Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Russia's Hopes Dashed with Khabibulin's Needed Vacation

One of the hardest working goaltenders in the NHL, Nikolai Khabibulin, has decided not to attend the World Cup games this year as reported in the The Hockey News and seen in other sites such as National Hockey League Official Site. This would lead you to believe that he needs time off from winning the Stanley Cup in 7 games and needs more time to prepare.
However, TSN's NHL Network has a more in-depth write up as to why the "Boulin Wall" decided to no-show.
"We have no chance of winning based on the current situation surrounding the preparation of our national team," the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender told Sport-Express. "I have already had a similar experience before the 1996 World Cup when there was total chaos in our organization."
He's right. The Russians have really fallen from hockey graces in international play. They were used to dominating everybody in the 70's and 80's, but since communism fell, the program hasn't gotten over the slump with the surging of Czechoslovakian, Swedes, Fins, and even Americans. The furthest I remember them finishing was placing 3rd at the 2002 World Cup Tournament.

Russia was also hoping that San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov would carry the team, but is recovering from recent knee surgery this spring. That leaves Russia with Sokolov, a Russian league player, in charge for the World Cup games.
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