January 6, 2011

Canadian Juniors let down a nation

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

I seriously cannot get over Wednesday night’s world junior final game. How could you possibly expected a team as great as Canada’s failing to defeat a heavy underdog? How can you get over Russia’s starting goalie getting yanked, then his team wins? How can you get over blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period? How can you get over giving up five goals in a period?
It may have been the biggest choke job of the entire year – which isn’t saying much since we’re six days into 2011. But really, what kind of a choke job would be worse than this for the rest of 2011. I think we’d be pretty safe handing over the award right now.
This tournament is pretty much Canada’s to lose every year. Even when they come into the world juniors with a supposedly weak team, can you ever really argue that they’ll be in the final with a chance to win it? Let’s put it this way: Canada was a -550 favourite to beat Russia. I’m also quite sure you couldn’t find a place in the world that would take the bet that Canada wouldn’t medal.
While it took place in Buffalo, it was still pretty much home-ice advantage for the Canadians. Let’s face it, it’s only minutes from the Canadian border and I’m pretty sure that was their main pitching point when vying to host the tournament.
Side note: Buffalo had the highest overall attendance for the world juniors since Ottawa hosted. Why do you think that? Because a place like Buffalo has an NHL arena, unlike a place like Regina that hosted last season. It’s also why Calgary/Edmonton will break the record next year. After that, it’ll most likely be in Europe and no one will care enough in that country to make the games a sellout.
The pain of this loss is going to be a lot more than last year’s failure, too. It’s one thing to lose in overtime – even on your home ice – but coughing up a lead that was that big, that rapidly, it has to just eat you up on the inside.
I know that Team USA’s 2008 Olympic basketball squad was called the “Redeem Team,” but I’m sure that next year’s Canadian squad will be all over that one. And if they somehow fail again, well, then it this tournament might actually become a legitimate event instead of a Canadian romp-fest.

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