What the puck? – Fall from grace
What the hell, Team Canada?
Article: Autumn McDowell – Sports Editor
Canadian hockey fans used to be able to make drinking games out of how many goals Team Canada would score in a single game at the World Junior Championships, and be totally wasted by the second period. Now, we would barely be buzzed.
It’s no secret that Canadians love hockey, and god dammit we’re great at it. At least, we used to be anyway. The World Juniors used to essentially be a clinic put on by Team Canada, a tournament purely to show just how talented our skaters were and how every other country should be ashamed in comparison, but that has changed.
In a matter of five years, Canada has slipped every year from having gold medals placed around their necks to being held off of the podium completely, which has left most hockey fans saying, “What the hell happened?”
The truth is, no one is quite sure. Perhaps we lack the Jonathon Toews and Jordan Eberle magic that used to be counted on to keep our heads above water, or maybe it is just that our team plateaued while other teams have finally stepped up and dare I say passed Canada in hockey supremacy status?
I think one of the biggest problems to cause Canada’s falter is the growing attitude that this is our tournament to lose, rather than to win. In the eyes of many players, coaches, and fans, Canada already has gold and we are playing keep away with the other teams, rather than making a strong effort to capture it ourselves.
Whatever the case, something needs to change. Since instituting the program of excellence back in 1981 after a dismal performance much like the ones seen in recent years, the team has collected 26 medals, 15 of which are gold. But, with the last one coming five years ago, it’s time for a drastic change once again.
Since other countries have begun copying Canada’s winning formula and started implementing summer development camps, our country’s guaranteed-gold went the way of the Titanic, and without staying one step ahead, we find ourselves trailing behind.
Take this year’s tournament, for example. While no one was holding their breath for this year’s team from the start, we expected them to at least be able to beat the Czech Republic. But, after a shootout loss, it looked to be headed all downhill, until the traditional New Years Eve game against the United States.
For once, the Canadians came to play and earned a dramatic win. Even though fans thought this could be the beginning of a fantastic gold medal run, hopes were quickly dashed with back-to-back losses to Finland and Russia.
In my opinion, while the Finnish were a surprisingly good team, Canada took them far too lightly, and already had their sights set on popping champagne after their gold-medal victory. Their eyes were too big, and it cost them.
Although 11 of this year’s team members could return next year, that number will quickly be shaved down to roughly five, since many of them will be playing with NHL clubs this time next year.
But, whether it’s the coach, lack of star power, horrid selection, or all of the above, Canada is an endangered species on the hockey rink.