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Holidays mean… HOCKEY!

December 29, 2010

For most hockey-loving Canadians, the holiday season means a few things: family, friends, food and World Junior Hockey Championships. In Canada, like no other country, we gear up to watch 16-20 yr-olds play for their countries over the Christmas holidays. Top prospects, draft hopefuls and youthful phenoms are all gathered at one place, hoping to win the gold medal.

A good tournament can raise one’s draft status, improve your rating as a prospect with the team that owns your pro rights.  The pressure can be immense.  I’m not sure we as fans actually help this situation.  Speculation on invitations begins in early fall during training camps. Fans tout their favourites at every moment. The announcement of the selection camp roster is a highly anticipated event in late November.

Throughout December national sports media feeds us the minute details of each and every one of the hopefuls as they go through the evaluation camp. Each round of roster cuts is examined and each cut is decried by some fan who believes ‘their’ player was shafted. Even when the team is officially finalized, the roster selections are dissected on buses, over lunches and at water coolers around the country.

The players themselves are inundated by the country’s ‘legacy’. They are reminded that they are representing Canada, as has every member of Team Canada since the idea was conceived.  This year, they are being reminded of those who previously wore their chosen number.  Each member of Team Canada has been chosen to fulfill a specific role, none of which is star individual player.  The goal is to play team defence, score by committee and win as a team. The better they can execute those concepts, the better chance they will have of reaching their goal.

This is harder than it sounds, each player is a star on their respective club teams. Scoring leaders are asked to play checking roles and to play on 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines. Ice time is at a premium for players that are used to being the ‘go-to’ guy.  Egos must be checked at the door and the words ‘character player’ are on everyone’s lips. Nobody wants to be the guy that costs the team a game or even a goal.

Now, with the tournament in full swing – anything can happen. And I’ll be there to cheer on their every move. On the edge of my seat.

Go Canada Go!

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