Forget the Preakness Stakes. Who would have predicted the Sweden-Switzerland-US trifecta at the men’s world ice hockey championships that concluded Sunday in Stockholm?
No home team had claimed the title since 1986, and the Swedes, who were sixth last year, hadn’t won in seven years. The Swiss, who went unbeaten until the final, hadn’t made the podium since 1953. And the Americans, who handed the Russians their worst defeat (8-3 in the quarterfinals) in tournament history, hadn’t medaled since 2004 and only twice since 1962.
“Who’d have picked us to finish third? Obviously, no one,” said captain Paul Stastny, whose teammates averaged under 25 years of age.
The Yanks, who came within Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal from winning Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010, have been on the rise. Their juniors won the world title this year, and their goalie, John Gibson, a 19-year-old who plays for the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL, was the hero in Stockholm, stopping 36 shots by Finland in the medal game, which the Canadiens’ Alex Galchenyuk won with consecutive goals in the shootout.
“This was a good consolation,” concluded defenseman Matt Carle, whose colleagues were stifled, 3-0, by the Swiss in the semis. Good, too, for coach Joe Sacco, who’d been fired by the Avalanche after the club missed the playoffs and had four of his former players on the roster.
It was a deflating tournament for the Russians, who’d won three of the previous five crowns, had beaten the US by two goals in the prelims, and had received a priceless gift when the Rangers beat the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin became available.
The Canadians, ousted by a Sweden team they’d smothered, 3-0, in the prelims, were beaten in the quarters for the fourth straight time.
“It’s the worst feeling, obviously,” said goalie Mike Smith, whose mates lost in a shootout. “Every time we put the Canadian sweater on, you are expected to win. This is tough to take.”
The Canadians did get a consolation prize, though. Switzerland’s coach was one of their own: Sean Simpson, who played minor league hockey for a couple of years before decamping to Europe. Virtually all of his players came from the Swiss league, most of them from the ZSC Lions and Kloten Flyers.
After successive years of Sweden and Finland as co-organizers, the men’s tournament will revert to one country for the next three years, with Belarus, the Czech Republic, and Russia as solo hosts. The next pre-Olympic championships in 2017 will be split between Germany and France, which last staged the event in 1951.
Trying a wrestling move
FILA, the world wrestling federation, did everything at last weekend’s extraordinary congress that it should have done years ago, reforming its confusing scoring and adding women to its upper echelon. “What we do today will impact what happens to us as a sport,” president Nenad Lalovic declared in his opening speech. “It will impact us for the next 50 years.” The scoring changes included switching from three two-minute periods to two of three minutes, going to cumulative scoring instead of a best-of-three, rewarding more points for a takedown and toughening the penalty for passivity. The question now is whether the changes will persuade the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, which meets in St. Petersburg, Russia, next week, to change its mind about dropping the sport from the Olympic program after 2016 . . . Four candidates figure to be in the chase for the IOC presidency when Jacques Rogge steps down as his term ends in September. The favorite is Germany’s Thomas Bach, while fellow vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore also has declared. Expected to announce as well are Switzerland’s Rene Fasel, who heads the international ice hockey federation, and Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion, who chairs the IOC’s finance commission. Odds are that the post will go to a European; of the eight IOC heads, only Avery Brundage, the unbending American who ruled from 1952 to 1972, was not from the continent. If Rogge, who receives only expenses, has his way, his successor will draw a salary, as do major sports commissioners.
Cluster of track talent
Saturday’s Adidas Grand Prix in New York will feature an octet of London champions: Sanya Richards-Ross (400 meters), Jenn Suhr (pole vault), Aries Merritt (110-meter hurdles), Brittney Reese (long jump), Christian Taylor (triple jump), Tianna Madison Bartoletta (4 x 100 relay), David Rudisha (800 meters), and Nesta Carter (4 x 100 relay). The marquee event looks to be the women’s 400, in which Richards-Ross, who’s making her season debut, will face London runner-up and former champion Christine Ohuruogu and reigning world titlist Amantle Montsho . . . As expected, new combinations won all six of last weekend’s small-boat trials in New Jersey to earn the right to compete in this summer’s world rowing championships in South Korea, provided that they perform well enough at an upcoming World Cup. Concord native Kristin Hedstrom, who participated in last year’s Games, claimed the women’s lightweight double with new partner Kate Bertko while Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary won the openweight double and Meghan Musnicki, a gold medalist in the eight, took the pair with Taylor Goetzinger. Matt Miller-Willie Cowles and Colin Ethridge-Peter Alter prevailed in the men’s double and lightweight double. Though Harvard grad Henrik Rummel, who collected London bronze in the four, and Mike Gennaro won the pair, they’re opting to try for the eight or the four instead.
Trial by fire in curling
The field for next fall’s US Olympic curling trials in Fargo, N.D., is loaded with national champions, present and former. Reigning titlist Brady Clark, who placed ninth at this year’s world tournament, will be up against Pete Fenson, whose rink won bronze in 2006, as well as Heath McCormick and John Shuster, who competed in Vancouver. On the women’s side, defending champion Erika Brown will take on Allison Pottinger and Cassie Potter. Courtney George, the only untitled contender, will be joined by Brighton resident Monica Walker. The women, who were fourth at the global championships, already have earned their Olympic spot. The men will have to qualify in December in Germany . . . Harvard grad Alex Meyer, who was the first swimmer to qualify for the London Games, punched his ticket for this summer’s world championships in Barcelona by winning the 10-kilometer event at last week’s US open water championships in California. Meyer, who came from behind in the final 300 meters, has the option of also competing in the 5-kilometer and 25-kilometer races. He won the world title at the longer distance in 2010.
Tables being turned?
While the Chinese dominated the world table tennis championships in Paris that ended Sunday, winning 14 of the 20 medals, their dynasty has begun to crumble. Chinese Taipei (i.e. Taiwan) ended China’s men’s doubles streak that dated from 1991, while North Korea ended its mixed doubles skein that began in 1989. The Americans, who last made the podium in 1959, didn’t come close . . . In the wake of last year’s Olympic match-dumping scandal involving eight Asian female doubles players, the international badminton federation went with an iconic Mr. Clean as its new president, electing Atlanta men’s champion Poul-Erik Hoyer of Denmark to succeed South Korea’s Kang Young Joong, who decided to step down after eight years. Hoyer, who promises to abolish match-rigging, is the only non-Asian player ever to win gold in any badminton event at the Games. Even before the election, the federation had changed the format for 2016, putting group runners-up into a new draw to prevent their finagling to get easier opponents . . . The Sochi organizers will unveil the medals for next winter’s Games at the end of the month. If recent history holds, they’ll be unique. Vancouver’s had an undulating surface, and Turin’s a hole in the middle (a.k.a. “the Olympic bagel”). Nagano’s had a lacquered surface in 1998, while Albertville’s was made of Lalique crystal. Committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko promises that the medals will have the “originality and distinctiveness of Russia.” Perhaps they’ll be shaped like a Fabergé egg.