One of hockey’s best rivalries will be on display tonight at Mile One Centre when Canada takes on the United States to open the 4 Nations Cup women’s hockey championship.
It’s the first major event for the Canadian women’s team since the February Olympics, when Canada shut down the U.S. 2-0 in the gold-medal game before a frenzied, flag-waving capacity crowd at Vancouver’s Canada Hockey Place.
Since it was introduced in 1996, Canada has dominated the 4 Nations Cup - which also includes Sweden and Finland – winning 11 of 14 championships.
Canada beat the States 5-1 in last year’s final held in Finland.
Mention rivalries and hockey and no doubt Canada-Russia will come up in the conversation. And Crosby vs Ovechkin. Probably the Leafs and Canadiens.
Lately, though, the Yanks and Canucks have developed quite a heated rivalry, highlighted with last winter’s classic Olympic final when Crosby and the Canadians beat Ryan Miller and the Americans in overtime for the gold medal.
Of course, the Canadian and American women have been knocking heads for years, “one of the best rivalries in sport, male or female,” then-Canadian coach Melody Davidson said following the win.
So needless to say, this one never gets old.
“No way, not a chance,” said Canada’s Rebecca Johnston Sunday evening at The Glacier in Mount Pearl, after Canada had just dropped a 5-4 game to the St. John’s Privateers major midget squad in a 4 Nations Cup warmup.
“It’s always exciting to play the U.S. Everyone in this room loves to play the Americans because every time we play, it’s always a great game.
“If we could, we’d play them another 20 games.”
Thirteen players who won gold in Vancouver are back with the Canadian side, including captain Hayley Wickenheiser – the face of women’s hockey in these parts – and Jayna Hefford, the only two players to skate in all four Olympic Games that have included women’s hockey (1998 in Nagano, 2002 in Salt Lake City, 2006 in Torino and 2010).
As for the Americans, 12 players from Vancouver return to the stars and stripes, including veterans Julie Chu and Jenny Potter, and the highly-touted Lamoureux twins, Monique and Jocelyne. Though she won gold in Vancouver, Johnston may be considered part of the new breed of Canadian female players.
Just 21, she’s also a member of the national under-22 team.
“I guess I might be older blood,” smiled the product of Sudbury, Ont., “now that I’ve been here a year.
“I’m feeling comfortable here, and I’m way past the part of looking around in awe of everything.”
Johnston is attending Cornell University, where she was the ECAC rookie of the year in her freshman season. Two years ago, she was a finalist for the Patty Kazmier Award, which goes to U.S. college hockey’s best female player.
Johnston took a break from classes last season, and moved to Calgary where she trained with the Olympic team.
“So it’s taken quite an adjustment getting back to school, hitting the books, trying to get good marks,” she said.
For two years at Cornell, Johnston shared the same rink as Colin Greening of the Big Red men’s team. Greening, a rookie pro with the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators this year, hails from St. John’s.
But that isn’t Johnston’s only Newfoundland connection.
Her mother, Colleen, was born in the city. Rebecca’s grandfather, Ernie Myrick, was born and raised at the lighthouse in Cape Race, later moving to St. John’s.
He eventually relocated to Halifax with his family, and later Calgary where he now resides.
“It’s my first time here,” said Johnston, “and it’s very exciting.”
Drop of the puck tonight is 7:30 p.m.
Single-game tickets for the 4 Nations Cup range in price from $10 to $25 to $75 for all six games at Mile One.
A two-game package for games at the Clarenville Events Centre (Finland vs Sweden 7 o’clock tonight, and Canada and the Swedes 7 p.m. Wednesday) is available for $35. Ticket prices do not include service fees.