January 05, 2008

Golden

Canada is golden at the world junior hockey championship once again. This one came with some drama, as Canada blew a 2-0 lead but won it 3-2 in overtime. Make it four in a row, baby, for the greatest hockey nation in the world.

First of all, full marks to the Swedish junior team. They played a gutsy game in the final and pushed Canada to the brink. They were the top team in the round robin and were the first team to beat Canada in four years at this tournament.

But the serious props go out to each and every young man on team Canada. This wasn't the most talented Canadian squad sent over to the junior tournament - far from it. No big names like in years past like Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Carey Price or Jonathan Toews. Canada's squad this year was all about hard work and, once again, they got the job done.

Canada also had the benefit of some serious crowd support. There were a ton of Canadian fans in the crowd for each and every game and Gord Miller put it best when he said you would think that the tournament was being played in Pardubice, Saskatchewan and not Pardubice, Czech Republic. The tournament will be home to North America for the next four years, starting with Ottawa in 2008, and I've got to get me to one of the games. They seem like a drunken good time.

Canada was up 2-1 with under a minute left to play in the third period of the final. I guess all teams with a Maple Leaf on their chest love to blow late third period leads. It is amazing how a minor international hockey rule change can effect the game. With less than a minute to go Canada forward Shawn Matthias sent the puck down the ice from the Canadian zone and it was rolling towards the Swedish goal line. Matt Halischuk got on his horse but couldn't reach the puck in time as it hit the red line for a no-touch icing call, and the puck was sent back to the Canadian zone. With touch-icing rules, as is the standard in North America, Halischuk gets to the puck first, eats up valuable seconds off the clock, and possibly scores in the empty Swedish net to seal the deal. Sweden, however, won the ensuing faceoff in Canada's zone, set up shop, and scored the equalizer to send the game to overtime.

Matthias and Halischuk did get their revenge. In overtime. It was Matthias who took the puck to the net from the corner and Halischuk slapped it home from the crease to make Canada world junior champions for the fourth year in a row. It's becoming a winter passage. It snows in January, and Canada wins the world junior tournament. You better believe it.

Halischuk was at a loss for words when speaking to TSN reporter James Cybulski after the game. I was expecting one of the other Canadian boys to sidle up to him and say "like that time we went to Fallsview Casino!"

It never gets old watching a group of young Canadian men line up on the blue line, Canadian flags draped over their shoulder pads, locked in arms, to sing the national anthem. With that in mind, it's been a while, so why not?

Oh Canada!
Our home and native land.
True patriot love,
In all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
THE TRUE NORTH STRONG AND FREE!
From far and wide,
Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free.
Oh Canada, we stand on guard...for...thee.
OH CANADA, we stand on guard.....
For......
Thee!!!!!!!!

Like that dope Don Cherry says, "that's a beauty!"

Congratulations Canada, and thanks as always.

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