Canada can’t stand losing at the World Juniors

But let’s not despair for the future of our game

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Frank Gunn/CP

“Canada fails to medal at the World Juniors again. What’s up with that?”—Wendy Mesley, host of CBC’s The National

Five years without a gold, two years without a medal, too long without a nationwide, head-scratching debate about why Canada’s best teenagers can’t win anymore. The questions, the worrying for the future of Canada’s favourite sport, were a foregone conclusion as soon as this year’s chosen few couldn’t muster any energy in a dispiriting semi-final loss to Finland. So there was Wendy Mesley, teasing the night’s stories and cueing up a familiar debate.

Had the Canadian kids salvaged bronze in their final game against Russia at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s annual under-20 world championship, the worrying might have been dampened some. But the absence of an effective powerplay, a team that, at times, couldn’t hit the net, and two losses to end the tourney guaranteed the conversation—that uncomfortable look in the mirror, as a disappointed nation stares at its hockey rinks and wonders how it all went wrong.

The boys of early 2014 are disappointed, no doubt, at having spurred a single question about Canadian hockey supremacy. But at least they played for a medal. Recall the darkness that blanketed Canada on January 3, 1998, when that year’s world junior team lost their third game in a row. The first of the losses was respectable enough, 2-1 to the Russians, but it knocked them out of contention. The next loss, a 3-0 shutout, came at the hands of the then-mediocre United States. That left the Canadians in a battle for seventh with lowly Kazakhstan, a hockey middle power on its finest day. Which, perhaps, was that day, because they embarrassed the tired Canadians by a score of 6-3.

A debate raged after that tournament about how Canada, which had won its fifth tournament in a row in 1997, could have failed so dramatically and so utterly. The program responded. Six years produced six medals, four silver and two bronze. Then, in 2005, Canada won again. And then again and again and again and again, as five golds came in five years. None has come since. Everyone else seems to have improved in the interim. Four other countries have won.

Diagnoses are everywhere. Bruce Arthur thinks, maybe, there are a few reasons Canada’s not winning. “Maybe it is an improvement by the rest of the world, and a relatively shallow trench for Canada. Maybe it is a goaltending deficit, and a skill development issue. Maybe it’s coaching and conservatism. Maybe the pressure cracks teams whose sheer talent can’t overcome it,” he wrote. “And maybe they win gold next year. Deep breaths.”

A parallel, possibly worth noting, stretches all the way back to 1998. When Canada lost to Russia in that year’s quarterfinals, the Russians fought all the way to the gold-medal match. They lost to that year’s host country, 2-1, in overtime. The host was Finland, who wouldn’t win again until they beat Sweden, yesterday, in overtime. Other countries win, sometimes. Canada sticks around.

Globe As Thai protesters march for hours in the streets, the government threatens violence.
Post
Canada’s junior hockey team lost a bronze-medal game for the second year in a row.
Star Sixty-one Canadian Shiites were detained in Egypt after a two-week pilgrimage to Iraq.
Citizen Canada hopes to expand the list of countries to which it exports military weaponry.
CBC Storms and cold temperatures across Canada create countless hazards this morning.
CTV Poor weather conditions aren’t expected to improve for much of the country today.
NNW Prime Minister Stephen Harper will talk about the economy on a trip to western Canada.

Near The feds have to pull off a tricky procurement of software to administer EI.
Far South Sudan’s government refuses to release detainees accused of an attempted coup.



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Canada can’t stand losing at the World Juniors

  1. The important one…..Citizen
    Canada hopes to expand the list of countries to which it exports military weaponry.

    • Yes, so what?

      • We sell weapons to developing countries, and then invade them when the weapons are used…..and all the while we preach peace.

        • Huh? What country did we invade?

          • Posters on a political chatsite are generally more informed than that.

          • Ahh, here we go again. Please list for me, oh wise one, all the countries that Canada has sold weapons to and then invaded. Or is it perhaps that you don’t know what you’re talking about?

          • Why should I do your homework for you?

            And your question is….’what country did we invade?’

          • This is poor debating even by your meagre standard. I am asking you to back up your lazy and ill-informed statement. You are unable to do so because it is not true. It is not me who failed to do homework, it is you. Does that help?

          • Like I said, do your own homework…..enough with redneck swagger.

          • Well we didn’t invade anybody today as I didn’t get a call in the middle of the night so I could grab my bug out bag. The last country we went to war in is ‘Stan and I don’t think we sold them AKs and RPGs. The Russians left the hadji tons of free stuff.

          • Well, thanks again for your invaluable contribution to the debate. Odd that you have time to look up cat pictures, but not to provide any support whatsoever to your (false) assertions.
            You might also want to take the time to look up the word “redneck”. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  2. World Juniors (last ten years)

    Canada 5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze
    USA 2 gold, 0 silver, 2 bronze
    Swe. 1 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze
    Rus. 1 gold , 4 silver, 4 bronze
    Fin. 1 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze
    Czech 1 bronze

    previous ten years

    Canada 3 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze
    USA 1 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze
    Swe. 0 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
    Rus. 3 gold , 3 silver, 2 bronze
    Fin. 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze
    Czech 2gold, 0silver 1 bronze

    Switz 1 bronze
    Slovinia 1 bronze

    My take; Canada is pretty stable (we play in 7/10 championship games), Sweden has gotten better, Russian has fallen off a bit, the Czechs have fallen off more, the Finns have always been pretty decent in the Juniors.

    • Very good, sensible post, and a welcome dose of perspective. This year, we sent a VERY young team, one of the youngest in the tournament. And at that age, age matters a lot. We had Connor McDavid, a 16 year old, plus some of our top players, like Ekblad and Sam Reinhart, aren’t even draft eligible until next summer. We will have 11 returnees for next year’s tournament as a result, which is a huge number. If we fail to medal next year, I’d be more concerned.
      I think there were some issues with Sutter’s coaching in the last two games, especially in the semi-final against the Finns. They totally shut Canada down with trapping and bunching Finnish players below the dots in their defensive zone, and we had no counter or response to that. And that is a coach’s job — to counter and respond to tactics that are employed against you. At times, we had possession and territorial advantage, but didn’t translate that into quality scoring plays and opportunities — we could start, but we didn’t finish.
      Of course the rest of the world has caught up to us somewhat, but we are still a huge medal threat in every major international tournament we go into. To those who think we’re cranking out lousy or sub-par junior players, please explain why we consistently kick butt every year at the Ivan Hlinka tourney, which is the premier world under 18 tournament. We also do quite well at the IIHF under 18 tourney, even though (like the senior IIHF tourney) it’s held at a time of year that prevents us from sending our best players. Everybody take a chill pill.

  3. The thing is, we didn’t send our best. We sent the 2nd youngest team ever. We CAN’T do that, especially when the Swedes are sending 19 year olds that play in their elite league with men! 5 guys were on the bench, not good enough to compete, most notable being Conner MacDavid who looked like a fish out of water. We can’t continue to waste positions like that. Meanwhile Max Domi and Darnell Nurse, etc, sit at home! Bob Nicholson and the “braintrust” need to go!

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