Here's to hoping all our readers had a wonderful Christmas holiday. The day after Christmas is still quite the holiday in Canada. Of course, as many of you know, today is Boxing Day for our neighbors to the north. However, many of it's hockey-crazed inhabitants are much more concerned with the return of the World Junior Hockey Championships, which begin today in Edmonton and Calgary.
The Canadiens, after reeling off five straight gold medals from 2005-2009, have been fallen just short of the ultimate prize in each of the last two years, settling for silver. For most of the countries competing in the tournament, it would be an honor to take home a silver medal, but for Hockey Canada, anything less than gold is unacceptable.
Russia, the defending champions who used a five-goal third period to stun Canada in the Gold Medal Game a year ago, is the all-time leader in gold medals at the World Juniors with 16, one better than Canada's 15. Can they return to their 2011 form and capture glory again?
Then there's the Americans, who have taken home a medal in each of the past two tournaments and seem to be catching up in the everlasting arms race for international hockey supremacy. Capitals defenseman John Carlson will be forever remembered by USA Hockey fans for his gold-medal winning overtime goal against Canada in 2010 which ended one of the most exciting games in American hockey history.
The popularity of the tournament growing in the United States exponentially from year to year. More and more hockey fans are tuning in to get their first glimpse of tomorrow's stars. NHL Network will be broadcasting all of Team USA's games, starting with tonight's matchup with Denmark at 8 p.m. (EST), as well as a slew of others through the 2018 tournament.
One of these three countries has won every tournament since 2002. The likes of Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic have boasted talented squads in recent years, but have never been able to capture gold. Is this the year one of them breaks through?