On Boxing Day every year, Canadians enjoy getting up early to go out to stores and take advantage of some big savings. More than that, though, they get the chance to take part in the annual tradition of curling up on their couches and watching Canada compete in the World Junior Hockey Championship.
At least, that’s been the tradition in my household ever since I can remember. There have been some incredible moments. Think Jordan Eberle’s goal in the nation’s capital in the final seconds of their semi-final game versus Russia to send them to the finals. Think Jonathan Toews and Carey Price going the distance in a shootout against the United States before going on to capture the gold medal.
Of course, there have been some tragic moments, too. Remember goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery trying to play the puck, but unfortunately shooting it off defenceman Dion Phaneuf, which ended up costing team Canada the game. Of course, we can’t forget that Canada has only medalled in the tournament once in the past four years.
There’s no doubt that this tournament can be one of the most exciting feats of entertainment during the holiday season. That said, hockey fans and Canadians, more importantly, need to remember that these hockey players representing our country are just kids. Seriously, the tournament is for players under the age of 20 years old.
Think for a second what you were doing when you were in your teens, and the pressure you may have been under to pursue your education or start your career. Now think about adding the fact that you’re supposed to represent your country and do nothing short of bring home a gold medal. It’s daunting, I know.
Not only that, the World Juniors offer a chance for Canadians to remember that even though we may not dominate or even medal at the tournament, hockey is still our game. To start with, Canada doesn’t always send its top players under the age of 20. Connor McDavi,d who’s leading the NHL in points this season as the captain of the Edmonton Oilers and is arguably the best player in the world at just 19, won’t be attending the tournament. He wasn’t there last year either. Other names like Mitch Marner, Sam Bennett and Max Domi won’t be there either thanks to their excellence at the next level in the NHL this year.
If you needed any further proof that hockey is still Canada’s game, just look back to two months ago when Team Canada hoisted the World Cup of Hockey after taking home gold medals in each of the last two Olympic Winter Games. Five of the top NHL scorers at the moment are Canadian, including — likely the best player in the world — Sidney Crosby, who recently captured the second Stanley Cup of his career.
No doubt, then, this World Junior Championship will not be measuring the best hockey talents of the world. It arguably won’t even measure the top talent of under-20 hockey players in the world.
What it will be, though, is a fun chance to sit down with your family and watch some of the top hockey stars of tomorrow. If Canada is able to take home a medal or even win the tournament, great. If not, don’t sweat it.
Remember, they’re just kids.