The World Junior Hockey championship ended in dramatic fashion in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Competing for gold, Canada and USA went head-to-head in a hockey game for the ages. The Canadians would go up by two goals twice, but the Americans would come back each time to erase the deficit. 60 minutes of hockey in regulation time were not enough, and neither was 20 minutes of overtime. With the hockey game having so much action and high quality hitting and offence from both sides, it was a shame to see that it would need to result in a shootout to determine the winner. The United States would get the lone goal, winning the game 5-4 and bringing home with them the gold medal.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 6, 2017
Canadians often take pride in its hockey, often calling the sport Canada’s game. Thus losing the game considering it was to their North American rivals in a shootout with the leads that they had was truly heartbreaking.
“They gave everything,” Canadian head coach Dominique Ducharme said of his players while speaking with TSN. “The commitment, the effort to our team, the attitude our guys had all tournament, they committed to the team.”
The gold medal game was not the only one filled with drama. The day before, two semifinal games had plenty of pace and back-and-forth action as well. In the afternoon, the United States and Russia displayed plenty of speed in a very entertaining game with few pauses in the action. Like their gold medal win, USA had to take the game to a shootout to advance to the finals. In the evening, Canada battled through adversity from giving up early leads to Sweden, yet were able to group together to deliver a very convincing win.
The Swedish junior hockey team, winners of 40 straight preliminary games and the consensus favorite, were once again unable to see things through in the elimination rounds. They have only won a single junior gold medal in 35 years and have gone without a medal in a World Junior Hockey Championship in three straight. They lost in the bronze medal game to Russia, who scored 33 seconds into overtime. Considering that they were the only powerhouse team that did not have any eligible players unavailable due to playing in the National Hockey League, Sweden’s failures come at an even greater surprise.
The challenge for smaller hockey countries is that if they are missing of their top players, it is more difficult to fill their empty spots in the teams’ lineups with less top-end players to call upon. Finland, the defending gold medalists, were missing its top three eligible junior hockey players currently playing in the NHL. It is a reason they struggled mightily, forced to play in the relegation round. The team’s management even fired the entire coaching staff before its tournament was over after failing to meet expectations.
A big story in the midst of this junior hockey tournament was the disappointing attendance for Hockey Canada. The governing body admitted that they expected better sales numbers. The main criticism was towards the ticket prices, which were close to professional hockey prices. Playing in a major hockey market seemed to make the decision makers think that high ticket prices would still fetch attendance. Similar concerns arose from the last time Canada hosted the World Junior Hockey Championship two years ago, thus ticket prices were 30 percent cheaper this year, according to CBC.
The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is an annual event that features some of the world’s best young hockey players compete for gold. Next year’s tournament will take place in Buffalo, New York, USA.
[Featured Image by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images]