As an American, I’m pretty comfortable with nationalism. Growing up in the States means growing up with it everywhere. One expects one’s countrymen to routinely say things to the effect that the US of A is the single greatest place that has every been or ever will be. It’s so common that you take it for granted- yes yes, city on a hill, beacon of light to all humanity, superpower, save the world, etc etc. Not that every single American is aflame with patriotic fervor every day of the week. Lots of us are skeptical of the national claim to Best Thing Ever status. Lots of us deconstruct our country’s exceptionalist pretensions. But in the States, there’s a refrain of USA! USA! USA! that thrums beneath everyday life like bass beneath dance music. After a while, you don’t even really think about it, whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad. It’s just there. The earth spins on its axis, the sun rises in the east, and everyone goes WHOO HOO FUCK YEAH WHOOP WHISTLE YAY during the national anthem.
Canada doesn’t have that baseline level of nationalist noise. If U.S. discourse about itself can be summed up as “AMERICA: BEST COUNTRY ON EARTH!!!!!!!!”, Canada’s is more like “Canada: maybe it shouldn’t actually be a country, except it would be sort of a hassle to break things up, and we’re not in the mood to fight about it, so whatever.” I don’t know where this collective ambivalence comes from. Maybe it’s a dominion thing.
Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, arguably the top offensive duo in the country, was notoriously separated for this tournament.
For the fourth consecutive year, Canada will fail to win gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. That’s not too concerning in itself, since Canada went without a gold in longer stretches between 1977-1981 and 1998-2004. The team lost by a goal in 2010 and thanks to an uncanny collapse in 2011. It’s not as though there’s a long stretch where the team has significantly under-performed.
Even less than ten years ago, Canada could have no problem icing a roster that wasn’t their best simply because there was no guarantee the top rivals in the tournament would be able to put together a team of 23 junior players who were all going to have professional careers at some level. Recently, that aspect has changed. USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is well established at this point, and Sweden made changes to its coaching and recruitment techniques back in the early part of the last decade, which appear to be paying off for them.
Canada hasn’t particularly lagged. Canada has enough interest and facilities nationwide that a centralized development program isn’t needed. There’s no doubt it my mind that there is a team to be made up of Canadian hockey players under the age of 20 that could have been a surer bet to win the world championship this year.
Earlier in the World Juniors I shared my notes on Team Canada during their game against Slovakia, and it was well-enough received that I thought we’d go for round two. As you know, Canada lost to the US 5-1 this morning, and frankly, they’re lucky the final score was that close. Needless to say, a lot went wrong – here’s how I saw things as the game progressed. Retroactive thoughts in italics.
Good pressure by the US in the early going, awkward start by Subban on JT Miller’s shot (welp, that turned out to be some foreshadowing)
My two favourite players from this tournament are Jonathan Drouin, and John Gaudreau from the US. That kid is nasty.
Canada kinda forcing plays early through the middle of the ice, not sharp (Don’t worry Bourne, it gets worse)
US Goal One: Boone Jenner completely bails on getting hit 200 feet from the Canadian net (“take the hit to make the play” is a thing for a reason), US breaks it out easy. Harrington catches an edge which creates chaos in coverage, and the mess leads to a completely screened shot that finds a way in. Not Subban’s fault.
First time in this tournament I’ve thought “Hey, that Seth Jones is really good”
Canadian forwards (Drouin in particular) cheating on breakouts means MORE turnovers
Uh oh Drouin looks really 17 today.
Canada just cannot complete a pass in the neutral zone, it’s gross
Note to self: write a column on panic play, falling behind, desperation and how it causes you to use teammates less, do more, and be less effective Read the rest of this entry »
Hey, an elimination game! This should be fun. Today (tonight? I don’t know) the real fun begins as Canada takes on the US of A once again in a big IIHF game. I’m too tired to be nervous and too nervous to be coherent so this should be pretty interesting. Being tired aside, I kind of like how these early games add, for me, a lot more drama to these games. If we lose it’s like “I stayed up for THAT?” And if we win it’s more of a “that was amazing and I feel like I was part of something special.” Twitter has done a lot to further this and that’s a good thing. Cause, I mean, it’s sports, this is supposed to be fun. And it so, so is. I think that’s worth the trade off of being a little tired tomorrow and upset and disappointed if Canada can’t pull out a victory. So, yeah, it’s 3:56 am here in Toronto and Uncle Bob is giving us his keys to the game for Team Canada so that must mean the puck is about to drop.
Hey look, an American skater all alone in front of the net. Imagine that. (Andre Ringuette, hockeycanada.ca)
It was about as disastrous a performance as could be imagined. The US outplayed Canada right from puck drop, dominating them in every facet of the game. But it wasn’t just that the US played a great game, although they certainly did. The bigger problem was that Canada played their worst hockey of the entire tournament at exactly the wrong time.
It wasn’t a game worth waking up or staying up for; the game was out of reach by midway through the second period, as the US went on to win 5-1. Even Canada’s lone goal was a joke, as the puck went in well after the ref had already, albeit mistakenly, blown his whistle. In sum, it was an awful game that showed Team Canada was both poorly constructed and poorly coached. And I watched it. Like a chump.