Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oh Canada - Be Proud Of Silver At The World Junior Championship!

This article was first published in the January 19th edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

A few weeks have passed since the annual World Junior Championship, and with the sky firmly in place above us (as in, the sky is not falling), perhaps it is a good time to discuss Canada’s silver medal at the tournament. The fact that Team Canada came home with a silver medal is not something to be scoffed at, or called the “biggest meltdown in Canadian hockey history”, or any of the other comments that emerged after Russia stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Canadians by a 5-3 score in the gold medal game.

Sometimes the media-hype machine can work too well - we have been sold on the “this is our game” ad campaign, when in fact, hockey belongs to the world now. Sure, Canada excels at the sport and is in the hunt for gold on most occasions, but we should embrace the fact that the game of hockey is equally cherished in many other nations throughout the world. While our young men dream of winning the Stanley Cup, many of the youngsters growing up in other countries dream of wearing their national colours at the Olympics or World Championship. Let’s give the other hockey nations some credit - they have grown the game and can give Canada a good fight for the gold; that is a good thing!

One problem that hockey fans do not seem to realize is that in the junior tournament, there are age restrictions. Young men graduate out of the tournament because they have reached the age maximum or in the case of many Canadian 18-20-year olds, they have already moved on to the National Hockey League. Jeff Skinner (18) is in Carolina leading all NHL rookies with 37 points, Taylor Hall (19) is 3rd in rookie scoring with 27 points in Edmonton, and Tyler Seguin (18) has 16 points with the Boston Bruins. Many of Canada’s top players are already in the NHL and yet the loss at the World Junior Championship is supposed to be a national crisis.

Heading into this year’s World Junior Championship, with most of last year’s gold medal team returning, Team USA were the favourites to win it all again. As they discovered, once these tournaments head into the elimination round, anything can happen. It is not a seven game series like the NHL, it is loser goes home, winner keeps playing - it is as simple as that. Was the way the game was lost disappointing - certainly. Is it time to hold parliamentary debates about the state of “our” game - no, it is not.

We have wrapped our national identity in a tournament played by 17 and 18-year old kids. Perhaps part of the problem is the fact that many casual hockey fans tune in for this tournament believing the media-hype and expect too much from these young men. For the hockey fans that watch junior games regularly, these things happen - mistakes happen; it is the reality of learning the game at an elite level.

Unfortunately, this is a topic I have touched on before and most likely will again - the game of hockey belongs to the world now. We should embrace and support our teams, not point fingers and play the blame game. It is a shame when silver is considered a disgrace...

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