The IIHF said yes. Hockey Canada said yes. Rogers Place said yes. And the players and staff said yes. Through determination and cooperation, all parties put safety first and managed to pull off a hockey miracle—a safe and exciting World Junior Championship, in a bubble.
2—It’s not how you start—it’s how you finish
The U.S. didn’t look so great after their first game, a 5-3 loss to Russia on Christmas night. But goalie Spencer Knight shrugged off a poor start, and the team got better and better, playing its best game at the end and winning gold.
3—The expanding World Junior universe
Sure, the big boys had their stars, but much of the talk in the preliminary round focused on players from smaller nations—Tim Stutzle from Germany; Marco Rossi from Austria; Simon Latkoczy from Slovakia. Their play was a breath of fresh air and gives hope to smaller nations hoping to make inroads at the U20 level.
4—From passer to scorer to superstar
Trevor Zegras scored no goals at the 2019 U18. He scored no goals at last year’s World Juniors. But this year he scored seven goals in seven games and also led the tournament with 11 assists and 18 points. His time is now.
Tough doesn’t begin to describe what the Germans had to face when, upon arriving in Edmonton, they discovered ten members of their team had tested positive for covid. Coach Tobias Abstreiter could dress only 14 skaters for the team’s first four games, yet it managed to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time ever.
The co-host of this year’s WJC was supposed to be Red Deer, but with bubble and quarantine measures in effect Rogers Place hosted all the games. That meant some long days, but it also meant TSN covered the entire tournament live, no overlapping games. Covid is bad, but this format was certainly appealing in many ways.
Goaltender Devon Levi wasn’t invited to Canada’s summer camp and wasn’t considered a contender for the team in any meaningful way even in November. But he played his way into the starter’s role, tied a U20 record with three shutouts, and took his game to another level while the world watched. Impressive.
The Swedes came into this year’s tournament with an incredible winning streak in preliminary-round games that stretched back 15 years, but after two more wins to make it 54 in a row they lost their final three games and were eliminated in the quarters, finishing a disappointing fifth.
The Finns had their worst game of the tournament on New Year’s Eve, losing to Canada, 4-1, and looking lost against the superior opponent. But in the first round of the playoffs they came back from 2-0 down to Sweden, scored late and advanced to the semis. Again, they trailed the Americans by two in the third but fought back to tie the game, but this time they lost on a late goal. Nevertheless, their tenacity and never-say-die attitude was thrilling to watch.
The all-Canadian crew of referees and linesmen did a stellar job and played by the philosophy that less is more. That is, fewer penalties make for a better game. They didn’t let dirty play go, but they allowed tough and gritty play to be the standard of judgement. Some people might like it and others not, but the players certainly weren’t complaining.