Canada beat Finland in an overtime match-up to remember but because of the off-ice failures that surrounded the tournament, it was hard to celebrate the on-ice successes at the World Juniors. Even with history being made right in front of us, Hockey Canada’s dirty laundry was spread across the news and dominated it for the past couple of months. Making it a perfect storm to not support this tournament while in what many consider an off month. However, World Juniors hockey still showcased prospects from across the league, which will always draw in fans.
World Juniors Hockey: Latvia
This was one of the most unlikely ways for a nation to earn their first win at a World Junior Championships. Originally they weren’t supposed to compete in this tournament. In December they played their 2022 tournament in Division I in Denmark. They came second only to be beaten by Belarus in the standings.
However, the IIHF would suspend both Russia and Belarus from the tournaments earlier in the year because of the invasion of Ukraine. With nine nations left and one needing to replace Russia, Latvia became the top nation to replace the hockey powerhouse.
With no wins at the top level of U20, it was unlikely that a Latvian team that was meant for Division I Hockey would make history. But in their last match in the group stage, they defied expectations. Against Czechia, the nation took their first win 5-3 against the Czechs and earned their place in their first quarterfinals and kicked out Slovakia. Despite a loss against Sweden in the quarterfinals, Latvia found their gold in this tournament.
World Junior Championships MVP: Mason McTavish
Tournament MVP, best forward voted by media, most goals, most points, the golden save, no awards, no stats and no moments could properly describe the dominance Mason McTavish showed in the tournament. The Olympian held the captaincy for the team and showed why
Like a man among children, McTavish finished the tournament with the most goals at eight and the most assists at nine. The only player to come close in points was Finland’s Joakim Kemell who scored four goals and had eight assists. With his MVP win, McTavish became the second Anaheim Ducks draft pick in a row to win the honor after American, Trevor Zegras won the award in 2021. He is one of the players to look for in the fall as he has a lot of options to start the season, but where ever he goes Ducks fans must be happy to see the prospect prosper early.
Lack of Attendance and Sponsors for World Juniors Hockey
With story after story being brought up with most of them coming from TSN’s Rick Westhead, it was a challenge to morally support the tournament. Add onto that the prices for tickets usually were above $50 it was a tournament that gave more excuses not to go than it did to actually attend in person.
There was also a clear view of a lack of sponsors. With no sponsors on the ice or boards and on TV, the Tim Hortons and truck commercials were replaced by infomercials you would find in the middle of the night. Everything off the ice felt strange and it did not feel like the same World Juniors we come to love.
But a lot of that has to do with Hockey Canada. Their failure to address the multitude of problems like the 2003 and 2017 sexual assault allegations to the public, government and sponsors makes the issues that came with advertising this tournament no one else’s but theirs.
But right now they have five months to properly address it. Hockey Canada has slipped up every opportunity they can to address it and more of their corruption and acceptance of the toxic role the culture has on our society has been shown to light. The next World Juniors will return at the end of December and it will also be hosted in Canada. These next few months will be crucial for Hockey Canada to right the wrongs and not bet on people magically forgetting.
It is important as well for the women because while the date is not confirmed or the location, the 2023 Women’s Worlds are happening in Canada. It would be a shame if Hockey Canada continues to have issues with sponsors for a group that are usually the victims of sports cultures not protecting those.
main image credits: