COLOGNE, Germany – Even though Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson thinks the country’s seventh-place finish at the IIHF World Hockey Championship is “not acceptable,” he’s not laying the blame at the feet of general manager Mark Messier.
Nicholson was happy with Messier’s work in his first major executive assignment with the national team.
“I thought he put everything into this,” Nicholson said Saturday after a meeting with the IIHF Congress. “I certainly haven’t sat down and had a debrief with Mark, it’s not the time to do that (yet). I’m sure he’ll be the first to say that he learned a lot. I was really happy with how engaged he was and I felt disappointment for him—I know how emotional he was when we lost.
“That’s why you like having Mark Messier.”
Hockey Canada decided to give several young players the opportunity to come here with an eye on giving them some experience ahead of the 2014 Olympics. The team never quite got on track and was eliminated Thursday with a 5-2 loss to Russia in the quarter-finals.
It was Canada’s fourth loss in five games to finish the tournament, leaving them seventh—the country’s worst finish at this event since it was eighth in 1992.
One change the program will likely make for next year is playing two exhibition games before the start of the world championship in Slovakia. Canada only had one game ahead of this year’s tournament.
“I think those extra games are important,” said Nicholson. “We can’t make it too long, we’ve got to keep it sort of in a five-day window. We have to respect the players’ times at these camps.”
Canada has had a good run at the world championship, making the final in six of eight years since last losing a quarter-final game in 2002.
The tournament has proved to be a good training ground for Canadian players. Almost all of the guys who won Olympic gold in Vancouver had previously participated in this event.
Nicholson hopes the guys who experienced disappointment here will get a chance at redemption down the road.
“First of all, it’s not acceptable finishing seventh,” he said. “On the same hand, I’m really proud of the players. I think it was a big learning curve for everyone, all the staff and the players. I still like the players that we brought here. …
“When knew it was going to be tough with this tournament after the Olympics and hopefully this will help us in the future.”