Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Shame

Even if the outcome of last night's World Junior Gold medal game wasn't what any Canadian was hoping for, it hardly puts a blemish on the program that came within an overtime loss of winning six straight championships.

No, there isn't any shame in providing hockey fans everywhere with an instant classic, played at a lightning pace, filled with huge hits and erasing a two goal deficit in the final minutes to force overtime. In this particular edition, the 2010 tournament, the Americans were probably the better team. They won this battle, but Canada continues to win the war.

From my perspective, there are three major reasons why Canada has become the dominant, overwhelming force in under 20 hockey.

1. The Canadian Formula

This team has never been about stars or stats, as evidenced by the big names who are cut every year. This time it was Tyler Seguin, who came into camp as one of the leading scorers in junior hockey and could end up being chosen first overall in this summer's NHL draft. For Hockey Canada, it's about selecting the right pieces to form a team. It's not about the name, the stats, or the hype. Management takes a hard look at the group of players they have to chose from, decides on the game they want to play (determining if we're going to be big, skilled and mean, or big, skilled and slightly mean) and assembles a roster they believe will best execute that gameplan. They don't choose an All-Star team and they don't play favourites.

Since finishing out of the medals in 1998, Canada has two bronze, five silver and five gold in the last 12 tournaments. Since 2004, the Canadian team has gone 44-4 and has produced nine players that were named to the 2010 Olympic team. I'd say the formula is working.

2. Home Ice Advantage

This is a subject that has gained steam ever since the International Ice Hockey Federation announced every third tournament would be hosted by Canada, and really took off when the Swiss backed out of hosting this year and it promptly fell into Saskatchewan's lap. Of course playing in front of 15,000 screaming Canadians wearing red is going to positively effect our outcomes, but how is it our fault that we sell more tickets than every other country, that we support this tournament like no one else, that we have come to love the ten days that follow Christmas more for this particular tournament than for anything else?

Ultimately, home ice advantage does help our cause. But if the IIHF and all of it's supporting European countries want to feed our development system, want to ensure that our junior-aged players continue to become champions by allowing us to host this tournament far more than is probably fair...well, I don't have a problem with that. It's not like Hockey Canada is holding a gun to their head and forcing them to give us the tournament, we continue to earn it by padding the IIHF's coffers.

3a. Few Quebec-born players

Just kidding.

3b. Gatorade

Sorry, couldn't resist.

3c. Heart

Not to go all Don Cherry on you, but it is what it is. Canadians simply seem to want this more than other countries. I know it is nearly impossible to quantify heart, but how else can you explain Canada almost always coming out on the right side of one goal games or their 4-0 record in shootouts in this tournament?

Sweden, Russia, the US and Finland can all match our talent level, they all produce first rounders in every NHL draft, but they can't match our intangibles. Our players never back down, never give up, and always fight for every inch. They don't know any other way.

When you add those three factors up, it equals excellence, and that's what Canadian hockey fans have come to expect from our World Junior heroes.

Only 364 more days until we have a chance to start a new run.


  1. I couldn't agree more...what a great game!!! As much as I love to see Canada win, it is also good to see competition to keep the tournament exciting...we had our 5 in we can look forward to taking it back next year!!

  2. This tournament is a joke and I absolutely HATE getting it stuffed down my throat. The hockey is entertaining...once out of every 10 games or so.

    Criticize me all you want but I was absolutely cheering for the USA yesterday and I'm glad they won.

    Yes, I am saying that Canada is too good and makes the tournament boring and predictable. The growth in popularity of this tournament over the past 25 years is strange considering the flatness in popularity of the senior tournament. I think they should only hold it once every two or three years (never gonna happen).

  3. That was a great game last night regardless of the result. It was nice to see a competitive game. The tourney itself is an absolute staple in my Holiday diet.

    One thing that would improve the tourney would be fewer "relegation" teams. We could do with less Latvia, Slovakia, and Austria.

    As for the World Championships, it will never gain more momentum or popularity until it becomes a best on best tourney AND not scheduled during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


  4. but the juniors aren't best on best either because the best are playing in the NHL, Swedish elite league, etc, as the CSJ says in his article. IMO, it is popular because everyone is home for the holidays and Canada is good.

  5. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the tourney either. The final game was the only game I watched all tourney ... and even at that I only watched the 3rd and OT.

    Watching Canada and USA is good hockey ... fast, skilled, competitive. But to Sanchez point, I just have no interest in watching them beat the likes of Latvia 16-0 or whatever the score was.

    Now cheering for USA over Canada? Give your head a shake yongeandcollege. Figures the guy who cheers for the Yankees would say something like that!


  6. I like underdogs and hate the Red Sox with a passion!