The World Junior Championships are, by definition, a development tournament: more about teaching players in a competitive environment than the results themselves. You could be easily fooled by the way the Canadian media covers the event, however. Somewhere in its inception the World Junior Championships turned into the country’s biggest annual international tournament by a long shot. As former Canadian forward Quinton Howden put it, it’s probably not quite as big as the Olympics, but it is pretty close.
Players Thoughts on Canadian World Junior Media Coverage
Coverage and exposure seemingly gets bigger each and every year, and this tournament has been no different. With TSN losing the majority of its hockey rights, this event has become even more important for them. As such there has been criticism that there is too much pressure put on the teenagers representing the country. Some have even suggested that it has contributed in a big way to Canada’s failure to win the tournament for four straight years.
For those who have pulled on the Canadian sweater, however, the media coverage doesn’t seem to affect them as much as one would think. Many of them even have their own perspective on what it brings.
“It’s what develops pros,” explains 2014 team member Matt Dumba, adding that the pressure adds experience for future situations. “You’ve seen so many of those guys who have come through the tournament become great NHLers. There is a reason for that.”
It’s never just the media that adds pressure at these tournaments. For draft eligible players it can have a huge effect on how they are viewed by scouts, even if it is a small sample size. Some years there is the added pressure of playing at home. There is also the constant yearning of players to make a name for themselves at this tournament, to be the next Jordan Eberle.
But while there are all of these sources of pressure, most will acknowledge that the media is the biggest and most consistent.
“They add the most pressure to us,” Howden, who played on the 2011 and 2012 Canadian teams, explains to Last Word On Sports. “They ask questions about everything,” he says putting a little extra emphasis on the word “everything”. “They are always kind of in your face about everything going on.”
Having played at two tournaments he had the experience of dealing with the media twice, on home soil once in Calgary and Edmonton in 2012 and essentially on home soil in 2011 in Buffalo. In doing so he certainly had time to learn how important it is to block out the media and just play the game. As he mentions, however, the team does have some help in this regard.
“Hockey Canada does a good job of isolating the team away from all that stuff and just keeping the guys together,” he says.
Josh Anderson, who was Dumba’s teammate on last year’s team, mentioned that the media was always present. However, the players rarely, if at all, read any stories that the media ended up writing.
“There’s a little bit of stuff on twitter that guys might see and there’s media after every game,” he explains to Last Word On Sports. “But the guys just focus on playing and worry about the game.”
In the end, the World Juniors are still a tournament, and still hand out medals at the end. While the pressure the media coverage puts on the Canadian players may hurt them at the tournament, consciously or not, it has hardly hurt any of their development. In fact there is an argument to be made that it helps them significantly should they ever reach the senior national team.
In 2010, Canada played in the ultimate pressure situation: an Olympic Games on home ice that went to overtime in the Gold Medal game, and came out on top. While there are a number of factors that contributed to this, perhaps in a small way the team’s experience with dealing with the media helped them perform under pressure.
Eventually, if not this year, Canada is bound to reclaim the summit of junior hockey. That’s when this idea of media coverage as a detriment to the team and players will disappear altogether.
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