World Junior’s is here!

All year I look forward to boxing day. It’s the first day that the puck drops in the World Juniors Hockey tournament and kicks off 11 days of great hockey. I love watching the juniors play. It’s fast-paced, give-it-all-you’ve-got hockey. These young guys are the rising stars in the sport and are working hard to make a name for themselves and prove their ability, skill and heart for the game.

There has been a lot of talk about Canada’s exhibition loss to Sweden. I don’t think it was necessarily a bad thing for a few reasons. First, it was a good wake-up for the team and exhibition is the time to have that. The loss helps the boys realize that the caliber of the talent on the other teams is right up there with their own and they can’t let their guard down for a single minute.

Second, I’m hoping the exhibition games showed coach Hay that he should really consider putting Wedgewood in as the starting goalie. I think he’s a really skilled goalie and will impress people (he already has playing with the Plymouth Whalers) if he’s given the chance. That said, I have to give it up to Visentin in the way that he has handled himself well since giving up 5-unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes of the gold medal game last year that resulted in perhaps the worst collapse in World Junior history and forced Canada to settle with the silver medal. He has had to answer a lot of questions about that performance and has been scrutinized endlessly. Throughout it all he has held his head high and patiently and politely answered those questions. So props to a young man who has conducted himself very well since that historic loss. All that said, my confidence is with Wedgewood and I hope he gets the nod to start today.

Finally, I don’t think the exhibition loss was the worst thing because it has removed some of the pressure from the Canadian squad to move through the tournament undefeated. Every year the Canuck kids have enormous expectations placed upon them to win every game, from the exhibition games right through the finals. With some of that pressure relieved, hopefully the boys will settle into the tournament and let their skills shine.

Canada plays their first preliminary game today against Finland in the tournament opener. Canadians are 20-7-6 all-time against the Finns and are heading into this game on the back of  a six-game winning streak against Finland. Game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET.

GO CANADA!

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