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MICHAEL BARNETT'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP DIARY #5

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

The ice surface on an international sheet of ice is much larger than the one we play on in the NHL. Despite that fact, the game is still a game of inches and Canada's defeat at the hands of Sweden by a 5-4 score, was that close. A couple of goals from bad bounces put us down 5-2 after only 24 minutes of action. From that point on, Canada inched its way back, out-shooting the Olympic Gold champions 24-13. With the score 5-4, Canada nearly completed its comeback in the last two minutes but Sweden held on and will now go on to the Gold medal game tomorrow against the Czech Republic.

Two Coyotes had strong performances...Mike Comrie scoring a big goal for Canada, and Zbynek Michalek logging his customary 25 minutes on the Czechs top defensive pairing. In the Czechs win over Finland, it seemed that Zbynek and his partner Tomas Kaberle never left the ice!

As I mentioned in one of my earlier reports from here in Riga, the top 5-6 countries attend these World Championships with only one goal...bringing home the gold medal. Anything less is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet there is only one gold medal team. So tomorrow, Canada and Finland will both play in a game for the bronze medal in this year's tournament. It is a game that neither team is enthusiastic to play.

In the NHL playoffs, which are the equivalent of the semi-finals of the World Championships, when you lose you go home and you get to watch the winner move on. Here in Riga, the Swedes and the Czechs will play for the Gold. The atmosphere will be electric. The teams will play with desperation. It's everything you want in a championship game concluding a long, exhausting tournament.

Just hours before that game Canada will play Finland for the Bronze medal. The arena will not be full, the atmosphere will be tranquil and players will be trying to win the game without sustaining an injury that cuts into their off-season.

So how do you eliminate this type of game when it can best be described as a "let-down game"? For three weeks all the countries try to stay in medal contention. The intensity and quality of play ramps up each week until you finally get to where there are only four countries remaining from the sixteen that started the competition. When the final four play off to get down to two for the Gold medal game, there is an overall feeling of electricity that carries through the hotels, restaurants, bars and streets of the host city. But before that game, everyone must witness a game that just doesn't add in any fashion to the excitement of the final 24 hours of the World Championships.

Naturally there is revenue generated by the Bronze medal game that assists the International Ice Hockey Federation and the host city in the splendid way in which they look after all of the teams competing. First class accommodations, meals, transportation, all are trademarks of the Men's World Hockey Championships. To do it in that manner requires selling the event at many levels, including gate receipts.

With those needs in mind, I'd nevertheless like to see the Bronze medal game eliminated. Let the Bronze medal go to the team that prevailed in head-to-head competition earlier in the tournament or some other criteria if they didn't meet earlier.

For example, Canada defeated Finland in one of the crossover games before both teams advanced to the semi-finals. And now since both teams lost in their Gold medal game qualifiers, just award the bronze to the victor of that earlier game.

To offset the loss of revenue, simply increase the price of the Gold medal game, whether it is ticket pricing, television rights or sponsorships. Less would be more. Good-bye anti-climactic game just hours before the Gold medal game. And hello to the same premise we use in the NHL "Lose and you're done". The players prefer it that way; the fans feel the finality just around the corner and the build up continues uninterrupted to the eventual championship presentation.

It likely won't happen, but if you ask anyone close to the Bronze medal game, they'll tell you that they don't really enjoy seeing their country play in a game featuring the "two losers", regardless of how you got there.

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