Preview: Big finish for Olympics

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER -- The 2010 Winter Olympics end Sunday with a rematch of the 2002 Olympic men's hockey final as Canada hosts the United States in what may be the biggest game in the sport’s history.

Canada regained Olympic hockey supremacy after a 50-year drought on Feb. 24, 2002 when it beat the host squad 5-2 in Salt Lake City. The red and white will have revenge in mind because the stars and stripes were 5-3 winners on Feb. 21 at GM Place when the teams concluded the preliminary round of the 2010 Games.

That forced Canada to beat Germany in a playoff qualifier before Wednesday’s decisive 7-3 win over Russia in the quarterfinal. After the U.S. embarrassed Finland 6-1 in one semifinal on Friday, Canada edged Slovakia 3-2 in the other.

"It feels like a Game 7 (of the Stanley Cup) with so much on the line,” said Jarome Iginla, Canada’s captain and a 2002 Olympian. "We've been building up for this for years. We've talked about it as Canadians and hockey players and wanting to be a part of this team.”

The two nations met for the first time in an Olympic hockey tournament at the Antwerp Summer Games in 1920. Canada won gold and the U.S. silver.

Cross-country skiing’s 50-kilometre men’s classic is the last outdoor event of the 2010 Games at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley, but it will not include legally-blind Canmore, Alta., skier Brian McKeever.

McKeever qualified for the team but was not selected for the race. McKeever wanted to be the first athlete to compete at Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the same year.

Producer David Atkins has promised a Canadian celebration of “humour, talent and innovation” for the closing ceremony. Rumoured performers range from Nickelback to Neil Young. Organizers of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia will have an eight-minute portion to promote Russian culture and receive the Olympic flag from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The outdoor Olympic cauldron beside the international broadcast centre will be extinguished until Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Paralympics begin on March 12.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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