There is absolutely no doubt that as everyone gathered together to celebrate the Christmas holidays many of us avid hockey fanatics also found a little time to sneak away with some snacks and refreshments to take in the thrilling action of the World Junior Hockey Championship 2018.
As always we jumped and cheered and agonized with each goal, shot, save, and good hit, and no matter what nation we may have been rooting for we all should have enjoyed a few rowdy hours of friendly rivalry and a few wagers, while hoping for the ultimate result and maybe even another Gold medal for Canada?
Sadly, as we all know that didn’t happen this time around as our team lost in the quarter finals to their dreaded rivals the Russians, who came back to tie a thrilling and heart-thumping confrontation with only a few seconds remaining and then quickly ended it in early over-time. Of course for several days after that super end to end and hard-hitting hockey battle there was lots of coffee-chatter and suggestions throughout the media world that maybe we didn’t pick a strong enough team, the boys weren’t coached very well, the refereeing wasn’t good enough, and on and on into a frenzied fuss-pot of excuses, what-ifs, should haves and could have been.
Of course, everyone will always be entitled to their opinions and choice of team in each and every game and sport, whether it be from their comfy easy-chairs, the coffee shop, the office pool, or up in the bleachers. But win or lose at all levels, we should always be very proud of the extreme effort and spirit that each and every one of our young players live and strive to achieve on each and every shift, but does not always come out perfect.
In all of these high-calibre annual hockey competitions the teams are picked from thousands of talented players from leagues throughout their home nation only a few weeks before the first puck drop, and then must mould together to play the best of the rest in a rugged ten day rush for all the medals. So many of the players that all these teams face-off against in these great competitions are team-mates in the Canadian Major Junior Hockey Leagues, some have already been drafted by the pros, and with hundreds of scouts in the stands every game the pressure to impress and succeed on the ice is extreme.
Bottom line, hockey is and always will be our greatest Canadian game, and for countless decades we have given millions of young players the fabulous opportunity to play at all levels and programs. In the midst of all this exciting hockey action in front of rink-full’s of avid fans in all communities big and small our teams have harvested lots of medals, trophies, and distinction while taking part in winter-long minor hockey competitions and graduating on into juniors as well as the coveted Professional Leagues.
But along the way all Canadians have always very proudly and willingly shared our long-standing hockey skills, instruction, coaching, and facilities to players of all nationalities and walks of life throughout the world. Young players and officials of all nations have always been invited to attend our hockey schools, and have been welcomed to enjoy the unique and exciting opportunity of meeting and playing with new team mates and friends, and then later may have even proudly chosen to make Canada their new family home.
The great experiences and opportunities of just being able to play the game of hockey and having some fun with team-mates and friends on our indoor or outdoor rinks, at the pond in the park, or on roads in any neighbourhood is a Canadian tradition as well as one of the greatest rewards of each and every winter season throughout our nation. After giving your best effort at each and every hockey game, some of the extra perks that go along with being part of the team may have also included: a goal, a shut-out, the appreciation of the fans, a chance to shake hands with the other team, a front seat on the bus or van for next road trip, and a hot dog and cup of chocolate at the concession stand. The greatest opportunity of ‘playing the game’ should always include learning to be good sports whether you win or lose, and then of looking forward to coming right back next week to do it all over again.
Please enjoy your ice-experience to the fullest, and before you unlace your skates, pack up your equipment, and leave the rink please try to take a moment to give your team-mates a high five for having a good game, as well as a big thank you to your coach, the referees, the gang who look after the rink, the volunteers, and of course, your parents.
As a player or a fan, enjoy your game to the fullest and invite others to join in. Minor Hockey Week will be starting soon at the Ponoka Complex, so watch for the schedule, drop in and watch our up and coming young stars, and then have a great week, all of you.