Canadian Arrogance

Ahhh, Christmas holidays. A time filled with joy, tradition, freakishly cold weather, World Junior Championships and hockey arrogance.

For as long as I can remember, Canada has dominated the annual World Junior Hockey Championships. Without taking anything away from some of those All-Star teams (frankly, that’s what some of those teams were), I can’t help but note most of their opponents weren’t exactly in the same weight class. I can think of several World Junior Championships that saw Canada destroy every single team they faced, including their opposition in the gold medal game. It wasn’t even close.

But those were the old days and things have changed considerably since then. Canada, and to a lesser extent Russia, aren’t the only gold medal hopefuls anymore. They aren’t the only two good teams in the tournament. They aren’t guaranteed a gold medal showdown each year. Nations like Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, the United States and others have developed some seriously talented teams in recent years and are credible gold medal threats too.

Nowhere was that more evident than in last year’s WJC when the young and speedy US team upset Canada in the gold medal game. That was one hell of a hockey team.

Because Canadians are used to seeing their team win, I find there’s an awful amount of arrogance that surrounds the World Juniors (it was doubled last year with the Olympics in February). Maybe it’s me, but it’s like Canadians as a whole dismiss other strong hockey nations simply because they don’t have the same history of winning. It’s like we, Canadians, disregard other countries on the foundation that “they didn’t invent the game.” Or that they haven’t played the game for as long.

Who cares?

Here’s a hockey reality check: the gap between Canadians and other nations is getting smaller by the day.

The US are probably the best example of that. Somewhere in the not so distant future we’ll see more US-born players drafted into the NHL than any other nation, including Canada. The US, and other countries, are producing some great young hockey players that are just as good as most Canadian players (exception: that Crosby kid… he’s pretty good). I think Canadians sometimes ignore that, particularly around WJC’s.

I have no problem with Canadians wanting their team to win. I have no problem with Canadians being disappointed if a gold media isn’t captured. I do have a problem assuming a Canadian team will win gold each year or calling it a “massive failure” if some other nation simply outplays them. As other nations continue to improve at hockey, losing could happen more often than we’re used to seeing. I see that as a great thing for the game.

Canada’s not the only strong hockey nation anymore. Other nations have caught up (or just about). Just because hockey is so ingrained in Canadian culture, doesn’t mean other countries don’t know how to play the game well, and possibly play it better. That golden ticket to the gold medal game doesn’t exist anymore. More Canadian fans need to accept that.

Comments (7)

  1. God forbid Canadians ever trumpet our greatness.

  2. The difference is with other Nations it’s cyclical.

    The notion that other nations are catching up (especially in the WJC) isn’t supported. Sure Canada doesn’t always win, but Since 1988 there have been 23 tournaments. Canada has won it 13 times. They’ve also won silver 5 times. Out of 23 tournaments Canada has made it to the finals 18 out of 23 times (78%).

    That’s pretty damn impressive and even more so when you break it down further.

    There has not been a WJC final that Canada has not played in since 2001. Canada has 5 gold and 4 silver in the last 9 tournaments. The next best team is Russia with 2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze.

    For a couple of years, the Czech Republic and Russia were the main contenders. Lately it’s been The US and Sweden. The one constant has been Canada.

  3. A lot of this article I could have read 10 or 15 years ago.

  4. If Canada was able to play it’s World Junior eligable players that are currently in the NHL they would cake walk this tournament every single year.

    Canada will be without: Taylor Hall (Edmonton), Tyler Seguin (Boston), Jeff Skinner (Carolina), Kyle Clifford (Los Angeles), Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado), Matt Duchene (Colorado), and Evander Kane (Atlanta).

    • @ Ricky – Thanks for reading the post. I know what you are saying, but I really dislike that argument. Sure, those players would kill in this tournament. However, they are NHL players. This is a junior tournament. Just because they are eligible, doesn’t mean they should play.

      @ clefevre – I disagree (respectfully). The kind of talent and national balance I’m talking about was nowhere near as relevant to hockey 10 to 15 years ago as it is today. Thanks for reading the post.

      @ dawgbone – Sure, that’s impressive. No doubt about it. From say 2010 and on, I’d like to see Canada’s record after a few decades. I’ll eat my words if wrong, but I don’t think Canada will be as dominant with a closer playing field (improved nations).

      @ PPP – I just don’t think it’s “the Canadian way.” Seems weak.

  5. I do think that a lot of the country does look on this tournament with a fair amount of arrogance (the whole “Hockey is Canada’s Game” attitude). I think it’s a bigger problem in the Olympics than the Juniors, since the Juniors rewards volume of player production rather than outright quality.

    At the same time, though, I’m not sure if we can attribute a one-year OT loss in the gold medal game as anything approaching a trend.

    But as someone who doesn’t view this tournament as establishing national supremacy in anything, I just want to see good games. Last year’s tournament delivered on that, but those years where Canada rolls without any competition just don’t do anything for me.

  6. While I understand what you’re getting at (improved play around the world could mean less Canadian dominance in the sport most Canadians love) I digress on the title of your piece.
    I don’t think Canadians show much arrogance when it comes to our hockey teams. Sure, we may expect a gold result, but when it comes down to it each Canadian individually worries about each game result. We agonize over goals and plays days after a game and worry about trends and stats which usually have little to do with the play of the next game.
    Look, we know we have talented hockey players, hell, the world knows we have talented hockey players. That’s not arrogance. Almost our entire nation stands behind our teams (be it World Juniors or Olympics). That’s not arrogance. Finally, when our players do manage to come home with a gold medal, we cheer, drink and party until the sun comes up. That’s not arrogance either.

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