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Canada: 7-time World Champions!

Canada: 7-time World Champions!

Is there any question which country is the first nation of hockey? In the last 32 years, there have been ten real World Hockey Championships: the 1972 Summit Series, five Canada Cups, two World Cups, and two professional Olympics.

Canada did not disappoint in the 2004 World Cup, going 6-0, and outscoring its opponents 22-8. Anything less would prompt national soul-searching and a Royal Commission. The final game was an anti-climactic win over Finland (yes, let's make a crappy movie called Miracle about this one) but the result was thrilling nonetheless.

Contrast this to basketball, a sport with international appeal that the US was arguably as dominant in as Canada is in hockey. While Canada got its first scare in 1972, the first time it played Russian professionals, Team USA mowed down its Olympic opponents in 1992. But the rest of the world is catching up, while the best American players don't seem to even care about playing. Indeed, the United States is not even the World Champion in basketball anymore. Will the US field the best possible team in the next Olympics? Will it rise to the challenge posed by no longer being the best?

Enough about Basketball already!

So what's going to happen to the NHL this season? Is this the last hockey we'll see for months? Years? It looks like the CBA will expire and the NHL players will be locked out. The two sides have some intractable problems to solve -- not quite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but as close as you'll get in pro sports.

In a nutshell, the owners made a mistake -- they expanded to markets that couldn't care less about hockey, and they signed players to contracts that anticipated huge future revenues. In order to close the negotiation gap, the owners want a path to profitability, which is possible only if the players agree to play for less, which is crazy! There's no likelihood of scab players filling the NHL jobs, so the league will grind to a halt this week. Perhaps some players will play in Europe. Perhaps the WHA will benefit. Who knows? Will anyone be around to care about hockey when they settle the strike? I'm already looking forward to December's World Junior Hockey Championship. All the best to the players and to management...

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