Canada - Russia: Duel of the giants on ice
The history of collective sports is shaped by prestigious encounters between the best teams in the world. Ice hockey is no exception to this rule. Often these matches are fierce encounters, and each team has its own choice rivals. Swedes, Finns, Czechs, Americans, Slovaks and Swiss are among the big names found at each major competition in the final rounds, where the medals are won and legends are created. In the world of the puck, two nations have really stood out for fans worldwide: Russia and Canada, lands where ice hockey is king and which have given birth to some of the greatest players of all time.
14 titles in all
The Olympic ice hockey tournament was first dominated by the Canadian teams, with six titles from the first eight editions. From the Cortina d’Ampezzo Games in 1956, it was the Soviet newcomers who imposed their style and game on the Olympic rinks, winning seven titles out of nine editions. At the Albertville Games in 1992, the Unified team won in the final against the Canadians.
Stick against stick in the world finals
Though the Russians have not yet taken Olympic gold, they have, on the other hand, won the last two World Championships staged in 2008 and 2009. Each time, Slava Bykov’s team have disposed of the Canadians - with a score of 5-4 after extra time in 2008 on Canadian ice, then with a score of 2-1 in 2009. As for the Canadians, they won the 2007 edition staged in Moscow. The two teams occupy the first two places in the ranking of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
Crosby - Ovechkin, ones to follow
In Vancouver in a few days, the first round games look promising. These will be USA-Canada, Sweden-Finland and Russia against its former Slovak and Czech brothers. The semi-finals could book us a new duel at the top between the Russians and the Canadians, and maybe even a final if they remain unbeaten in their respective groups. Two squads made up of talented players in the well oiled team game. And each side has two major, albeit young, stars: Sydney Crosby (22) and Alexander Ovechkin (24), a centre and a winger capable of exceptional moves who can change the outcome of the game at any moment.
Having a footballer father and double Olympic basketball champion mother gave Ovechkin the taste for success very early on. From the age of 16, he played for the Russian national teams and already had seven international medals to his name, including two golds won on Canadian soil. From the age of seven, Sydney Crosby was in the limelight, racking up achievements, records and awards in all the leagues. A junior team captain of Canada and alternate captain in the World Championships, it remains only for him to shine at the Olympic Games.
More than simply opposition on the ice, it is an opposition of style and temperament between these two fantastic players, who symbolise the new face of world hockey and the clash of the two favourite teams in Vancouver.