Canada’s tradition of the World Junior Hockey Championships will be put on full display this Boxing Day, as 10 Junior Hockey countries will battle it out over a nine-day stretch. In total, there’s a possibility of 31 games that could be decided on who will be crowned 2016 IIHF World Junior Hockey Champions.
As always, TSN’s family of channels will have wall-to-wall coverage of the World Juniors. It has become an annual event for Canadian hockey fans as they get to watch the best players who are under 20 face-off for glory.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, in the past, what turned out to be players who went on to have Hall Of Fame Careers have played in this tournament. Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros and Mario Lemieux lead a long and star-studded list of NHL greats that have played at the World Juniors.
In a sense, it is Canada’s version of March Madness that cultivates America for a two-week span in March. For this Tournament, teams are divided into two groups of five and the groups are determined by last years results.
From there, the top four teams will advance to the quarterfinals and will be seeded according to how they finished in the group. For the fifth place finishers, they will play a best out-of-three to determine who gets relegated for next year. In the rare case where next year’s host is relegated, they will stay in the top division and the next worst team will then get sent down.
This format is a relatively new one, as they decided to increase the amount of quarterfinal teams from six to eight in an attempt to try to grant more teams a chance in advancing to the quarterfinals. The downside is the group stage is less important as there’s a less of an advantage to finishing first in the group as there is no first round bye.
Some years are more memorable than others. For instance, in 2005, when it was hosted at Grand Forks, North Dakota. This has become a special spot in every Canadian hockey fans’ heart. That year, because of the NHL lockout, Canada sent one of the most dominant teams in history to the World Juniors. In fact, to say that the team was an All-Star squad and were way above the rest of the competition would be a complete distortion.
Fast forward two years later in Leksand, Sweden, where Canada played one of the most intense games in World Junior history when they defeated USA in the semi-finals, 2-1 in a shootout. As nerve-racking of a hockey game it was, the shootout was even more breathtaking as then future Chicago Blackhawks’ star Jonathan Toews scored three different times. Eventual Montreal Canadian Carey Price soon sealed the deal with a save to send Canada to the Gold Medal game. This was a moment in Canadian hockey history where fans will always remember where they were when Canada won.
These are just a couple of many amazing moments for Canada in the past decade. The tournament got big for the Canadians in 1982 when they won the gold in Minnesota and the arena didn’t even contain a recording of the Canadian National anthem. Since then, Canada has thrived at the World Juniors by collecting a total of 15 gold medals.
This year, Canada looks to defend their 2015 WJ Gold as Victoria Royals player’ Joe Hicketts, Vancouver Canucks’ forward Jake Virtanen and Erie Otters’ superstar Dylan Strome lead the charge for the Canadians. They will bring a seven-game winning streak collectively dating back to last year. While the team still has a long ways to go until they reach the level of the 45-game stretch that they had from 2005-2011, where they went a mind-boggling 42-1-2.
The groups for this years World Junior Championship:
5. United States
2. Czech Republic
To sum everything up, this tournament is one of the best holiday traditions you can find in the upper north portion of North America. This is where you want to see the stars of tomorrow, and today I would highly suggest getting to know more of this classical tournament.