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Hitchcock storms out of presser at Worlds…and I think we all need a time-out here

I blame this all on Charlie Sheen. It’s as if we’re all personally upset that we have to worry about Fukushima, or Bin Laden, bigotry in hockey or even Jeremy Roenick having a hissy fit about a former teammate—in the words of Chris Chelios, when Roenick insisted that Chelios and Wings coach Mike Babcock couldn’t stand each other during the 2008 Western Conference Finals against Chicago, “J.R.‘s being J.R.”—and we’ve really gotten to the point of the season where the players are weary, the media’s jet-lagged, over-worked full of frayed nerves and running out of ideas for the stories they’re required to pump out on an all-too-immediate basis (some of the questions in post-game press conferences are jaw-droppingly doofy these days, but I can’t blame ‘em), and it seems like before speaking, we all might as well count to ten because there isn’t a slight too simple not to be blown up like ice shavings in Jimmy Howard’s face.

Today’s hockey snipe-fest that you may not have known about came after Team Canada defeated Sweden 3-2 at the World Championships. Canadian captain Rick Nash may or may not have left his feet to hit Mikael Backlund, and when Swedish journalist and kinda-sorta-blowhard Leif Boork tried to get into a rhetorical fight with Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock after the game, what serves for fireworks these days ensued, as noted by the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston:

Hitchcock also displayed a fighting spirit during a heated post-game exchange with Leif Boork, a former Swedish national team coach who now writes a newspaper column. Boork felt Canadian captain Rick Nash delivered a blindside hit on Mikael Backlund late in the second period and Hitchcock didn’t agree with his assessment.

“I thought it was a good hit, you thought it was a bad hit, so ask another question — we’re not going to debate it,” Hitchcock said before walking out of the press conference.

Just like that, a tournament that had been off to a sleepy start felt like it had some intrigue. Next up for the Canadian team is a flight to Bratislava on Tuesday and a do-or-die game against the Russians at the Orange Arena on Thursday (TSN, 2:15 p.m. ET). Before then, they’ll learn if the IIHF wants to further discipline Nash for his huge open-ice hit on Backlund. The captain received a two-minute penalty for charging on the play and felt that it was sufficient punishment.

“I don’t know if I left my feet or what it was, but I might have a bit,” said Nash. “It’s tough to put people in that situation but he kind of just watched his pass and had his head down.”

Swedish coach Par Marts disagreed.

“I think the hit on Backlund should give him a game misconduct, it was a blindside hit,” he told reporters in Swedish. “I hope the IIHF disciplinary committee will review the hit.”

If you’re interested, Boork’s employer, Expressen, put the incident on its front page (be careful: as it’s a European tabloid newspaper at heart, some clicks might send you to pages that aren’t safe for North American work), and after Nash gave Mattias Ek the old, “I was finishing my check” line—or something similar to it, Ek reports that things got a little harrier than you’d think (and all of this is roughly translated):

Question: “Mr. Hitchcock, my name is Leif Boork, from Sweden. What did you think about Rick Nash’s check on Mikael Backlund?”

Ken Hitchcock: “It was a good check.”

Boork: “It was a hit the player couldn’t see [coming].”

Hitchcock: “I don’t think so.”

Boork: “I think so. Isn’t that a bad example for a team captain?”

Hitchock: “This is why you’re with the press and I’m a coach. I think it was a good check. You think it was a bad check. Next question. I’m not going to debate this.”

Boork: “Do you think that the disciplinary committee will look at the check?”

Hitchcock: “They can do whatever they want.”

Boork: “I think it sets a poor example when the team captain does that.”

Then Canada’s PR coordinator, Andre Brin, inserted himself into the duel and rebuked Boork.

Brin: “Are these questions or opinions, which one?” said Brin, sharply.

Boork: “Questions.

“What would [Hitchcock] have done if this happened to (Sidney) Crosby?”

Brin “Next question…No more questions from this gentleman.”

Boork: “So you’ll decide which questions I can ask?”

Brin: “I work for Team Canada. We’re done here. Thank you very much.”

Ken Hitchcock left his seat beside [team Sweden coach] Per Marts and left the press conference with the Canadian PR coordinator. A collection of stunned reporters had a story to write about before the World Championship playoffs start [on Tuesday].

Then Boork made the following statement to Expressen’s Ek and Lars Wiklund:

“It’s really unprofessional, you’d expect one of the world’s best hockey countries to be able to handle critical questions, but they apparently can’t.”

No word as to whether anybody stamped their feet and said, “I’m rubber and you’re glue,” nor was there much discussion about the actual hit after the Hitchcock-Boork exchange.

Hockey in May…Again, I blame this on Charlie Sheen.

And we all need a time-out, if not a nap or three, so that we can calm down and keep our focus on what happens on the ice, because that’s what matters.

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Comments

MsRedWinger's avatar

Interesting post.  I know that the Worlds are a big deal for the people involved and I have a Canadian friend for whom this tournament and the Olympics are way bigger than anything NHL.  But when the Wings are in the playoffs, I just can’t get into the Worlds.  Good for Hitchcock, though.  It did sound like the questioner was arguing more than asking questions.

Well, it’s Vancouver - just finished watching the game.  I am glad.  I really did not want to face the Nashville goon squad in the Western Conference Finals.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/10/11 at 01:08 AM ET

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The reporter forces a confrontation and then pretends like he’s innocent and just asking questions rather than inserting his opinion.  As for the Worlds - as a Canadian I can say that no one really cares about the tournament.  International tourneys that get big attention here are the Olympics and WJHC, that’s about it.  This one doesn’t showcase the best players and is head-to-head against the playoffs - silly timing for the so-called ‘Worlds’.  If Canada wins it’s a bonus but few people will even bother watching the gold medal game.

What annoys me about the reporter, besides the argumentative approach, is that he goes on the generalize his interpretation of Hitch’s reaction to all Canadians.  Sounds like a guy trying to force a situation to fit an opinion he already has.  Arrogant prick.

Posted by AlbertaHabFan on 05/10/11 at 01:51 AM ET

cainer4wingsglory's avatar

The Preds exposed the Nucks for sure. If you shut Kesler down, you will win the series. Luongo and the Sedins aren’t going to step up, that’s for sure…

Posted by cainer4wingsglory on 05/10/11 at 01:51 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Boork does that. He’s not exactly the Swedish Don Cherry, but he’s close—somewhere between Don Cherry and Jeremy Roenick. He’s usually in the headlines in Sweden for absolutely ripping into players for their performances or the lack thereof.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/10/11 at 03:15 AM ET

Andy from FightNight's avatar

Boork used to coach Norway. He wasn’t all that successful and made a lot of enemies by deciding that if you say no to one national team camp, you’re out, you’re not playing for him again.

Posted by Andy from FightNight on 05/10/11 at 04:43 AM ET

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He is also a former coach of the Swedish National Team and has been the head coach of various teams in the swedish elite league since the early eighties.

The questions were fair and deserved an answer. Mr. Hitchcock however acted like a little child and hardly gained any respect outside of Canada after

leaving the press conference with the tail between his legs.

We will see if Mr. Hitchcock’s view on such hits changes after the quarter final against Russia/Artyuchin.

The hit itself was a school book example of a blind side hit and is poor show from a Canadian captain. Especially since NHL started cracking down on such

behaviour. Hockey is a beautiful game because of skilled players, not because of the far less skilled and over-nurtured bullies.

Anyway, see you in the final.  wink

Posted by HockeySwede from Sweden on 05/10/11 at 09:39 AM ET

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Hockey is a beautiful game because of skilled players, not because of the far less skilled and over-nurtured bullies.

Nash is as skilled as you get.  The guy has the best hands for a guy his size since Lemieux.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 05/10/11 at 10:33 AM ET

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Nash is as skilled as you get.  The guy has the best hands for a guy his size since Lemieux.

I second that, but his flying hit from behind yesterday had very little to do with his skills as a hockey player. As a captain of a national team you are an ambassador for your country and you are to lead by example. Hes example from last night was a poor one.

I think such behaviour should be questioned and dealt with swiftly in order to preserve hockey as a skill oriented game rather than size oriented.

The amount of great players having to quit prematurely due to injuries caused by brutal tackles is far above acceptable levels and that’s a damn shame. Is there anyone who believes that Gretzky would have made it in today’s NHL? I seriously doubt it.

Players that uses hockey as an excuse to more or less assault people, should perhaps follow Brashear’s example and take up cage fighting instead, because he and they bring nothing to the game of hockey.

But as Mr. Boork more or less pointed out during the press conference last night, it might take a career ending hit on Sidney Crosby before people realize that.

Posted by HockeySwede from Sweden on 05/10/11 at 11:23 AM ET

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Posted by HockeySwede from Sweden on 05/10/11 at 07:39 AM ET

Welcome to Kuklas Korner Leif Boork.

Posted by NathanBC on 05/10/11 at 01:20 PM ET

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@hockeyswede:

most of what this guy said were not questions, they were this opinions. he clearly had a point of view and wanted that to be known. a report’s job is to ask questions and report the answers, not to voice his personal opinions. as such, leif was the one acting like a child, not hitch.

also, this guy was clearly not successful as a coach. otherwise he would still be coaching. while he may be known over in sweden, he has no relevance in the hockey world.

in terms of hitch’s biew changing after the quarters, i don’t understand what you mean. i don’t think the russians are going to physically dominate the canadians. you would know that if you’ve ever watched a canada vs. russia game.

also, it was a fair hit. hockey is a contact sport. if you guys over in europe want it to be non-contact, make such a league (i guess the khl and swedish elite league could be considered non-contact).

finally, i’ve noticed a trend over the past few years of swedish players, coaches and fans being very critical of canadian and american hockey. it may have something to do with our back-to-back wins over sweden in the world junior gold medal games (2008, 2009) or the fact that we won the olympic gold medal in 2010 and sweden failed miserably. whatever the cause, swedes need to start developing some better hockey players who can handle contact rather than criticizing canadian hockey.

i’d say “see you in the finals”, but you won’t make it

Posted by canadianhockeyfan72 from toronto on 05/10/11 at 04:26 PM ET

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@canadianhockeyfan72

Look, let’s not get into a “you guys over there” kind of discussion, we all share the same passion in hockey and let’s keep the focus on that.

Mr. Boork’s coaching career/international fame/interview skills does not interest me either, anybody could have asked those particular questions, the heart of the discussion is about where to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not.

My reference to the upcoming Russian game is mainly regarding one player (Artyuchin) and his style of play. He has injured a number of players during this tournament (as well as during his time in the NHL). He obviously has no class and should perhaps not be allowed to play. Let’s hope he does not injure any of your guys and in case that does happen, let’s hope that we don’t have to hear Mr. Hitchcock whine about “foul play”.

The Swedish Elite league is far from a “non-contact” league and if you had any clue you would not claim that it is. The trend is that it’s getting more and more physical with more severe injuries as a result (same as in every league, I suppose). Some people seem to want more blood these days but let’s not let these people turn hockey into a modern form of gladiatorial games.

So you beat us in the World Junior championships? Well congratulations, but does that also mean that swedes lost their right to have an opinion? I also find it to be a bit entertaining to hear someone from Toronto complaining about Sweden’s inability to produce good players….you serious? Do you know the history of the Leafs?

We too have a number of players that make a career out of their physical style of play (Doug Murray [Sharks], Niklas Kronwall [Red Wings] for instance) and that’s exactly my point. The game is changing and there is more and more emphasis put on the physical component in hockey and it is inevitable that it comes at the expense of playing skills and feel of the game.

The question is:

How much should we allow? What kind of game do we want? Is hockey to be played by American footballers in 10 years, or will there still be room for real hockey players?

Posted by HockeySwede from Sweden on 05/10/11 at 07:29 PM ET

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the fact that you have argued that toronto does not produce good hockey players because the leafs play in toronto demonstrates that you are clueless about hockey. the gta produces more nhl players than any other city in the world. the leafs have nothing to do with that. if you don’t understand the distinction you clearly don’t know hockey.

the fact is, it was a good hockey hit, which probably didn’t even deserve a penalty. if it wasn’t a good hockey hit the iihf would have suspended nash. its not like you can say the iihf favours canada and thats why it wasn’t a suspension.

and in terms of an “us vs. them thing”, you and that reporter clearly came from that point of view. i’m sick of swedes taking shots at canadian - or more generally north american - hockey. hockey is a contact sport. stop complaining about us - the best hockey country in the world - and start worrying about producing better hockey players. i understand that its easy to pick on those who are on the top, but its getting really old. please, enjoy the sport and stop complaining.

i didn’t bring up those world juniors to rub it in your face. i just have noticed that swedes have been very aggressive in their criticism of canadian hockey recently. the 2011 world junior tournament is a great example, where your coach made a fool of himself.

also, the swedish elite league is a back water league and the teams couldn’t play in the ahl. if Rickard Wallin can succeed in a league, its not a high-level league. \

finally, no one said that hockey should or will be played bey american football players. that is rediculous. hockey involves contact. nash’s hit was a body check. backlund or whoever he is should have kept his head up and not admired his pass. that is a problem many europeans have that must be fixed.

Posted by canadianhockey2010 from toronto on 05/11/11 at 04:43 AM ET

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@canadianhockey2010
Alright Mr. Humble, we became the Olympic champions (and World Champions) 2006 and if you have a look at the historical medal winners there is no team that stand out except the Soviets. To exclaim yourselves as “the best hockey country in the world” just shows that you are big headed and incredibly self-centered, nothing else. I mean how can someone that claims he loves the game of hockey have such little interest/knowledge of what is going on outside of the NHL?

Let’s take a step back and read what I said about Toronto once more, shall we?
I simply find it laughable to hear a Leaf fan complaining about the quality of Swedish players. Does Salming and Sundin ring a bell? Theyre both *#$%@& legends. Nobody has scored more goals/points in a Leaf jersey than Sundin and he did it while wearing the ‘C’ as the first foreign player ever.

To round of the actual discussion:

Overly physical hockey versus a more technical hockey are basically flavors of the same thing, you either like the former or the latter.
I just think it sucks that hockey is becoming more violent at the expense of quality, and NHL is apparently seeing it the same way.

Posted by HockeySwede from Sweden on 05/11/11 at 07:31 AM ET

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the soviets have the most medals because all of the good canadian and american players were in the nhl and unable to play in olympics and world championships. obviously the best soviets were going to be successful against college kids. the ussr/russia has not won a “best-on-best tournament” (canada cups, world cups, 1998-2010 olympics) since 1981. just wanted to point that out.

as for the discussion at hand, you began by criticizing hitchcock and rick nash, and sticking up for the reporter. i think you are wrong. the reporter was stating his point of view - he didn’t care what the answer was. press conferences are not a forum for reporters to voice their points of view, but to ask questions. 

in terms of the hit, it was clean. while i agree that hockey should punish hits to the head, that was not a hit to the head. that was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. like i’ve said, hockey is a contact sport, despite the fact that many europeans would prefer it wasn’t. the player should have kept his head up. if he did, he wouldn’t have been hit so hard.

Posted by canadianhockey72 from TO on 05/11/11 at 01:52 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.