2007 World Junior Hockey Championships

The World Junior Hockey Championships (WJHC) are in full gear and Canadians are sitting back to enjoy what has become a holiday ritual.

The wha? You say? Trying to explain the importance of the junior tournament to Americans is difficult. The best way I can describe it is how Americans rally around important College Bowl games. Better yet, the WJHC is akin to the College sports phenomena period. That's how much Canucks love it.

It's hard to pinpoint why this is so. The obvious point is that it's hockey - the explanation should end there. But observing this tournament through the years I would submit it's something more. Why should we care about a bunch of teenagers playing hockey?

For starters, the tournament showcases the future talent of the NHL. All great NHLers played in the tournament from Gretzky to Forsberg to Modano to Kovalchuk to Selanne. Next and more subjectively, it's the purity of the tournament. No one is playing for money but only for country and for the love of the game. The players leave everything on the table.

Last and probably most important to people the overall quality and excitement remains outstanding. Of course, it helps that Canada excels at this tournament. Winning does that to fans. In fact, since 1974 this tournament has been the exclusive domain of two countries: Canada and Russia. Recently, the United States has come knocking on the doors as the American hockey system is beginning to consistently produce world class players.

The WJHC finds its ultimate support in Canada. While it is not uncommon to spot many empty seats in many hockey mad countries, in Canada even a match between Belarus and Switzerland sells out.

Canada is a land where hockey finds its ultimate expression. No country supports grass roots hockey like Canada does. Often, this is at the expense of other sports. Which makes the recent accomplishments of Justin Morneau and Steve Nash all the more impressive.

Every sport has its crucible of passionate fans. Soccer, as an example, is the sport of the people and finds ultimate support in places like England, Argentina, Brazil and Italy. Interestingly, I see a connection between Italian soccer and Canadian hockey. Both are derided for their results driven ways that leads to 'aggressive' style and 'ugly' tactics. Yet, no one can deny the excellent talent and the results. Let me take it a step further. Russians are the Brazilians of hockey. So there you have it, a brief comparison of four countries in two sports.

In Canada, hockey is the only thing that really matters. Canada has many shortcomings but they know how to succeed in hockey. They 'get it'.

Indeed, Canadians should demand such excellence from every facets of Canadian life. Hockey Canada and its organizers move forward with a sense of purpose. It has all the leadership qualities a country needs. Maybe this is why Canadians call for hockey summits when we feel our dominance is slipping. It seems it's the only thing we've got amidst all the corruption, inefficiencies and mismanagement of our government.

In any event, whatever the reasons for its success and place in the hearts of Canadian hockey fans, the WJHC is a flat out fun tournament to watch.

Table of Champions

Nation G S B Total

Soviet Union/Russia/CIS 15 8 4 27
Canada 12 8 6 26
Finland 2 5 6 13
Czech Republic 2 0 1 3
Sweden 1 5 6 12
United States 1 1 2 4
Czechoslovakia 0 5 6 11
Slovakia 0 0 1 1
Switzerland 0 0 1 1

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