Of all of the things on your mind on the day after Christmas, I am guessing the World Junior Hockey Championships are not terribly high on your list. However, if you give it some consideration, you might be awfully intrigued by one of the bigger stages and moments on the hockey calendar to those inside the game.
I honestly never had much of a grasp of this event for years and years, but once I began to talk with the players, coaches, general managers, broadcasters, and pretty much anyone else who makes their living inside the National Hockey League, I learned I was missing quite a spectacle. For the next few weeks, the small talk in the dressing room is about this tournament. Steve Ott will always engage one in talk about the World Juniors, a tournament that he was featured in back in 2001. The trouble was, to the American like me (and I am guessing, you) there was this small issue of nobody in the media covering this event and therefore not knowing what I was missing.
No Radio – of course.
No Newspaper – not even a word.
And, of course, no television. Oh, the apple of my eye. That sweet magic box we know as tv. Without television, the sports world is just a rumor. For years, the NHL was just a rumor in my life, as then commissioner John Ziegler thought it would be a great deal to sign a television deal with Sportschannel America, which was available in about 54 homes. Almost the entire era of Edmonton being dominant in the 1980’s was something that I read about in Sports Illustrated, but seldom saw with my own eyes – despite growing up in the frozen north of Wisconsin.
But, then, the NHL found ESPN. And many of us found the NHL, just in time to see Gretzky in Los Angeles…and St Louis…And New York.
Well, now there are many ancillary segments of hockey that are opening up to us who love this game. And, now, in HIGH DEFINITION!!!!! I bring you (actually, I don’t – the NHL Network does) the World Junior Championship – live from Ottawa, Canada.
What is it? Basically, it is an annual holiday tournament that places the very finest talent the hockey world has to offer (under the age of 20) on the same ice for 10 days of great hockey. It is a feeding frenzy for all scouts and personnel gurus around the NHL to either check in with the talent they have already drafted, or talent that they plan on drafting this June.
So, here is what I think you need to know about this tournament:
Q: Where can you see it?
A: Exclusively, on the NHL Network
Q: When are the games on – and where is a full schedule?
A: Here you go: As found at USA Hockey.com …
NHL Network Coverage of 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship
Fri., Dec. 26 Germany-United States 2:30 p.m.
Canada-Czech Republic 6:30 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 28 Kazakhstan-Canada 2:30 p.m.
United States-Czech Republic 6:30 p.m.
Mon., Dec. 29 Germany-Canada 6:30 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 30 United States-Kazakhstan 6:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 31 Canada-United States 6:30 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 2 Quarterfinals 2:30/6:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 3 Semifinals 2:30/6:30 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 5 Bronze/Gold Medal Games 2:30/6:30 p.m.
Q: Who do the Stars currently own in this tournament?
A: 3 players. Sergei Korostin, the Stars 3rd rounder in 2007 plays for Russia, is a Right Winger. Ondrej Roman, the Stars 5th rounder in 2007 plays Center for the Czech Republic. And last, but certainly not least is Jamie Benn, another 5th rounder from 2007, plays LW for Canada. The Stars are really hoping that he shows some offensive impact on a loaded Canada squad, and of course, as with all snipers, they want to see how well he minds his own end of the rink.
Q: Who are the players that will be household names in the 2009 NHL Draft who will be featured in this tournament?
A: Well, it is actually a pretty good list. And of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, there is a bit of a consensus being created, and according to a poll of scouts put together by TSN , here are their findings:
TSN's Top Ten Prospects at the WJHC
1. John Tavares (CAN)
2. Victor Hedman (SWE)
3. Magnus-Svensson Paajarvi (SWE)
4. Jordan Schroeder (USA)
5. Evander Kane (CAN)
6. Dimitri Kulikov (RUS)
7. Jacob Josefsson (SWE)
8. Ryan Ellis (CAN)
9. David Rundblad (SWE)
10. Tom Erixon (SWE)
Q: What sort of evidence can you present that this is worth my while as a hockey fan?
A: Here you go: 12 months ago, the all-tournament team had Drew Doughty, Kyle Turris, and Patrick Berglund on it, all 3 are regulars in the NHL today. The tournament 24 months ago had, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Carey Price on the all-tournament team. And just 3 years ago this week, the leading scorers in the World Juniors were Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. That is pretty reasonable evidence, right? Well, how about this: 4 years ago, the World Juniors had: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Alexander Ovechkin, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf and Sidney Crosby.
So, if you can spare the time amidst the parties and bowl games, and of course, the Stars game and the brilliance of the NHL Winter Classic, check out the World Juniors on the NHL Network.