Thursday, January 07, 2010

IIHF World Junior Tournament - The Tradition Continues

First lets just throw some names out and lay all the cards on the table: John Tavares, Matt Duschane, Evander Kane, Cody Hodgeson, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Myers Those are the names of some of the players that were elegable for Canada to come back and play for Canada this year...Zach Begosian was basicly the only USA player available to return. Put those guys on the team and it is probably another gold rush for Canada. I am not say’n i’m just say’n. Moving on.

Another World Junior Hockey tournament has come and gone. Much to chagrin of the proud Canadian hockey fans. Granted a loss in overtime to one of our newest building rivals, the USA, is a tough pill to swallow it can only fuel the fire for next years tournament in Buffalo.

Year in and year out this tournament continues to grow... at least in Canada. Maybe not as much to the average fan anywhere else but to Canadians it is must see TV and or event to take in live should the opportunity present itself. The gold medal game was an epic one with an audience to match. Tuesday night’s thrilling IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game made television history for TSN. Some 5.3 million viewers tuned in to see some or all of the game. That is the highest rated event TSN has ever had. Some 1 in 3 Canadians watch some or all. It bettered this years Grey Cup and beat any other World Juniors telecast. I am not sure if that takes into account the live web streaming or not and probably doesn’t reflect the radio broadcast. I would like to know those totals as well. Either way it was huge and well represented.

For those 2 weeks or so between boxing day and the first week of the new year it is the showcase for not only the sport of hockey but a showcase for some of the great young players that people can look forward to seeing in the NHL soon. That is what is fun and educational about it. Now when your team drafts a player there is a good chance that you will know who it is. Not unlike the NCAAs March Madness tournament, people don’t pay much attention to the regular season of either college basketball or CHL hockey but when the respective tournaments are on the spotlight is there to shine on potential breakthrough players and that is fun to see.

The level of play is what you want to see in every hockey game, high skill, high speed and a passion for the game that only youthful exuberance can bring. The genuine love of the game, the thirst to be the best while continuing to get better and playing for the pride of a nation is a refreshing change from the professional sports that we are accustomed to watching. It almost makes it tolerable to earn a silver when you lose in a good hard fought game to a team that was surprisingly humble in victory and what seemed to be genuinely humble in victory (perhaps what you may not expect from a USA Team). Credit to the USA and their hockey program. They beat good teams and showed that speed and skill are hard to contain.

Canada entered the tournament winning 5 straight gold medals. It is not like they were handed any of them they have all been earned. The streak could and maybe even should have been stopped in any of the last 3 tournament but some kind of unbelievable event or puck luck fell in Canada’s favour and they had, until this year managed to claw their way to victory. Matt Halischuk’s OT goal saved Canada once and the new version of "Captain Clutch" Jordan Eberle went above and beyond the last 2 years with unbelievably timely goals and solid all around play to keep the team alive and take a country from devastation to jubilation in a heartbeat.

Eberle may well be a great prospect for the Edmonton Oilers and could go on to become a good NHL player and have a long and successful career in hockey but even if he were to walk away and peak as a teenager he has cemented himself as one of the greatest international performers in Canadian hockey history. Sure that would be tough but he is now in Canadian Hockey History highlight reel forever.

It will be interesting next year with the tournament being held in Buffalo. Canada had a good run with most of the tournament being played in Canada with a Pro-Canada crowd. Now the defending gold medalists USA will be defending on their home soil with hopefully a very focused and bitter team from Canada looking to avenge this years loss. Being in Buffalo will allow a lot of Canadians to take the tour over the boarder to help even out crowd support.

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