Forget Jennifer Anniston’s clock ticking. Right now, a clock is ticking in Ottawa, Canada. That clock is counting down the moments until next year’s IIHF Under Twenty World Junior Championship. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself just yet. Right now it is time to congratulate the winner’s of the 2008 WJC, Team Canada for capturing a fourth straight gold in the early stages of overtime; this time out of the hands of our friends in blue and yellow, Team Sweden. Congrats are also in order to the cities of Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic for hosting the 11 day tournament. And special thanks to the local citizens for putting up with several thousand Canadian hockey fans swarming the arenas adorn in red and black, intriguing chapeaux, and in the case of Team Canada forward, Riley Holzapfel’s family, an extremely large Canadian flag that could double as roof for a large single family dwelling.
Speaking of chapeaux, mine is off to TSN for cultivating this tournament into a big league event, and making the games accessible to hockey fans far and wide by showcasing games on the internet, the NHL Network, and repeating games throughout the day. TSN presenters shared everything a fan could want to know about all tournament players, not just Team Canada. I especially enjoyed the segments with players offering tips on how to play the game.
With this tournament, TSN does the NHL a wonderful favour by promoting its future star players now, ensuring these players become household names well before they start their NHL careers. Who can forget WJC 2005, when TSN color commentator Pierre Maguire coined the expression, “He just got Phaneufed” after witnessing former Team Canada defenseman, Dion Phaneuf apply one of his signature hits. At that time, a casual hockey observer might have thought “Who is this Phaneuf and where will he be playing when he gets to the NHL so I can watch him Phaneuf someone every night.”
The WJC is a fantastic platform to see the very best young talent from around the globe. Plus, if you are curious, you’ll learn some stuff about the host city, too. Did you know Pardubice, Czech Republic is the hometown of “over- forty” goalie sensation Dominik Hasek? Yes, the Dominator was born in Pardubice in 1965. I am shocked that all Pardubicean professional athletes manage to stay in great shape considering this town is famous for some of the finest gingerbread on the planet. Personally I was fascinated by that little nugget of info. I used to be a competitive gingerbread house decorator. (Four time champion: consecutive years by the way – this was destiny I tell you!)
Both Liberec and Pardubice are old Czech hockey towns dating back to the 13th century. So, I guess you’d say they are a little older than Hasek. I feel there is something magical about hockey being played in arenas surrounded by old buildings that resemble castles. It will be some time before we see the WJC back in Europe though. After 2009 in Ottawa, expect to see this prestigious tournament in Canada again in 2010 and 2012, with a stint in the United States for 2011.
Life is interesting when a whole bunch of hockey gathers in one place for several days. And with the 2008 WJC firmly behind us, we can now enjoy the first ever Women’s Under 18 World Junior Championship taking place right now, until January 12th in Calgary, Alberta. I am pleased to see TSN promoting this inaugural women’s hockey event at TSN.ca. Using the internet, hockey fans can watch teams from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic battle for gold. Hockey Canada has teamed up with Telus.com to web cast the women’s games for all to see. Women’s hockey continues to emerge as an exciting sport and it’s great to see Telus.com breaking ground by showcasing this tournament as it’s first of many tournament web casts over the coming season.
Fans of women’s’ hockey and those who are curious are encouraged to click on the following link for game and web cast schedules. The Women’s U18 WJC runs from Monday Jan 7th, 2008, with the Gold and Bronze games happening on Saturday, January 12th2008.
World Junior Championships are hockey festivals for the fans and heavy duty field trips for the participants. They provide lasting memories for the players and their families. Many seasoned NHL players will list their world junior wins and experiences as some of their most beloved hockey memories. And here’s hoping the inaugural Women’s WJC tournament becomes as special for the girls as it has been for the guys.
Go International Teams, GO!