THE international hockey season has had a very happy ending for Canada. Both its men's and women's teams won world titles, which has never happened before.
The double triumph was especially gratifying after a heartbreaking result at the Winter Olympics in Norway three months ago: Canada came ever-so-close to winning its first gold medal since 1952, but lost the final in a shootout to Sweden after regulation play and one overtime period.
To the World Hockey Championships in Italy, however, Canada was able to take a roster fortified by players relieved, for this season, of their National Hockey League duties. The team beat Finland on Sunday in Milan in a shootout for Canada's first gold medal in 33 years. In the bronze-medal game, Sweden overwhelmed the United States, 7 to 2, spoiling what the American team had hoped would be its best finish since 1962.
Several weeks earlier, when Canada played in Lake Placid, N.Y., observers were given a preview of the women's inaugural Olympic hockey competition, to be held in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Canada, winner of the two previous women's world championships in 1990 and 1992, made it three in a row. The United States was the runner-up for the third straight time, 6 to 3. Wooden and `The Blaze'
THREE cheers for the organizers of next December's inaugural John R. Wooden Classic, which will pay tribute to UCLA's retired basketball coach with a smashing early-season college doubleheader.
The universities of Kansas and Massachusetts meet in one game, UCLA and Kentucky in the other. The latter schools last met in 1975, when the Bruins gave Wooden a glorious send-off present - a 10th national championship.
The Wooden Classic, which will be televised by NBC Dec. 3, carries no title sponsor. That keeps the focus on Wooden, who remains a good friend to many of his former players. ``He's a great man,'' former center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told TV interviewer Charlie Rose not long ago. ``He was morally up to the level of his ability as a basketball coach, and that's very high.''
University of Louisville coach Denny Crum echoed Abdul-Jabbar at this week's Basketball Hall of Fame inductions in Springfield, Mass., where Crum was inducted with Wooden at his side. ``He is the Man o'War among coaches and the Secretariat among men,'' said Crum, citing great thoroughbreds to describe the man he once coached under at UCLA.
Joining Crum in the Hall of Fame's '94 class of inductees were long-time professional and college coach Chuck Daly, who now guides the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets; Buddy Jeannette, who played on nine championship pro teams during a 10-year pro career that began in 1938; Cesare Rubini, Italy's greatest coach; and Carol (The Blaze) Blazejowski, who became the most prolific scorer in women's college history playing at Monclair (N.J.) State.