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Bettman: WJC, NHL Network a perfect fit

Monday, 01.05.2009 / 8:45 PM / 2009 World Junior Championship

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

OTTAWA -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand at Scotiabank Place to watch the gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden on Monday night.

While Bettman was happy to watch the game in person, he's just as glad that fans in the United States have been able to watch a number of the games at the 2009 World Junior Championship on the NHL Network.

"This is a wonderful tournament because so many of our players have played in this tournament and so many of the great young stars that are going to be coming into the game are going to be on display here," Bettman told NHL.com. "So to give our fans through the NHL Network an opportunity to see the future of the game we think is yet another wonderful thing the Network can do."

Also on Bettman's agenda was a meeting with International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel regarding a new transfer agreement. NHL Players' Association president Paul Kelly also was involved in the discussions. While no real headway was made, Bettman said he's happy that at least talks are being held.

"We're having an ongoing dialogue," said Bettman. "The fact is we're having a dialogue, and as long as we're talking, that's a good thing."

Bettman also commented on the success of the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 at Chicago's Wrigley Field. While there was no timeline to announce where the 2010 game will be held, he said it's not far down on his to-do list.

"We'll begin the process in the next few weeks of looking at all the alternatives," he said, "and there's no shortage (of possibilities)."

All-star performers -- With the gold medal comes the glory of being named to the 2009 World Junior Championship all-star team. Canada placed three players on the squad -- forwards John Tavares and Cody Hodgson, and defenseman P.K. Subban.

Hodgson's three-point night gave him a tournament-high 16 points, one more than Tavares, who led the tournament with 8 goals. Subban led all defensemen in scoring with 9 points and he was a tournament-best plus-12.

Joining them were Russia forward Nikita Filatov, Sweden defenseman Erik Karlsson and Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Janus.

Tavares was named the tournament's best forward and Most Valuable Player. Sweden goalie Jacob Markstrom was named the outstanding goaltender, and Karlsson was named the outstanding defenseman.

Captain Canada -- Every player wearing the home sweater felt proud, but for Thomas Hickey, winning the gold medal Monday night had a deeper meaning for him.

As team captain, he was the face of the drive for a fifth straight World Juniors gold.

"It means a ton," he said of being captain. "To be one of the guys recognized as one of the 22 guys that play their butts off every single night is pretty special. We had a lot of guys that stepped up and led along the way that made my job easier. I'm just thankful to be the face of that."

The Mighty Quinn -- Pat Quinn seems to have found a new life as a junior coach.

After guiding Canada to the gold medal in June at the World Under-18 Championship, he earned World Junior gold Monday night.

Quinn came to this team as a replacement for Benoit Groulx, who left the team in September to coach the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

At first unsure he really wanted the job, Quinn now says he's available anytime Hockey Canada needs him.

"If they ask me, I'll go any place," he said. "If Team Canada needs me, I'm there to do it. I feel very lucky to be asked to fill in this situation. The coaching staff they put together was awesome. They were so good. … Our coaching staff (assistant coaches Willie Desjardins, Dave Cameron and Guy Boucher) was terrific. And hopefully they learned something from me. That could be the best thing to come out of this.

"If they (Hockey Canada) ever ask me for anything, I've said this before -- I'll carry the bags if I have to."

Special guest -- Dana Tyrell was supposed to play a big role for Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championship, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a pre-tournament exhibition game.

Tyrell was a surprise visitor to the locker room before the game, providing another bit of encouragement.

"He's a huge friend of mine and he's from Airdrie (Alberta)," said Zach Boychuk, also an Airdrie native. "I've been talking to him pretty much every night after every game because he's such a huge part of this team. He got the ball rolling with us in the exhibitions; I'm sure everyone saw that hit on (Sweden defenseman Victor) Hedman. Our confidence boosted from that. To see him back here, get a gold medal and feel a part of the team again was phenomenal.

"This is a wonderful tournament because so many of our players have played in this tournament and so many of the great young stars that are going to be coming into the game are going to be on display here. So to give our fans through the NHL Network an opportunity to see the future of the game we think is yet another wonderful thing the Network can do." -- Gary Bettman
"Everyone was pitching for him to come. We wanted him to come because he's such a big part of the team. I saw him at the meeting we had right before we came to the rink. I walked in the door and he was there and I shook his hand. Just a great feeling to have my buddy there with me."

Rough treatment -- As the gold-medal game wore on, Canada's physical play caused a few of the Sweden players to lose composure. Goalie Jacob Markstrom flopped a few times after being bumped, and defenseman Victor Hedman tackled and punched Angelo Esposito after a collision with Markstrom.

For most of the night, Markstrom and Hedman were booed every time they touched the puck.

Markstrom said the crowd didn't affect him.

"I'm not here to make friends, so it really doesn't matter," Markstrom said of the fans. "I'm here to win the gold."

Special words -- Canada got a visit from Red Wings Vice President Steve Yzerman after Monday morning's practice.

Yzerman, who played on the 1983 World Junior team that won bronze in Leningrad, said he's been very impressed by this year's team.

"They play extremely hard and extremely disciplined," said Yzerman. "Particularly the Russia game was a difficult one to play. You're playing extremely well and you just can't shake this team. Russia got that lead in the third and for the kids to stick with it, I was very impressed."

Canada coach Pat Quinn said there wasn't a better choice to talk to his team than a player who has won at every level of hockey.

"Our tradition in Canadian hockey is so deep, that we could ask lots of people to speak about their experience," said Quinn. "He's been a winner, a gold-medal winner, a competitor, he's been on the bad side of it. I don't know if there's a better person to visit with our guys for a couple of minutes."

Yzerman also is the GM for Canada's 2010 Olympic hockey team, and with 13 months until the opening ceremony in Vancouver, he said things were progressing nicely for him.

"For us it's really just watching players right now," he told NHL.com. "We've kind of identified a group that of potential guys that have a good opportunity to make it, and then there's a couple guys that will play their way on it or through injuries or whatnot drop off of it."

Yzerman said the plan is to announce an orientation-camp roster in late June and hold the camp at the end of August. He added the team would be announced in late December.

He's also working on picking a coaching staff, and said just like he and his staff is researching possible players, he's doing the same with coaches.

"We've kind of identified a group that of potential guys that have a good opportunity to make it, and then there's a couple guys that will play their way on it or through injuries or whatnot drop off of it." -- Red Wings Vice President Steve Yzerman
"We're planning our training camp and doing our research and getting to know all the different coaches and assistant coaches. We're working on making sure we fully understand the guys and what they can bring to the table. Like we pick the team, we'll pick the coaching staff."

Yzerman said he hopes to name a coach after the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Junior memories -- Sidney Crosby knows just what the players were going through as they got ready for the 2009 World Junior Championship gold-medal game.

Crosby played on the 2005 team that started the current run of consecutive gold medals Canada was hoping to extend to five Monday night.

"When we won was a pretty awesome experience for me," the Penguins captain told NHL.com. "We were on the losing end the year before so it felt pretty good."

Crosby also was one of the millions paying attention to Saturday's remarkable semifinal between Canada and Russia.

"It was a great game, obviously being Canadian instead of Russian," said Crosby. "It was a fun game to watch, a lot of excitement."

Crosby's Penguins was busy playing at the Rangers on Monday, but he did take time to predict a winner in Ottawa.
 
"Canada's got a great team, but I watched Sweden and they have a great team, too," he said. "I don't know who's going to win, but I have to go with Canada obviously being Canadian. I still think it's going to be a pretty tight game."

Next year in Saskatchewan -- Members of the organizing committee for the 2010 World Junior Championship, to be held in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, have been on hand, learning from the success of this year's event in Ottawa.

Among the group is Jack Brodsky, owner/governor of the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades and the president of the 2010 organizing committee.

Brodsky has seen this year's event in Ottawa draw more fans than any other in the 32 years of the under-20 tournament.

"We're up to the task," he said prior to Monday's games. "We're taking the lessons from this back to Saskatchewan."

Contact Adam Kimelman at: akimelman@nhl.com.



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