|The World Cup of Hockey was first held back in 1996 as a professional hockey tournament that replaced the original Canada Cup events. Although planned to be competed for every four years, it took until this 2004 event to allow Team USA to defend the title it had won back in the inaugural event.
The eight team, two pool format remained intact with a European and North American Division, although both Russia and Slovakia were slotted in with Canada and USA. After playing three divisional games, a one game quarterfinal match as designed to be inclusive to all teams along with anxiety to die hard fans, players and coaches. In the European Pool, Finland defeated Germany while the Czech Republic beat Sweden to earn a plane ride to North America and play in the semifinals. Meanwhile, both Canada and USA used home ice to its advantage to dispose of Slovakia and Russia respectively.
Finland made the journey to Minneapolis and played a near-perfect road game to upset the defending title holders Team USA on a late third period goal by Saku Koivu and with it, a date in the final against either the Czechs or Canada who were scheduled to play in Toronto. Even though the Czechs outshot Canada 40 to 24, Vincent Lecavalier's brilliant overtime goal allowed Canada to steal a seemingly sure victory from the Czech Republic. Roberto Luongo was outstanding between the pipes from the home side.
Although hundreds of Finns jumped on a plane from Helsinki to Toronto to witness the final, they went home disappointed as Team Canada rode an early third period goal by Shane Doan win all six of its games and allow captain Mario Lemieux to accept the World Cup of Hockey trophy for Canada for the first time.