World championships come home but is anyone there?

Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:33am EDT
 
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The hockey world championships return to the sport's birthplace and spiritual home this week when Canada hosts the tournament for the first time.

But in a country where the midget championships attracted more television viewers than last weekend's Spanish F1 Grand Prix, it is uncertain if the May 2-18 competition can capture the attention of Canadians in the grips of Stanley Cup fever.

Due to the conflict with the NHL playoffs, the world championships have received only passing interest in Canada, who has won more world titles (24) than any other country but never hosted the competition.

As part of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) centenary celebrations, however, the decision was made to give Canada its marquee event with Hockey Canada officials relishing the opportunity.

With the 2010 Olympics on the horizon the timing could not be better for Hockey Canada, who have made no secret they expect the championships to provide players and coaches with a taste of the pressure that awaits them in Vancouver.

The results will also impact the 2010 Games directly with the final rankings after the championships determining the seedings for Vancouver.

Canada is currently third behind Sweden and Finland.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS   Continued...

 
<p>Canada's goalie Pascal Leclaire (R) concedes a goal to Russia's Fedor Fedorov during the second period of their exhibition game at the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championships in Quebec City, April 28, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>