Russia’s Christmas present

From Buffalo to Toronto to Moscow, journalists are stunned


Newspaper front pages were filled with the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship in Buffalo.

ZURICH – For Russia, it was a fairy tale on Russian-Orthodox Christmas Eve; for Canada, one of the most painful collapses in a gold-medal game.’s Martin Merk takes a look what the media wrote on both sides of the ocean.

In Canada, the front pages were full of photos displaying disappointed Canadians, sometimes happy Russians, and melancholic headers.

Our period of discontent. With five goals on 10 shots, Russia makes a stunning comeback and delivers a numbing blow to the Canadian psyche. Team Canada’s monumental, third-period collapse hands gold to Russians, serves as a kick in the teeth for an entire nation.
The Globe and Mail

From Gold to Groan. Last night, Canada settled for silver at the world junior hockey championship for the second consecutive year with a crushing 5-3 loss to Russia at the HSBC Arena. It was not just a loss; it was a collapse the likes of which Canada might never have seen. And when it was over, the Russians celebrated with the pure joy of youth. Canada’s players looked hollowed to the core. This will haunt a lot of dreams, for a long time. [...] In the Canadian locker room during this tournament there was a quote from former Red Army player Alexander Yakushev, reflecting on the 1972 Summit Series. In part, it says, “We would have loved for this series to end in a tie. It would be fair for us and for Canadians. But that goal proves how Canadians have that special quality. They fight until that last second. They push until they get what they want.” Last night, those words could be applied to the Russians. My, how the world has changed.
National Post

Cold War Meltdown. One last time they poured across the longest undefended border in the world with passports in hand, some wrapped in flags, others dressed as Mounties, all expecting a coronation. Instead, they witnessed the greatest meltdown in the long, proud history of the Canadian national program. There have been shocking defeats before. Canada lost to Kazakhstan one year. Twice in the decade, Canadian teams have been beaten on home soil in the gold-medal game. But this? This was something else entirely. Something hard to describe. Or explain. [...] The  goaltending of Mark Visentin will surely be blamed, and he didn’t make any saves of consequence when it mattered. But what was truly stunning was how his teammates completely lost their bearings after appearing focused, poised and machine-like for two periods.
Toronto Star

Golden Egg. 20 minutes from celebration, Canadian juniors, fans instead witness historic collapse. It was only 20 minutes from being one of the greatest ever Canadian sporting moments. It ended up being one of its most disappointing. [...] You can imagine what it was like for the nail-biting, gold medal tilt between Canada and Russia. Poised for Canada to add to its hockey record book, the Russians had another idea. When Russia and Canada play hockey, it’s usually a classic. Count this as one of them. To say the people in the stands had their hearts in their mouths was an understatement. This was the hottest ticket in all of sports Wednesday.
Toronto Sun

There where it hurts. Canada let go a 3-0 lead in the third period – and the gold medal. Russian players, who come to North America, are, with a few exceptions, often accused of lacking heart and playing too selfishly. Yesterday, the Russians enjoyed their total revenge. Canada was in full control of the situation, leading 3-0 after the first two periods. But the young Russians sowed consternation in Buffalo, coming back as irresistibly as improbably by scoring five goals in the last period.
La Presse

Also the local Buffalo News reporters conveyed shock about the outcome of what was expected to become a Canadian party.

We’ll never completely understand Canada’s obsession with hockey because the United States doesn’t have one sport that captures our attention to quite the same degree. They don’t simply love the game in Canada. They live for the game in Canada. If there was anything unique about the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship, it’s that never before had so many fans from another country taken over an arena for so many days, made so much noise, been so happy and left so sad. [...] For 40 minutes, it was more of a coronation than a contest. Then it turned into one of the biggest chokes in hockey history, maybe the worst single-game collapse our neighbors to the north have ever seen in any sport.
Buffalo News

Russian press stood still after the World U20 Championship. Not because the workers were celebrating the event too much, but because of the Russian Christmas. On the internet, however, it was a different story.

The junior national team showed the veterans how to play against Canadians. The game didn’t start according to our scenario. Russia was trailing 3-0 after two periods. But in the third period a miracle happened. The puck started flying into the Canadian net, one after another.
Komsomolskaya Pravda

Champion! Going into the final 20 minutes with a 3-0 deficit, our outstanding team had a miraculous comeback. The Canadians knew that their opponents have character. But knowing is one thing, feeling something quite different. The Russians demonstrated their will and skill on the opponent. On the ice, there was only one team (in the third period). [...] The final buzzer marked the beginning of the Russian celebrations. The palace was half empty after the fifth goal, but those spectators that remained applauded the new champion.

Russia – World Champion! In the two previous games of the tournament, our team has already showed fantastic “salvations.” The games against Finland and Sweden proved that each of these guys has character. But what Bragin’s wards created in the final is beyond imagination.
Sovietski Sport

Legend. Can you imagine what it means to play hockey against its inventors, on their rinks, with their audience? It may take many years, but those who did not sleep that night, who saw all this with their own eyes, will forever remember having witnessed legends. For a long time we haven’t seen a performance from our kids like that. And then – three (comeback wins) in a row.

Congratulations to our junior hockey national team for winning the world championship. Well done!
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on his Twitter account





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