Monday, July 7, 2008

The World Juniors are coming to town

It was briefly reported earlier this morning as being "expected" but now it's official: The World Junior Hockey Championship tournament is coming back to Saskatoon.

Saskatoon last held the tournament in '91, back when I was just a young'n who had no idea such a tournament existed. But since 2000 I've been hooked on the tournament as a showcase not only of the best up-and-coming players in hockey, but of the dogged perseverance and spirit of those young players.

These players, in the midst of a grueling junior hockey schedule, give up their Christmas and New Years to put on their country's jersey and fight it out for national pride. They leave their teams mid-season, head out to a quick training camp and are then rocketed across the world, tossed into a hotel and told "You have 1 1/2 weeks to win gold. You have less than that to become a team."

Yes, Canada has a lot invested in this tournament but make no mistake about it, the Russians, Swedes, Czechs, et. al. care deeply about this tournament as well. Nothing immortalizes that more than when, during the high of seeing your country's young players hold up that trophy, you see the camera pan to the losing bench. There you see players hanging their heads in exhaustion with their spirits broken and tears dripping onto the ice.

In 2010, I hope to be front and center watching Canada win the Gold. If not, I might squeeze out a tear or two.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Avalanche Sign O'Neil and Smith

No, it's not Jeff O'Neil and Jason Smith. It's Wes O'Neil and Wyatt Smith. The signing was announced today although all weekend long the Wyatt Smith signing was talked about on message boards. Yes, the state of the hockey world right now is so slow that the signing of a reserve forward was the talk of the weekend.

O'Neil, a former Islanders pick, has just finished up with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and was second among team defenceman with 21 points. He's a big guy at 6'4" and 200lbs but he's rated at 6.5 D on So currently he's expected to be a 5th or 6th D-man who may not even live up to those high expectations. But he'll likely do well on the Lake Erie Monsters roster.

Wyatt Smith is a career reserve forward who spent 61 games with the Minnesota Wild last season which was a career high. Another player likely to be on the Monsters roster for most of the year.

Thankfully the Canada-Russia Super Series will be a nice distraction from all this intense off-season action. At least until rookie camp starts on September 8th. I'll be watching the Canada-Russia game in Saskatoon on September 5th and I'm looking forward to seeing John Tavares in action. TSN and Rogers will be broadcasting the games on TV and across the ol' InterWeb.