Ice hockey: Canada, Sweden primed for final passion play

Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:49am EST
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By Steve Keating

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A Canada v Sweden clash for the Olympic men's ice hockey gold medal may not deliver the show-stopping finish to the Sochi Winter Games the host Russians could have provided but Sunday's final might yet prove a worthy ending.

The pre-Olympic script had called for a more traditional and historic matchup to decide the last medal of the Games, with Russia meeting old rivals Canada or the United States in the finale.

But that possibility ended with Russia's shock quarter-final exit and unbeaten Sweden and defending champions Canada will contest the gold medal.

Although the Swedes and the Canadians cannot claim a classic rivalry, their ice hockey pedigrees are undisputable, producing some of the world's top talent.

The two countries are equally passionate about the sport and from Saskatoon to Stockholm people will stop on Sunday to gather around televisions and watch the drama unfold.

In Canada, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper has found time to write a hockey novel in between taking care of the country's business, bars will open their doors in the early hours as they bow to a national obsession.

"It's such an honor to have an opportunity to coach these teams, and you have to take your responsibility to your country and to hockey very seriously," Canadian coach Mike Babcock told reporters.

"Having said that, and people don't ever believe me, but you have to line up the moon and skies to win.   Continued...

Sweden men's ice team gathers for a cheer at the end of a practice session at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 22, 2014, ahead of their gold medal game against Canada on February 23. REUTERS/Brian Snyder