Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Year, Another Gold

As Canadians and sports lovers, we’ll passionately cheer on any national team we can. It doesn’t matter if it’s the alpine skiing, curling, basketball, rowing, water polo, lawn bowling, rock/paper/scissors or any other team…if the Maple Leaf is flying, we’re rooting it on.

Collectively we are sports fans, but more importantly, we’re Canadian sports fans. And we’ll take every, and any reason we can to band together and enthusiastically cheer our teams on—with beer, of course.

But when it comes to hockey it’s a different story (save the beer). We’re not just happy to be there. As fans, we can’t simply have a good time and be our usual awesome selves regardless of the outcome. Because when it comes to hockey, we’re the perennial favorite. It’s a step outside our participation-ribbon comfort zone. Instead of soaking in the experience, rejoicing over ‘personal bests’ and walking around with perma-grins plastered all over our faces, we’re forced to deal with things like ‘pressure’ and ‘expectations’.

It is for those reasons that the World Junior Hockey Championships have ballooned not only into a paramount event in our country, but perhaps also the most satisfying. Unlike the Olympic hockey tournament, which is equally fascinating and terrifying because no one truly knows who will come out on top, the WJHC has become an annual coronation of our country’s ability to produce the best young hockey talent in the world.

Last night’s 5-1 victory over Sweden was the fifth straight gold medal for Team Canada, but that is hardly indicative of the truly over-whelming presence Canada has been for most of the last two decades at the World Juniors. We’ve now won 10 of the last 17 titles, sport a dominating 39-3 record over the last six tournaments, and have failed to finish on the podium just three times since 1988 (1989, 1992, 1998).

We’re a combination of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. We are the Yankees, Lakers and Canadiens all rolled into one.

And for hockey fans in this country, none of whom have seen their local NHL team win it all since the Canadiens captured the Stanley Cup in 1993, the Juniors have become a welcome reprieve from our usual fruitless hockey calendar.

Only 364 more days till we get to do it all over again. Let the blitz for six begin.

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