The 8th annual Hockey night in Vegas faced off day one at this years Interbike at the Slap Shot Skate Centre and the largest crowd to date was buzzing with excitement as Team USA and Team Canada took to the ice. The coveted, and somewhat mythical Shimano Cup was up for grabs along, of course, with ice supremacy bragging rights. Both teams unveiled a secret weapon for the tourney- Canada unleashed NHL alumni, Jeff Bandara,(Flash 5) and Team USA had NHL alumni “Mika from Finland”. The Canucks, in their swanky Louis Garneau Team Jerseys, jumped to an early lead over the US rippling the net twice without answer before the end of the first period. But things evened up by the second period with back to back goals from the US.
Things were tight going into the third but Team Canada showed no mercy and stomped to a 6-3 win over the USA. According to USA Team leader Sean Collins it was a hard fought game. “We had strong players in “Mika from Finland” and Tom Scherler, manager of the Saturn Cycling Team but that Bandara was a star. He must have been holding back” said a smiling Collins. “He checked me at one point and completely locked me down. That sly smile from underneath his thick handlebar mustache spoke volumes – you're not going anywhere”.
Collins, still haunted by the Bandara smile, also noted a slap shot by the Canadian star in the 2nd period that had NHL written all over it. Another NHL close encounter came in the form of this year's Ref, who's father used to scout for the Montreal Canadians. The refereeing was considered very fair by all, especially the US who had half as many penalties as the Canadians.
Jake Heilbron, who led the Canadians to ultimate victory was happy with the end result and Louis Garneau was thrilled that goals were scored by a number of Canadians. Bandara also had a great time and is looking forward to next years event. A disappointed Kozo Shimano missed the tourney due another event but vowed to skate once again in 2003. Of course everyone was thrilled with the Easton goodies, the event sponsor, that included Easton Aluminum blades and sticks and all look forward to next year's battle on blades.