The world's greatest hockey players are preparing for battle in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The eight-team tournament will feature the top superstars from the NHL, playing for their countries. Kidzworld takes a look at the rosters, schedule and teams to watch at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Who, When and Where
The 2004 World Cup of Hockey tournament schedule runs from August 30, 2004 until September 14, 2004. The eight teams playing for the title are grouped into two divisions. Canada, the United States, Russia and Slovakia will play in one division, while the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden will be grouped together in a European Division. Games will be played in seven different cities, with the Championship Final Game played on September 14th in Toronto, Canada.
Top Teams To Watch
Canada - Canada will be the favorite to win the World Cup. Canada will have the advantage of playing all of their games on home ice and they won the 2002 Olympic gold medal - the last major hockey tournament involving top NHL players. Canada has an outstanding lineup of forwards including Martin St. Louis, Jarome Iginla and Mario Lemieux - but will be without several of their top defencemen, such as Chris Pronger and Rob Blake.
Czech Republic - The Czechs have a strong team of talented, smooth skating forwards including Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Milan Hejduk. They will have no problem scoring goals but their defence is suspect and may give up lots of good scoring chances.
Sweden - Sweden has a very disciplined team that has a great chance to win the World Cup. The team probably has the tournament's best lineup of defencemen, which includes NHL All-Stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Mattias Ohlund. Sweden's big weakness is their goaltending which is made up of NHL backups Tommy Salo and Mikael Tellqvist.
United States - The United States is the defending champion of the first World Cup of Hockey played in 1996 and has the advantage of playing all of their games, leading up to the final, on home ice. But, the team has a shortage of true superstars, especially on defence, and their goaltending is unproven.
2004 World Cup of Hockey - The Underdogs
Finland - Finland has a great goalie with Mikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames - but after that, the talent pool really goes downhill. If Mikka can work some magic like he did during Calgary's 2004 playoff run, Finland could pull off a big surprise.
Germany - Germany has about as much chance of winning the World Cup of Hockey as Britney Spears has of winning a Nobel Prize for Physics. The team is made up mostly of players from European leagues and a handful of NHL third-liners.
Russia - Russia would usually be a favorite to win the World Cup of Hockey but many of their country's top players have boycotted the tournament because they think head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov is a major chump. Several superstars including goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin, and forwards Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov will not be playing for Russia.
Slovakia - Slovakia has made big strides in hockey over the last few years and have produced several NHL superstars, including Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa. But the team isn't quite deep enough to win the whole thing and the team's goaltending is a big question mark.
Who do you think's gonna win the 2004 World Cup of Hockey? your World Cup of Hockey predictions.
For more info on the team rosters and schedule for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, head to www.wch2004.com.