- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

The picture taken moments after the IIHF World Junior Championships ended Tuesday night in frigid Grand Forks, N.D., spoke volumes about what just had happened.

To the right was Sidney Crosby, one of the stars of the victorious Canadian team and the probable No.1 overall pick if there is an NHL draft this year. To the left was Alexander Ovechkin, whom the Washington Capitals chose No.1 overall in June, wearing his Team Russia sweater. They appeared to be exchanging pleasantries.

But Ovechkin’s right arm hung motionless; he used his left hand to grasp Crosby’s right. And therein was much of the difference in the end result: The Canadians fielded perhaps the best team in the history of the tournament, while the Russians lacked the depth to overcome injuries.

Maybe that’s a continuation of the curse that seems to surround the Caps these days. Two of their best picks during the last draft, Ovechkin and wing Chris Bourque, were injured in the tournament and failed to finish. Ovechkin was crunched in the second period of the title game, while Bourque was hurt during Team USA’s unbelievable upset by Belarus, the only win by that country.

Bourque, a freshman at Boston University, sustained a knee injury that probably will keep him out of action until the end of the month. He does not require surgery and plans to take part in the Terriers’ stretch drive.

Ovechkin is another matter. He hurt his shoulder early in the middle period and tried to skate a few more times but could not compete. The Russian team captain sat at the end of the bench for the third period dressed in a team sweater, sweatpants and shower clogs. His team trailed 2-1 when he was hurt; the Russians lost 6-1.

The degree of injury to Ovechkin’s shoulder is not known. Russian coach Sergei Gersonskiy said immediately after the game the left wing would need surgery, but that assessment was being re-evaluated yesterday. Ovechkin was en route to the Russian capital, where the Dynamo Moscow team physician will examine the 19-year-old before a decision is made on treatment.

Ovechkin’s reputation is that of a committed team player, a tough competitor and outgoing individual who has been a leader throughout his brief career. He showed Tuesday night he was also something of a diplomat.

“Congratulations to Team Canada,” he said in understandable English. “I think the Canadian people must be proud of this team. We started well, but then the Canadians started hitting, and we were not in the rest of the game.”

Wrote Mike Vogel, who was covering the tournament for the Caps’ Web site (www.washingtoncaps.com): “Just over a minute into the [second] period, Ovechkin unwisely attempted to carve his way through three converging Canadians at the Team Canada blue line. He was crunched simultaneously by all three. He then winced and waved to the bench for a replacement.”

Vogel said the wing made a few attempts to return but retired for good about 13 minutes into the second.

Ovechkin also proved his worth, making the all-tournament team and getting selected as the best forward in the two-week event.

The Americans, the defending champions, finished a disappointing fourth while utilizing a defense that was disorganized and undisciplined. The Americans would do well to follow the Canadians’ example by allowing talent and not political infighting to determine team rosters.

A gentleman departs — Bud Poile was 80 when he died Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, and with his passing hockey lost one of its true gentlemen.

Poile played in 311 NHL games with five of the six pre-expansion teams (he couldn’t speak French, so Montreal was out). He also was a coach in the old Western Hockey League, the first general manager of the Flyers in 1966 and of the Canucks four years later and he spent his last 14 years as commissioner of the Central Hockey League and later the International Hockey League. Poile’s playing career was interrupted by active service with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.

He was firm but understanding while governing as a commissioner, bringing some civility to two rough minor leagues. He was rewarded (as was son David, the Caps’ general manager for 15 seasons) with the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.

“He was a tremendous person and an example of class and dignity,” said Jack Diller, president of the Nashville Predators, for whom David Poile serves as general manager.

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