A Holiday Tradition Your Family Needs
It’s that time of year again. Lights are up, trees are decorated, and spirits are high (unless you’re reading this on your smart phone while feverishly finding that “perfect” gift – in which case you are stressed beyond measure). Families are reunited, and feasts are prepared. It’s a magical time where strangers are well-wishers, and “have a nice day” is replaced with a cheery “Merry Christmas”, or the politically correct “have a happy holiday”. And during this special time spent with loved ones, the world also gets another year older. With each passing year the world changes, as some traditions hold true, and others break, or begin anew.
Traditionally, Southern Ontarians would be welcoming in a “White Christmas”. While our Christmases are no longer white, in other parts of Canada that still rings true. I give 30-1 odds against having the white stuff on the 25th. Okay, tangent over.
So with the weather being so unpredictable, what can we be certain of every year? Well, in Canada, how about hockey? The World Junior Championships, which is (usually) played from the 26th of December to the 5th of January, is quickly becoming a holiday tradition in many homes. It has been in mine as long as I can remember, and something I look forward to every year. What better way to keep the holiday spirit alive than to get together with family and friends and watch our nation’s sport (sorry lacrosse players, hockey trumps you)?
So as we hang up the Christmas bulbs, finish our last-minute shopping, and stock up on egg nog and rum, our Canadian Juniors are preparing for the fight of their lives. You may think “fight of their lives” is a strong choice of words, and it may be, but we put a tremendous amount of pressure on these kids. They are kids. It’s called the World JUNIOR Championship for a reason, as every player must be under 20 years old. But nonetheless we expect perfection, which is increasingly difficult given the rising level of competition from other nations. Still, every year we thrust these kids in the spotlight, broadcast them from coast to coast on primetime, and expect nothing less than a gold medal.
You would think I would feel some remorse for the pressure we put on our young stars, but I don’t. It’s actually why I love this tournament so much, and what makes it so special. These kids aren’t used to this sort of pressure, or the international exposure, but it is a great way for them to prepare for the challenges that lay ahead. The large majority of these kids (on all teams, not just in Canada) have already been drafted, and will play in the National Hockey League within the next few years. And a small number of those players will become bona fide superstars in the NHL and for their respective countries. This tournament is a great coming out party for them, and a great way for the fans to familiarize themselves with some of the rising stars of the sport.
The games are played at a fast pace, and the players are playing purely for the love of their country. This is a one-time shot for these players to win a gold medal as an amateur, as very few players are lucky enough to play in consecutive tournaments due to age, skill, and draft commitments. It’s a tournament you don’t want to miss. And if you haven’t already, you might want to make it part of your family’s tradition. Because, as I said before, there may not be snow angels in the front lawn on Christmas morning, but there sure as heck will be hockey on TV Boxing Day night.
Here is the Schedule for the upcoming tournament:
Canada will play in Group B at the 2012 World Junior Championship, along with the U.S., Denmark, Finland and the Czech Republic. Its preliminary-round games will be played at Rexall Place in Edmonton, with the medal round shifting to the Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary.
Dec. 26 – Canada vs. Finland
Dec. 28 – Canada vs. Czech Republic
Dec. 29 – Canada vs. Denmark
Dec. 31 – Canada vs. U.S.
Jan. 2 – Quarterfinals
Jan. 3 – Semifinals
Jan. 5 – Gold medal/Bronze medal games
So sit back with a spiked egg nog, wait, a beer, and put your feet up with your loved ones. Sip. Watch. Enjoy.
…and that is the last word.