Monday, January 04, 2016


World Junior Disappointment 2015-2016



Many of us have done our share of whining after the Canadian loss in the World Junior Championships in Finland. The boys did not do well in the preliminary rounds, but put up enough points to get the quarter final round to play the host team, Finland. Before the game, most of the experts had decided that Finland would win, by a fair margin.


It turned out to be quite a close game, but one that the Canadians could have won. Perhaps their greatest downfall was their lack of discipline. They took several unnecessary penalties, and some of those were downright selfish. There was no thought given to how the play would affect the team.


On one occasion, at a critical time in the third period, there was a skirmish near the Finnish goal. There was some pushing and shoving as there often is in those circumstances. Referees stand by to see if anyone steps over the line. Sure enough, a Canadian player threw a meaningless retaliatory punch at the Finn. Canada had to play a man short against an explosive Finnish power play.


On another occasion, a Canadian player was in a legitimate struggle for the puck as he and the opponent fell to the ice. Ideally, if the Canadian kid lets go of the stick, he avoids the penalty.  No such luck. And to go from bad to worse on the same play, he skates up the ice and whacks the stick of another Finn. Consequently, he received two minor penalties. The Finn was holding the stick ever so softly, and let it go as soon as it was touched, raising his hands to show that he had been violated. Embellished, I would say.


Authorities need to look at that situation a little more carefully. It is one thing to two-hand an opponent across the wrists, yet another to tap a stick. If the stick breaks, I can see a penalty. But even the sticks they use today sometimes break easily, often at critical times.


Another call that irks me slightly is a charging call when there is no charge. The authorities use the expression, “he left his feet”. Basketball players stand under the basket, waiting for rebounds. If a shot is missed, they leave their feet. There is no charging involved. In the game against the Finns, a smaller Canadian jumped to check his opponent. He was standing beside the Finn. But because he left his feet, he was penalized. Hogwash!!


 On several other occasions, Canadian players shouted at officials, and at the Finns, at times almost taunting. That indicates a lock of focus. Some of my friends are putting the onus for this on the coaches. I agree, but only to a certain point.


Because the players are selected from leagues across the country, they get together to practice for a very short time before the tournament begins. Coaches do not have a lot of time to work with them, to mould them into a cohesive unit. There is a lot of individual play at these tourneys, not always productive.  There were many occasions when a good crisp pass would have been better than a weak shot on goal. Players tended to hold on to the puck too long.


Players know that they are in the spotlight, and that their play in these tournaments will affect their ranking when it comes to the NHL Draft, the big prize for every player. Several players had already been selected. Some are now playing in the NHL, and the Canadian team could have used their services. Connor McDavid? Aaron Ekblad? Just to name a couple who still meet the requirements to play in a Junior Tournament.


There are several players on other teams who will come back to their teams in the Canadian Hockey league. More than 60 players fall into that category. You could say we train them well, so they could beat us! Russians and Finns in the final. No love lost there!



James Hurst


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