The IIHF World Junior Championships begin in just a few days in Edmonton and Calgary, and I have been asked by Justin Bourne, editor of the Backhand Shelf hockey blog, to walk those who may not be familiar with the tournament through some of the basics they’ll need to know.

How it works:

There are always 10 teams in the tournament, which is a nice way for Russia, Canada, the U.S., Sweden and the Slovaks to pretend like anyone else has the slightest chance of medaling.

This year, Group A consists of Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia and Latvia. Group B features Canada, the U.S., Finland, the Czechs and Denmark. If you watch any Group A games at all, that would be a fairly big mistake.

The tournament kicks off the day after Christmas, which is known as Boxing Day in Canada. This is a holiday made up specifically so Canadians could watch their beloved team lose every year.

What to watch for:

There are a slew of high-quality young players in the tournament every year, many of whom are draft-eligible, meaning this is a great opportunity to see who the Blue Jackets will take first overall in June.

Russia has easily the tournament’s two most dynamic offensive players in Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko, who are lighting up the CHL and seem likely go first and second overall in this year’s coming NHL Entry Draft. The team also has goaltending good enough to give Russia a chance to win every game 16-15.

Then there’s the host country. With only 12 players who have been picked in the first round, and two more players projected to go about that high in this year’s draft, this might be the scrappiest, underdoggest, lunchpailest Team Canada of all time, TSN reports.

(Incidentally, when discussing the tournament with a Canadian, please don’t bring up that the USA and Russia have won the last two World Junior gold medals unless you really want to hear about the time Canada won it in 1988 as though anyone cares what happened several years before any of the current players in the tournament were born.)

However, experts — or, more accurately, Canadian media types intentionally sandbagging their own team so that they can act like the team’s inevitable fourth-place finish wasn’t a total disappointment — say Team USA’s long list of returning players makes them the favorites. And that’s probably true, as they will be better equipped to handle being pelted with rotten fruit thrown by jealous Canadians and victimized by a series of phantom calls from corrupt IIHF officials.

But just because these three teams are expected to repeat as the medalists once again this year doesn’t mean that there won’t be reasons to keep the other games on in the background while you nap.

For example, if you get the chance, you might want check out a Finland game and watch the work of dynamic brothers Markus and Mikael Granlund, two of hockey’s most successful lacrosse players.

And apparently, rumors that the Czech Republic and Slovakia could only afford a small number of letters for their players’ jerseys were proven false, meaning Martin Frk and Marek Tvrdon actually spell their names that way.

That just about covers the world’s top hockey nations. There are also the doormats that get to play Washington Generals to the Big Six’s Globetrotters.

Players like Latvia’s Zemgus Girgensons and Denmark’s Niklas Jensen will give fans big-time thrills when they get the puck, at least until their teams are mathematically eliminated from the tournament during round robin play, which could happen as often as twice five minutes into their first games.

And because many of this year’s games will be played in Calgary, home fans will have an excellent opportunity to get an eyeful of Flames top prospect Sven Baertschi before Jay Feaster trades him to Carolina for a fourth-round pick next season.

Fun facts for North American fans:

  • If you see a little red light go off behind Canada goaltender Mark Visentin every four minutes or so, don’t worry. That’s totally normal.
  • You’ll probably notice that Team USA is missing WJC-eligible defenseman Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes, but that’s only because he’s too good to waste his time with a tournament only Canada really cares about but still can’t win for some reason.
  • Yes, Boone Jenner is a real person’s name. And yes, “Boone goes the dynamite” is a real thing they say on Canadian sports broadcasts.
  • Canada head coach Don Hay has yet to name a captain because every player on his team is too bad to merit consideration.
  • It’s too bad Canada cut 17-year-old scoring sensation Matthew Dumba because I had a lot of really funny jokes about that kid’s name.
  • The U.S. will rely heavily on goaltender Jack Campbell, who was outstanding in last year’s tournament, to not fall asleep during the lengthy bouts of play in which his team holds its opponents without a shot.
  • Canada will likely feel it has a good chance to win this year because it has home ice advantage. John Carlson would like a word with them on the subject.
  • American-born Pierre McGuire might come off as a big-time Canada homer on broadcasts but that’s only because he feels bad for how terribly they’re bound to do.
  • Canada’s best player is arguably Jaden Schwartz who, because he’s the team’s only NCAA player and therefore actually attends classes, will have to play through the wedgies his teammates give him for being nerd. Along those same lines, Team Canada discourages anyone from asking its players to spell “IIHF.”
  • America is going to win this in a walk, so you can probably just go ahead and clear your schedule for 10 p.m. on Jan. 5, when the U.S. will be awarded its anticlimactic gold medals.

Enjoy the games, everyone!

[Author's note: I am American.]

Comments (24)

  1. “[Author's note: I am American.]”

    Yeah, that wasn’t too blindingly obvious at all…

    some of the blog accurate…some of it funny…some of it…typical

  2. I don’t really want to dwell on your shots at Canada because I understand that this is tongue-in-cheek. But from quick glance it seems you have provided some faulty info.

    1) The Granlund brothers play for Finland.
    2) MATHEW Dumba is a defensemen so I’m not sure why you label him as a “scoring sensation.”

    Thanks for your “walk through”. I’m sure everyone that was uninformed about this tournament is even more uninformed now.

    • The Granlunds do play for Finland you moron!

      • Very good. The Granlund brothers do play for Finland.

        Just as I said they did.

        (The original article (before it was fixed) said they played for Sweden.)

      • Very good. The Granlund brothers do play for Finland.

        Just as I said they did.

        (The original article (before it was fixed) said they played for Sweden.)

  3. Moronic, jealous and off-base, yup definitely an American.

    • I can’t believe I’m defending Lambert…

      You realize that this was a joke right? Lighten up and laugh a little. It’s not going to kill you.

      Unable to take a joke, uptight, and easily offended, yup definitely a Canadian.

    • You haven’t read a Lambert column before have you?

      • Relax guys, I was also being tongue-in-cheek, well at least a bit. I’m familiar with his writing, usually enjoy it, this one had a few funny parts but a lot of it I just found more stupid than funny, just my opinion.

        Along what Ryan said, there’s a difference between clever humor and elementary humor. Unless Bourne’s instructions were “just write an article about the WJC and say whatever it takes to offend Canadians,” I feel like he could do better. Lucky for Lambert, Canada has 6 Justin Faulk’s who are unfortunately too good for this tourney, it’s USA’s to lose.

  4. Hilarious.

    And yes, I’m an American too. It’s tongue-in-cheek. Have a laugh at yourself once in a while.

  5. Awesome and hilarious. Could have worked a good lumberjack joke in there though.

  6. Hahahaha well written! Got me all fired up and angry even as I laughed.

    Great way to get people thinking about watching. I am one of those that sits around the TV with about 50 relatives on Boxing Day to watch the first Canada game.

  7. What’s with all the hate here? I’m Canadian and I thought this was hilarious. I was chuckling throughout the whole thing. Does no one here participate in friendly trash talk with friends when over different ‘favourite teams’ or if they’re playing against each other at any kind of game or sport?

    • And of course now I see the two or three remarks that preceded mine that showed people DO have a sense of humour… oopsy. :P

  8. I’m well aware that this is supposed to be funny, but generally a good joke finds a way to tie itself to reality or is at least a tiny bit clever. Jokes that are based completely on made up things aren’t really that interesting or clever, they’re stupid. That’s about 90% of the column.

    It would be nice to see an actual tournament preview written by someone not named Lambert. I’m still stunned that this guy has people paying him to write, even if he is only paid in cheese sandwiches.

    • I agree. I understand how this article is “supposed” to be funny but it didn’t appeal to me. I already passed grade four, lame “you suck” jokes aren’t funny anymore. A wittier, classier approach was needed here. Maybe use facts like “the hamilton brother’s mother told coach they couldn’t play unless they both were picked” not funny like that but i bet it would be if used properly.

      P.s The canadian crowd atmosphere can win them the tournament alone. RED AND WHITE BABY!

      [Author's note: left my grammer and spelling in grade 4, sorry Ms.Thorne!]

  9. hahaha you have to explain how it works to these american idiots hahaha and dumb it down hahaha what idiots hahaha

  10. Not mentioning Finland as a medal candidate got me all… angry and stuff! Two golds, four silvers and six bronze medals. Grr.

  11. Pierre McGuire is American? How did we let that happen?

  12. You forgot to mention that the Canadians will have stopped using steroids, and that’s why they won’t win.

  13. Shameless pandering to infuriate “too serious” Canadian fans and trump up US pride in efforts to up the number of hits for your website.

    Well done. ;-)

    Disclaimer: I am Canadian.

  14. There are days that I wonder how I am going to put up with the American BS. It must be difficult to try and find out anything about Canada since not even in their schools do they allow the kids to learn anything about their neibour(Canada) that props them up all the time and on their newscasts they do not even show where Canada is. So why trust an Americans opinion about anything Canadian. As I understand it even North Korean journalists know more about their neighbours than the American journalists know about Canada. So much for reliability.

  15. sat…..ire? Ryan Lambert uses sat……ire?

    Get a grip you Nancies! Good job stirring the pot Lambert.

  16. Is satire just a writers term for trash talk, if so game on and responses are fair game, right?

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