Over the past few Christmas’ I have been left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth and it is not my mother’s Christmas Turkey and stuffing. It might be time to stop romancing the world’s largest minor hockey Christmas tournament. Do not get me wrong it is a great tradition and excellent hockey but can we stop putting this event in the echelon of the World Cup, Olympics, and major professional sports championships.
Congratulations to Hockey Canada on winning their fifth World Junior Championships, which is a great feat. Now let’s all take a step back and realize how much we have over inflated the importance of this tournament.
The wall to wall media coverage of this event is unprecedented in the Canadian media. Unfortunately the Canadian coverage of this event is probably triple that of the rest of the world’s effort combined (including when the event is not held in the great white north). We talk about the heart and determination of the Canadian junior team as the major factor that pushes them over the other teams to claim the gold medal. It is easy to have that edge playing against teams of players who might have not been familiar with this tournament until they’ve become eligible to play in the event, and won’t be reminded of their performance for years to come.
This over emphasis has made us the annoying parent who won’t stop talking about their kids’ accomplishment. It is great to be proud of the win, it’s another thing to dedicate a entire half hour long (excuse me, an hour long with a reset in the middle) to celebrate our greatness in a glorified exhibition. We might criticize Americans for their coverage of meaningless college football bowl games, a little league world series, and the image of Texas high school football, but find it perfectly acceptable to discuss ad nauseum a 10-0 win over potassium rich Kazakhstan.
Lost in all of this is the state of junior hockey coverage in the media. The major networks will only pull into the junior hockey world for the month of December and two weeks in May. Don’t get me wrong they might pop in if a one of Patrick Roy sons goes postal, an 18 year drops dead of heart failure (kids, DO NOT DRINK ENERGY DRINKS), or a team wins 40 games in a row. For the majority of the year the Canadian Hockey League gets the cold shoulder from the national media, when we will get to hear the same useless sound byte, from the same players and coaches (welcome back Mats Sundin) after every NHL game featuring a Canadian team. Every junior team has video of their games being broadcasted, however the national sports media can’t give us even a small sampling of CHL highlights. Instead we get an over concentrated, three can funnel of the barley legals down our throat twice a year.
I understand being patriotic about the win, but drubbing other countries and over analyzing the tournament a week after it is finished makes our country look insecure in our status as a world hockey power. We might be starved for a Canadian NHL team to win the Stanley Cup over a US based team (with a roster filled with just as many, if not more, Canadian born and trained player, with just as much Canadian heart and determination to win) but we don’t need to use the World Juniors as a validation of our hockey supremacy. Using this tournament to validate that is like calling Barry Bonds the home run king, both statements deserve an asterisk.
One of the nice things about this tournament was the fans in the Scotia Bank Place finally did get to celebrate a hockey championship. I do tip my hat to them for not reveling in the streets afterwards, they’re big boys and girls and will wait like the rest of us for our team to win a hockey championship that actually matters.
– Shaun “Mavs” Gillis