Around this time of year, Team Canada is making their final selections for the annual IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships played from December 25th to January 5th. The tournament hosts many of NHL’s future superstars that will alter this upcoming 2017 NHL Draft in June. It has become a Canadian Tradition for Hockey Canada, as they start assembling their roster for another Gold Medal run, (their last Gold Medal came in 2014 when Canada hosted the event).
The last decade proved to be an overwhelming run for Canada, as it produced a wide range of NHL stars as well as annual tournament dominance. From 2005-2009, Canada took home gold every year. In fact, from 2004-2011, the Canadian U-20 team went on an unheard of run that saw them go 52-2-1. To make things even more remarkable, Canada’s two regulation losses were blown third period leads. Canada has come back down to earth recently by only winning one gold medal since 2009. But what has also changed is the anticipation for the tournament.
Despite a bevy of stars still playing for Canada, like Connor McDavid in 2015 and Jonathan Drouin in 2014, the tournament has become old news the last few years. The question used to be, how imposing will Canada be this time around? Or which player will acquire hype before the draft?
In the past, Canada’s teams usually contained a handful of drafted CHL players that were sent back to Juniors because they weren’t good enough. However, in the new era of hockey, where having speed is a valuable asset, players under 20 have been making NHL rosters quite frequently and therefore don’t play in the World Juniors that year. This has resulted in a lesser talent pool every year, which in turn has made the rest of the nations catch up to Canada in hockey talent.
This could be why the anticipation is down. With a decrease in player popularity, historically high TV ratings for the tournament in the past could be in jeopardy of improving. Just last season, TSN saw a drop in viewership from the event in 2015 –which accounted for 19.3 million viewers nationally – to 13.1 million in 2016.