The Sting of Silver: a 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship Wrap-Up.
Ahhh…. the first blog of 2011. Let me start off by thanking all you readers out there; viewership and interaction continues to climb every month, so thanks for tuning in! It’s been fun trying to keep your brains entertained and your interests’ piqued; I hope you’ve been enjoying new things like the video blogs, and with any luck you’ll keep coming back for more and bring your friends with you.
Anyways, enough mushy stuff. Some big hockey related events to chime in on, so lets get ‘er goin…
Obviously the World Juniors ended in disappointment for Canada. It kinda bugs me a little that even at the U20 level, Canadian hockey players have nothing-less-than-the-best expectations placed on them. Now with 2 consecutive silver medal finishes, you know that Hockey Canada is going to re-evaluate the entire Canadian development program, and cue up some ridiculous overhaul project that is far from necessary, to see what it’s going to take to get back on top of the world.
It’s too bad that losing at this game sends our country into such a panic about the state of “our” game. The more that we do this, the more I inch to agreeing with the notion that we do have a bit of a status/superiority complex about this game of ours; if we’re not the best in the world at hockey, then Canadians from all walks of life seem shaken to our foundations, and our stumble is all any of us can talk about until we eventually redeem ourselves with another victory down the road (see: 2010 Olympics). The NHL has spent the better part of this decade trying to sell our game to the US television audience, as well as the global one; and the pace at which the world has caught up to us has been well documented since at least a decade prior to the 21st century. We really shouldn’t be astounded that other countries are good at hockey (or at least, that we’re not always going to be the best), and that other countries winning once in a while is probably a good thing for the game of hockey as a whole.
Perhaps if we had more sports that we as a country laid deep claims and dominance to, we wouldn’t be sent into such a tailspin everytime losses like this happen (much like the way the US and Germany generally dominate most of the events at Olympics, win a majority of them, and don’t bat an eyelash at slip-ups because there’s enough victory to go around). But then again, you’ll think I’m a bad Canadian if I suggest that notion, so disregard the last two paragraphs.
I mean, 2nd in the world just really ain’t that bad from any other perspective than the one of the nation that holds claim to inventing the game, and coined catch phrases like “The drive for 5”, and other catchy rhymes related to winning championships a whole bunch of times, often in sequences. But as Major Junior hockey gets more and more exposure every year, and specifically the players who compete in this tournament, you begin to see that a good percentage of these players are indeed NHL bound (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Shea Weber, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc etc…), and maybe the increased pressure of having a planet-sized microscope on them isn’t such a bad thing from a preparation standpoint, as it’s likely pretty close to what they’ll continue to experience in the next phase of their hockey careers.
This year specifically, I think of Brayden Schenn. As always, Nike made a commercial campaign that stirred me like no other company can, and pretty well made me want to buy all the training gear that was being used in the commercial because of the emotional connection made to the players and the game. They had Luke Schenn speaking about how he and his brother, Brayden, have been neck and neck in accomplishments all their lives, with the exclusion of Brayden winning a gold medal at the WJC’s. And now, all we have left to assume is that Brayden has failed; which is insane, considering the fact that during this tournament, he tied a personal record set by Mario Lemieux for most goals in a game by a Canadian player (4), and surpassed Wayne Gretzky’s most points by a Canadian player record (18). I’d say anytime you can draw even or pass guys of that magnitude, failure is far from a correct descriptive term for you. Though as a big brother myself, it’s always good to have a leg-up when you can get one, especially with siblings that competitive 🙂
On a comedic-interlude side note, I loved the Gord Miller-Pierre McGuire back-and-forth that saw Gord Miller getting what sounded to be genuinely frustrated with McGuire’s stubbornly ludicrous commentary; in particular after an icing call that neither couldn’t let go of their differing opinions of for a number of whistles worth of banter. People who know me know that I think Pierre needs to have his microphone “malfunction” more often than it does; most of me wished that Gord had finally snapped once and for all, and gave Pierre a good throttling right there in the booth. The audio would have been priceless.
For Canadians to be proud of: We have the best fans in the world. Have you ever seen a road team’s fans fill an opposing team’s home arena like the Canadians did? Particularily astounding was the overbearing amount of Canadian fans present for the US-Canada game. The team I played for in college regularly had more fans in opposing rinks than the home team did; and to have that 7th man support at anytime, especially on the road though, is a priceless,special kind of x-factor momentum swinger that truly can make the difference by the end of the game. Of course, I never played in front of a supportive road crowd of the magnitude that Canada had, but I’d like to think I had a parallel experience on a much smaller-scale . The States should be embarassed; that’s their house, they should have supported their team better. Also, we beat the US, which is always good, and it was nice to avenge last year’s loss to them.
In the end though, you just can’t give up 5 goals in a period, especially in the third period, and double especially if you go into that third with a 3-0 lead. I mean, that’s just inexcusable. It’s tough to say it was unexpected, considering how many come from behind victories they put up through the tourney. Hats off to them for doing it though. If Canadians can take any solace, maybe it’s that the Russians are stuck in Buffalo until they sober up.