Canadian Hockey Team Wins IIHF 2018 World Junior Championship
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I’ve been a huge hockey fan for over 50 years. Growing up in Ontario in a hockey family, it was part of our culture. My Dad was a great player and spent some time playing for a couple of NHL farms clubs. He taught his family, myself and two sisters how to play. We always had a large rink in our yard, replete with nets and a beautiful surface, thanks to him. We learned offensive skills, toughness and respect for the game.
I look forward to watching the Wold Junior Hockey Tournament every year, more than any NHL games. It is a showcase for our 17-19 year old rising stars to play on an international stage, this year in Buffalo, USA. Team Canada won it all this time in a very exciting, final gold-medal game against the Swedish team on Friday. Canada did very well against the rest of the pack, winning handily against Finland, Slovakia and Denmark and only losing to the USA in a shootout, in the outdoor, bitter cold, snow-fest.
The stars in this tournament from all countries are the next wave of NHL players. Some will become the leading goal scorers, some will become penalty killers, some the grinders, however they are they make-up of the best of the best in coming years. I remember watching Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid to name just a few of Canada’s incredible stars in their IIHL debuts. If you look up and down the rosters of the current NHL players, you will find a large number of players were part of the World Junior teams.
The tournament is short (unfortunately), running from Christmas through the first week of January. The hockey is spectacular. These young lads pour their hearts out for the fans and for country. There are not the big salaries of the NHL, there is just passion, energy, love of the game and amazing skills. These are teams of players who may never have played together before the tournament. They come together and showcase their skills. They bring a level of play that seems to improve every year.
They are bigger, faster and more mature than every before. There is a kind of shy, humbleness to them during interviews, that is a credit to their amazing parents and coaches, that belie their youth. I watch the interviews with 17 year olds that allows us to learn about the character of these kids. The production of the sports networks provide insight into their families, their backgrounds and their hope for the future.
Not all of them will make the NHL but they all look to us like professional prospects. The shots are much harder than ten years ago, the conditioning very well aligned to the sport, the plays are as good as any you see in the NHL and we marvel at these “kids” who show how much they love the sport.
I will look forward to watching the Memorial Cup this spring to see some familiar names and how much these World Juniors have improved from the tournament. I will be ready to watch every game next December and hope for a great effort by our Canadian players. It is great entertainment and worthy of all hockey fans’ enjoyment.
Thank You to the Canadian Junior Team of the the IIHL 2018 World Junior Championships. You are worthy of the honor of being the best of the best.