It's that time of year again. The WJC is taking place in the Czech Republic and every NHL team wants to know how their prospects are performing in this pressure packed tournament. For the few draft hopefuls that play in the tournament that is typically dominated by 19 year olds, all eyes are on them, and if they play well enough, a high draft choice is in the cards. As a tournament, however, is it really that exciting? Is there a reason it is a much larger tournament (television-wise) in Canada than it is in the United States?
Since the tournament became officially sanctioned by the IIHF in 1977, the "Big 6" (Canada, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, USA) have taken home 97.8% of the medals awarded (this number would be slightly higher had the Canadians and Russians not been disqualified in 1987 for their bench brawl).
In that same time period, Canada alone has 41.9% of the medals while Team U.S.A. has taken home 5.4% (3 bronze, 1 silver, 1 gold). I did a little research on the number of medals each team has won at www.worldjuniors2008.com/clanek.asp?id=2418
and found that only two countries outside of the six mentioned above have taken home a medal (Switzerland and Slovakia earned a bronze medal in this tournament in 1998 and 1999 respectively).
Canada and Russia have combined to capture gold 80.6% of the time in the WJC. Canada has won 13 and Russia has earned 12( the next highest gold medal total is a tie between the Czech Republic and Finland with 2 each). In the tournament's 30 year history, Canada or Russia has brought home a gold or silver medal in the same year 12 times, leaving the rest of the world (or the other 4 "hockey countries" ) to fight for the bronze.
What does this have to do with television ratings? If you look at the highest rated tournaments in the United States, it's usually March Madness and the Masters. What do these two tournaments have that the WJC doesn't? Upsets. Sure there have been some surprising teams that took home medals in the WJC, but it's always the same countries over and over again, and it's only the U.S.A. winning a medal five times in 30 years. There is no George Mason, Creighton, and a massive list of golfers and other NCAA basketball teams that have made the upset headlines. It's the two giant fish in the global pond that seem to be competing year in and year out for the top prize.
How much interest can there be in a tournament that more often than not has a winner picked before it starts? To this, I say who cares who wins. It's a tournament designed for the future NHL stars to showcase their talent, and that in itself should be reason to watch.