it could also be seen as a bon voyage. These guys won't be seeing each other for a while.

You could separate last night's Air Canada Centre festivities into two parts. There was the hockey part, in which the unrelenting Finns gave Team Canada all it could handle before an early third-period goal by Shane Doan broke the deadlock and permitted Canada to put the pressure on the hard-working Finns.

Then there was the business part.

Unless something miraculous comes out of commissioner Gary Bettman's address at 2:30 p.m. today, the National Hockey League will shut down a season about to begin next month.

But first, the game. Canada never trailed as the teams traded goals over the first two periods.

Joe Sakic converted Lemieux's pass at just 52 seconds of the first period but Riku Hahl matched it at 6:34 minutes.

In the second period, Scott Niedermayer took relays from Chris Draper and Joe Thornton to again score early, at 3:15, but Tuomo Ruutu matched it at the 19-minute mark on a brilliant sortie that took him past Brad Richards, Simon Gagne and then Niedermayer to score the goal of the game.

Then Doan got the winner off a neat Thornton pass just 34 seconds into the final period and Team Canada successfully fought to take the lead home.

"They gave us all we could handle and then some," said Team Canada coach Pat Quinn, who also saw his team squeak past the Czech Republic in their semifinal.

"The Finns simply played a terrific game," offered Thornton, who was named player of the game and will be departing to play in Switzerland for Davos for the duration of the lockout.

Work stoppage continued to intrude upon the team's big moment last night. The players didn't want to talk about it but couldn't help it.

"The business part of the game will affect everyone's life tomorrow," said Brodeur, who was a doubtful starter due to a sore wrist. "When you're in the prime of your career, it's hard to accept. It's a business for the owners but it's a business for us, too."

Hockey as we have come to know it has changed. Sitting directly beside Brodeur in the victory celebration was a guy diametrically opposite him philosophically.

Mario Lemieux is a principal owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. A strange circumstance?

"No, we're all in the same boat," the Canada captain said. "It looks like it'll be a while before we get back on the ice. It's not a matter of who wins the battle, it's what makes sense for both. How much more can you charge the fans?"

A good question.

"It's definitely disappointing after the high that we're living right now not be to able to play hockey," Brodeur added.

Brodeur spoke of past players sacrificing for his era and of the current ones "being on the same page."

"I'm just a hockey player who's been really fortunate to make a lot of money. One of the reasons is the (union) was able to help us. Hopefully, that's going to continue. There's a lot of young guys coming up. I'd like to emphasize, let's try to talk about the World Cup. It was a lot of fun winning it."

OK, let's ask Vincent Lecavalier what it was like to be a late addition and go on to win tournament MVP.

"It's a great honour just to be part of this team," the tournament MVP said.

It'll be an honour for them all to be part of any team soon.


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