Criticism of Canadian juniors doesn’t help cause

By Jeff Bromley

So-called experts seem to be doing nothing but condemning Canada’s World Junior hockey team. A bronze medal. That’s all the hard working juniors came back with from that icebox in northern Sweden. They ask why Canada isn’t producing the best hockey players in the world anymore. This unattainable goal that we’ve supposedly set for ourselves of coming home with the gold every year from every major tournament has become ridiculous. The one drawback to hitting gold five years in a row at this tournament (’93-’97) is that now it’s gold or nothing.

‘The Russians and Czechs are more talented players than the Canadians are now’, the experts say. ‘We produce nothing but muckers and grinders instead of talented hockey players’. Newsflash; the Russians have been pretty good since the ’50’s and the Czechs, Slovaks, Swedes and Finns aren’t exactly slouches. Witness Jaromir Jagr, Dominik Hasek, Ziggy Palffy, Peter Forsberg and Teemu Selanne. Could it be that the rest of the world has just caught up to us in the standards of hockey? After all, every time we won at whatever level all it did was breed complacency and arrogance. Nobody can win the gold every year. That’s why they play the games. And another thing, if the European system is so much better than ours, (better passers, more offence) how come the gold medal game at the WJC between Russia and the Czech Republic was a classic battle featuring all the scoring and excitement of a Ottawa-New Jersey game. That’s right, they trapped. In fact, they trapped so well that neither team scored in three periods of hockey and one more of overtime. With the Czechs winning in a shoot-out. Enough criticism already, with the exception of a few so-called experts, the country is proud of the boys. We’ll regroup and try again next year. And if the so-called experts don’t like it, maybe they should lace ’em up and see how they do.

The Eastern Conference All-Star squad was announced this past week for the WHL All-Star game in Kelowna on Jan. 19,2000. At the Junior level it seems to be a little more of a hockey game than the NHL because the players seem a little more interested in playing hard with lots of NHL scouts in the stands. It didn’t take me long to find a criticism with the process of the WHL All-Star format. It’s time the powers that be at the WHL head offices decide to rid of us of the rule that every team must be somehow represented at the All-Star game. If the game is truly just for the fans then by every means possible make sure that the best players in the league are represented at the game regardless of whether every team is represented. Two players from the Kootenay ICE were left off the All-Star roster that perhaps shouldn’t have been. First the goalies. Bryce Wandler is the easy pick from Speedy Creek. He leads the league in almost every category and deserves to be there. Kyle Kettles as the back-up however, does not. He is a good goalie who plays on a bad team and is only there because they need someone from the ‘Hat. You could’ve flipped a coin between the ICE’ Dan Blackburn and the Hitmen’s Brent Krahn for the second goalie position. Both would have been good picks. Mike Green also deserves to be there. Leading the ICE in scoring, in the top ten in the league in scoring, a consistent leader all year long. Unfortunately, his absence probably comes down to numbers and marquee names. Green’s a 20-year-old and he’s not a big name draft prospect or a potential high draft pick. If you are going to have an All-Star game, make sure you include all the stars of the game.