Thursday, January 06, 2011

World Juniors Are A Joke

Hardly surprising, but everywhere I turn today DA HORROR!! I love hockey. I have the misfortune of being a Leafs fan. I also have turned my son into a Leafs fan (please don't call Children's Aid). Hockey is the best team sport in the world, no other exercise necessitates such a hive mentality to succeed. Beautiful, fast, brutal, a million adjectives, just a great game, sport at its finest.

At the risk of enraging already fragile emotions, I'd like to posit my thesis, namely that the World Juniors, sanctioned by the IIHF, are an inherently unfair institution, systematically setting Canada up to succeed, betraying all other countries who deserve equal opportunity. TSN has done a masterful job turning a previously little know tournament into a cash cow that fills the coffers of the IIHF. Because of the economics, Canada, and more importantly Canadians with money to burn, have become THE only consideration in this amateur exercise.

Pretend for a moment you aren't Canadian, then digest the following. What if I told you that in the past seven years, this tournament has been held in Canadian friendly terrority FIVE times? Then consider next year it will be held in Calgary/Edmonton, with plans to have Canada host every other year after that. In the last seven years, it has been held in two American locations, North Dakoka and Buffalo, both of which strategically chosen so they can capitalize on Canadians flooding the border. You see, outside of Canada, nobody really cares about this tournament, no where near the attention, the stature, the fixation- we cheer mostly alone to be honest. This reality explains why a big semi-final match between Canada and the USA IN the USA was 95% pro-Canada. The IIHF knows what butters the bread, Canadians watch, Canadians pay big bucks to view, Canadians drive this entire tournament.

Is it really fair to other countries that they must endure a decided disadvantage, on an almost yearly basis? Does this never ending home field advantage Canada enjoys really speak to the notion of amateur athletics, fairness, equal opportunity? An odd time to raise the issue, given we lost yesterday, but nonetheless, Canada has an ace every year that other countries can only dream of.

I watched the final, but I admit I've soured on the tournament over the years as it has become a hyped up, Canada-centric spectacle. I wonder just how good we really are, do we make the finals every year because of the advantages we enjoy? Valid question, because the athletics are subsidized by the economic angle.

Today, we all wonder what went wrong. I wonder how much worse the result if not for the built in advantage, making this whole tournament a bit of a "homer" joke to be honest.


James Bow said...

Brave of you to say this. I didn't follow the tournament, except for on Twitter. And, yes, I was rooting for the Canadian team, but it is only a game. It's even a game I don't particularly care for.

I prefer baseball, and am a Cubs fan. And, trust me, if there is a team that knows the Leafs' pain and then some, it's the Cubs.

Steve V said...

Ouch, Cubs. Kindred spirits ;)

I love the game, but as the years go on, this tournament is losing something important, once you peel off the automatic patriotism.

Steve V said...

I'd add, what a fantastic achievement, that a team down 3-0, in a building going bananas, found the internal resolve to comeback.

The Pundits' Guide said...

The results are my fault. I almost never watch hockey, but when I tuned in the score was 3-0 for Canada.

The same thing happened in the game with the US, but luckily I was only there for a few minutes.

I'm just bad luck that way.

Sorry, Canada.

Dana said...

Most of those hockey playing kids from the rest of the world, excluding the northern US kids obviously, are probably excited as hell to get the chance to come to the home of their sport.

Most of them probably want to come and play for a Canadian junior/AHL team. A lot of them already do. One of the Canadian jr stars is roomies with one the US stars in their jr team here. Probably almost all of them want to play in the NHL other than some of those Russian kids who've already picked up their parents vodka problem...KHL will suit them fine (minus Kyle Wellwood who was let go by Aliant :-)).

I get your point but I don't think its as big an issue as you seem to think.

Steve V said...


Let me know next time you watch so I can put some money down ;)


Teams spend all year trying to secure home field advantage, and that doesn't even add the national angle. It's a big deal in sport, and if we had to go to Russia every year, I suspect our view would be quite different.

I still think we are the best, but I think this set up colours the real results, to a certain degree.

Rev.Paperboy said...

the Russian goalie plays for the London knights and a lot of foreign players come to canada as teen to play junior hockey here in hopes of making the NHL. The Hamilton Red wings just signed an Australian goalie who came here to play the game at a higher level than exists in Australia. A decent Canadian jr. C team would likely rout their national team.
Truly, there are only about a half-dozen national teams that are ever competitive in hockey and the gap between the elite teams like Canada, Russia, USA, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech's (and increasingly the Swiss and the Slovaks) and the best of the B level teams like Germany and Denmark is pretty vast, nevermind the "C" level teams from places like Mexico or Thailand, which are usually made up of expats who grew up in Canada or the USA.
NHL hockey is only about the sixth or seventh most popular spectator sport in the USA, after golf and NASCAR - they can"t even get a network tv deal, unlike say college football and basketball. Canada is about the only place that takes junior hockey seriously enough that you can fill a good-sized arena on a regular basis.

liberazzi said...

Ditto. Actually, even though my friends make fun on me for this, I prefer watching the Spengler Cup, its much more interesting.

Steve V said...

The Europeans really get into the Spengler Cup.

Jerry Prager said...

Osvald Spengler and The Decline of the West tournament ?

Tof KW said...

"NHL hockey is only about the sixth or seventh most popular spectator sport in the USA, after golf and NASCAR"

That's the sad truth of it all. Keep in mind that hockey popularity in the USA is very regional. The northern areas (where Yanks have good taste) are where hockey is usually quite popular - with the very lucrative local TV deals that go with it. The Rangers, Red Wings, Flyers, Black Hawks, Bruins, etc are all very well established with very hockey-knowledgeable local fans, and they pack their respective arenas every night.

The problem is the southern US, where Bettman keeps pushing the league on a public that thinks hockey is nothing more that goons on ice. And you have situations like Phoenix where they can't pull in 4000 people a game (for comparison the OHL Guelph Storm draws more than that on weekday games) yet the arena will seat 25,000 for a monster truck pull the very next day.

Anyhow; unlike Bettman; the IIHF, TSN, Hockey Canada, etc, all know where the base & resulting money is ...and pander to us accordingly. I'm not as upset about it as our blog host, but I too am souring on what the World Junior tournament has become over the past decade or so under TSN's coverage.

crf said...

Did TSN do any interviews of players from the winning team? I know they are Russian, so translation would need to be provided (but TSN, or the tournament organisers, could probably manage that, even on short notice).

I just thought it was really odd that there was no reporting at ice level after the game ended. It's something sportfans expect. But maybe the organisers don't wish to do that for juniors?

And I wonder if the Canadians had won, if TSN would have found the time to conduct interviews at that time, without cutting so soon to "sportcentre". (If they had not, I expect people would sure be talking about that decision.)

On the whole, TSN's coverage of the game made me feel small, as a Canadian.