Golden dream comes down to this

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — Pegged as the two best teams in the world’s best-ever hockey tournament and destined to clash in the gold-medal game, they will meet instead Wednesday.

The winner will keep alive its gold-medal dream, the loser will go home empty-handed.

The incongruity of a Canada-Russia quarter-final is not lost on Russian general manager Vladislav Tretiak, the former goaltender who helped create one of hockey’s great international rivalries.

“It’s a pity one of these great teams (won’t) get medals,” Tretiak, speaking through an interpreter, said Tuesday, as his team went through a practice at a small East Vancouver arena. “Very good teams like this shouldn’t meet each other at this stage. Just imagine, one of these teams will go home with no medal. If it was a final, it would be different.”

The players were much less talkative than their GM, most of them walking by the waiting media without stopping to say a word.

That included Alexander Ovechkin, who’s been a reluctant talker at these Games.

Tretiak looks at Ovechkin and shakes his head, wondering where in the great Russian hockey past someone like that came from.

“Ovechkin is more North American style,” Tretiak said. “We don’t have any example like this. Ovechkin resembles (Eric) Lindros when he was playing. It’s not pure Russian style.”

But Tretiak says he wouldn’t change a thing about Ovechkin’s on-the-edge, sometimes over it, physical play.

Or about the rivalry that resumes Wednesday.

Like most Canadians, Tretiak realizes it doesn’t matter what level of hockey or what stage of a tournament — when it’s the Maple Leaf against the Russian Bear, it matters.

“It’s always a rivalry since 1972,” Tretiak said. “A game versus Canada is something special.”

Sergei Fedorov, who’s played more of them than most, isn’t sure how he feels about meeting the home team so soon.

“Unfortunate, or fortunate — I don’t know,” Fedorov said. “It’s going to be a different game (from the rest) in the tournament.”

With a boat load of pressure on the Canucks.

“It’s very obvious they are under pressure, a lot,” Fedorov said. “It’s not easy. But they’re experienced guys.”

The Russians aren’t exactly on easy street, either.

Tretiak says a sub-par performance by their athletes in other sports has cranked up the heat.

Fedorov says pressure is the last thing he and his teammates need to worry about.

The atmosphere at GM Place will be plenty.

“It’s going to be crazy.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

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