By Cole Parkinson
While Christmas may be over, one of the best parts of the break is still ongoing — the World Junior Championships.
I, like many Canadians, look forward to the tournament each and every year, and while COVID-19 has ruined some of that as full capacity still isn’t allowed, at least games are still being played. But the in-arena atmosphere is translatable through the screen and it’s definitely missing, especially since the tournament is being held in Canada. The Canadian fans are always raucous and their excitement is palpable and it’s cranked to the max when the tournament is held at home. And I feel for the players who haven’t been able to experience that for the past few years.
The pandemic has robbed many people of many things throughout the last two years and it’s continued well past where anyone wanted it to. But, like I said earlier, the fact they’re still able to suit up and play in one of the most exciting tournaments is still better than it being cancelled.
And while I obviously want Canada to win each and every year, the fact that other nations are continuing to develop great hockey players and teams is awesome. The more competition, the better for the sport. Seeing the U.S., Russia, Finland, Sweden, and the other countries start to develop better programs signals interest in the sport is growing and that can only mean good things. Canada may not win gold every year, but seeing exciting hockey games every year is infinitely more exciting than Canada destroying everyone. Let’s be honest, kid’s today are watching this WJC tournament and dreaming to one day make the team and winning a gold medal. I certainly did, and tons of Canadian kids across the country do the same every single year. And let’s not forget how much it costs for kids to play sports, especially hockey. It’s continuing to climb year over year and it continues to be the biggest barrier for any kid to get involved. But that’s another topic for another day.
But now with the tournament started, the games have been fun to watch, especially since the NHL has been shut down completely over the Christmas break. Canada has gotten off to a good start, though they have yet to face any of the other hockey superpowers (USA, Russia, Sweden, or Finland). But with a New Years Eve date against the Fins, I expect that to be the best game of the round-robin for the red and white. Finland has continued to grow their program and each year they ice a better team than the last at the WJC.
Considering Russia, Sweden, and the Americans are on the other side of the tournament, I’d say Canada has a great chance at finishing first in their pool, though the New Years Eve game against Finland will likely determine which of those two teams secures that spot.
Either way, let’s hope for a fast, competitive game — and it will likely be a good physical battle as well. Canada has shown they aren’t afraid to use the body and the Fins aren’t any pushovers either. I expect it to be a close game and the first seed in the pool will be crucial heading into the playdowns later in the tournament.
The tournament is full throttle now and the best of the best is still on tap. The end to the tournament should provide plenty of great hockey games and let’s hope a gold medal for the Canadians.