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Why is the World Juniors the most entertaining hockey tournament of all?



While the IIHF, the NHL, the KHL, and the other hockey associations are arguing as usual about how to form and make new deals or set up new leagues, the juniors are preparing themselves for a new exciting World Juniors.

Before I continue with the juniors, I have to emphasize that the hockey world won’t change a bit until we have more sincere discussions about how to evolve.

As it is now, it is all about “What I want and what I get” talks and that is not going to lead anywhere; on the contrary, it is waste of time and a dead-end dialogue.

René Fasel, the chairman of the IIHF organization, seemed to be a bit desperate when he suggested that Finland and Sweden, for example, should have a mutual league.

And, that is just one of the consequences of not having a serious discussion between each other; when we try to shoot the puck with a blindfold and hope it will hit the target, it is just blah, blah, and blah.

In a longer run, it affects also the senior tournaments, if it is just for keeping up something that doesn’t really work: for example, the Olympic tournament in Pyongyang is saved by the KHL, but that’s just a stop-gap, nothing else.

So, in the end, the only hockey tournament worth following and watching is the World Junior Championship that takes place every year this time of the year, from the end of the December to the beginning of January.

But it is not only because of all the things I mentioned above, it is mostly because of the game on the ice itself, how it is performed and the excitement it brings.

The hockey that is presented is at a higher level than most regular league teams in Europe can perform on the ice.  These young prospects are already as fully pro as they can get even if they have still a lot of experience to catch up on.

Furthermore, it is a more open tournament and you can’t say for sure who is going to win even if the top nations are Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, and Switzerland.

And, even if you had a good year, the next might be a true thriller and a fight to remain in the top division – that’s how tough is it.

This year, the host is Buffalo and Orchard Park outside of Buffalo, and we have Canada, USA, Slovakia, Denmark and Finland in Group A.

My spontaneous thought is that Finland, Denmark and Slovakia will battle for places 3 and 4.

But in Finland’s case, it will be very interesting to see Eeli Tolvanen who has been one of the most outstanding rookies this year in the KHL.

In group B we’ll have following: Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Czechia, and Belarus.

If nothing really odd and peculiar happens, we will have those four first-mentioned teams in the quarterfinal.

In general, when it comes to the World Juniors, it is fantastic hockey entertainment as it always should be, and it doesn’t really matter who wins even if even I have my faves.  I just want to see great and exciting hockey, that’s all.

So, René Fasel & Co., you have indeed something to think about when you look at the senior level and the tournaments there.

I’m leaving the game of hockey with nothing but great memories.

-Joe Sakic, former Canadian hockey player born 1969.


I wish you, my dear reader, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Take care of each other out there.

I’ll be back after the World Juniors.

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Arto Palovaara, Sunday Chronicler for Sports Rants Europe. Previously, he contributed for the betting company Betsafe, Svenska fans, Get real hockey and Ice nation UK. He is also an educated archaeologist and life coach who loves literature and history. Not to forget: probably he is the only sportswriter that plays the banjo.