The school break for Kindergarteners to University students; holiday vacation time for the employed; Christmas celebrations; and finally, the start of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. December never feels the same without it.
I've always appreciated the NHL. As a hockey fanatic, the Memorial Cup is the second tournament marked on my calendar - we all know the Stanley Cup gets first insertion. The third falls under the "last but not least" column and is perhaps the most anticipated tournament for me. My only wish is that the NHL would put more into it as this year 8 possible members of team Canada are unavailable for the event due to commitment to the big leagues; that's almost two full lines.
The Olympics come once every four years and to be honest, other than the 2002 spectacle, they haven't exactly been the most exciting hockey games to tune in for. The refereeing is usually questionable at best, and despite the boat load of talent that shows up to put on their country jerseys, the lack of chemistry or perhaps abundance of egos clash in a bizarre way to make the matchups both boring and frustrating to watch for fans and players alike. It is likely why a large portion of the hockey population would rather the NHL stay out of it since the Olympics are supposed to be a competition for amateur athletes, not professionals, but just try and say that to the NBA and Americans. As a matter of fact, the Spengler Cup is more enjoyable to watch than the Olympics. It's when the unsung heroes come out to shine.
This is exactly why I love this time of the year. People are out celebrating, the attitude is a much happier one amongst friends and relatives, and there's hockey, hockey and more hockey. The World Juniors, the Spengler Cup, and the NHL; what more could a hockey fan ask for?
This year's Spengler Cup team Canada squad features a few former Maple Leafs, and one I felt they should not have let go of in Jay Harrison. It also features some bounce-around NHLers, most notably Brad Isbister, Rico Fata and Randy Robitaille, and last year's Spengler Cup hero Jean-Guy Trudel. Here's Canada's full roster:
The World Juniors officially kicks off today with a few Leafs prospects in the act. The United States will play Gemany in a game that will feature live coverage of U.S.A's Jimmy Hayes, talk about a slogan name, and Germay's Jerome Flaake. A few hours later, Chris DiDomenico, who has found a comfort level on the top line (arguably) with John Tavares and Angelo Esposito, will be opening their tournament against Tomas Knotek and the Czech Republic. Dustin Tokarski will get the country's game opener start.
As much as I will be cheering my home country on, I urge viewers to tune in to the United States and Germany games to get a firsthand look at how well Toronto's prospects play against the best in the world in their age group. It is, after all, the most competitive tournament outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the world of hockey.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
Micheal A. Aldred